Rawdon Dalrymple is a former Australian ambassador to Israel, Indonesia, the US and Japan.

Hugh Wyndham, in his comment on my post about the limits of our moral responsibility for the increasing numbers of people coming here by boat and seeking entry by by-passing UN refugee channels, claims I am guilty of ill-informed errors. He writes that, of these errors...

...(t)he worst is the statement that 'there is no evidence they are seeking asylum from persecution or other danger'. Firstly, over 80% of boat people are eventually found to qualify for protection.

I made no such statement. What I wrote is quite consistent with the claim that 80% of boat people 'are eventually found to qualify for protection'. Wyndham has simply taken the above-quoted statement out of context to grossly misrepresent the meaning of what I said.

I was making a point about the moral freight of different terms. What I wrote was that the people who were formerly called boat people are now 'routinely labeled "asylum seekers" even when there is no evidence they are seeking asylum from persecution or other danger' (emphasis added).

I went on to mention how the Houston Report referred to the people who turned out not to need international protection as 'asylum seekers'. At no point did I suggest that there is no evidence that all or a majority of such people are seeking asylum from persecution. By excising 'even when', Wyndham has quite distorted my meaning.

It is an old and shabby trick to take a part of a sentence out of context to make it appear that the author has said something quite different from, or even the opposite of, what in fact was written. My post was directed to the broad issue of the extent of Australia's moral responsibility for people seeking illegal entry from very far away, transiting countries less affluent than ours where they would be in no danger. There is nothing in Mr Wyndham's post to suggest that he thinks our responsibilities and obligations are limited.

Australia has assumed obligations under the relevant UN conventions. The Houston report, and both sides in the federal parliament, have accepted that we could increase the number we take through the regular UN channel. But my concern, like that of probably the majority of Australians, is with the rising numbers of irregular seekers of settlement in Australia through 'people smuggler' channels. It is surely time to establish the moral limits to Australia's geographical and administrative responsibilities and to put in place systems to deter people from far away from seeking to breach them.