„The measures were severe, but Mr Howard rightly argued that deterrence against the people-smuggling racket required firmness; even, if necessary, harshness. At the time, many critics said Mr Howard’s response was a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. But although the numbers trying to enter Australia illegally were relatively small at that point, it was likely that they would have increased significantly thereafter, especially if entry was perceived to be relatively easy.
That is why Mr Howard’s decision to curb the illegal and immoral trade was so prudent. During the second half of his premiership — the period following the Tampa standoff in 2001 — unauthorised boat arrivals stopped, while the rate of legal non-discriminatory immigration doubled. This flowed directly from a sense that we were deciding who is allowed to come here.(...)
That all changed two years ago, when Mr Abbott won power and began to reintroduce many of the Howard-era policies, including the deployment of the Australian navy and customs officials to turn back boats. The result: the boats have stopped, lives have been saved, thousands have been released from immigration detention and smugglers have had to look elsewhere.