Before moving forward, have a look in the rear-view mirror

Julia Gillard's address to the Lowy Institute last week was titled "Moving Australia forward", one of the cliches of our time. No doubt it will be given a thorough workover before the election. In the interests of formulating policy on the contentious issues of immigration, refugees, asylum seekers, unauthorised boat arrivals and all that, it is appropriate to look backwards and confront some prevailing myths.
The exaggerated, and sometimes intolerant, comments by opponents of asylum seekers are a matter of public record. But asylum-seeker advocates, who inflate figures and fudge history, do not help the cause of rational debate.
In The Age last Wednesday Julian Burnside, QC, wrote: "It is easy to forget that the Fraser government received about 25,000 Indochinese 'boat people' each year, without a murmur from the community". Both comments contain significant errors. That evening Paul Barclay, presenter of the Radio National program Australia Talks, elaborated on the Burnside claim by asserting "during Malcolm Fraser's government 25,000 refugees arrived by boat per year and there was bipartisan support for it". This is hopelessly wrong. Read more.