The Tampa affair - 433 stranded off Christmas Island

August 23, 2018

On 24 August 2001, a fishing boat with 433 illegal immigrants (mainly Afghani Hazaras) and five Indonesian crewmen stranded itself in international waters around 140 km north of Christmas Island (350 km south of Jakarta and 2000 km north-west of Australia).

The immigrants were picked up by nearby Norwegian freighter MS Tampa which - upon heated threats and protests by their human cargo against being returned to Indonesia - began entering Australian waters illegally (and contrary to the express orders of our government and naval forces), setting off a chain of events that became known as the “Tampa Affair” – see further details below.

The Tampa Affair was a defining moment in Australian history where the Howard Government, through its decisive actions and subsequent implementation of the “Pacific Solution”, made an unapologetic stand against ballooning and increasingly audacious illegal maritime entry into Australia.

By doing so, Howard and his government proudly reasserted Australia’s right to control and secure its borders – just as a nation in the modern era must increasingly do to retain its own character, identity and sovereignty.

Two months later, during his speech at the Coalition campaign launch for the 2001 Federal election, PM Howard famously thundered the immortal words,

“We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”

Australia's immigration policies could well do with a return to this simple maxim.

Recognise this day which set off events that lead to Australia reasserting its sovereign right to protect its borders by:

  • watching the footage of John Howard thundering those immortal words, or even his entire speech that day
  • recounting the greater context and implications of the Tampa Affair
  • noting Australia’s history of boats and people arriving illegally
  • remembering the horrific events of the December 2010 crash at Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island with this video
  • backing our petition for stronger immigration policies 
  • considering the dangerous and vapid virtue-signalling from the Greens in this policy space evidenced by Sarah Hanson-Young's mistaken belief that 'Sea Patrol' was not a fictional television program
  • reading the commemorative update of 26 July 2017 by then-Minister Dutton (News Ltd Subscribers) which highlights, among other statistics, the $14 billion price tag of dealing with the 'legacy caseload' of 30,000 illegal maritime arrivals
  • also reading this opinion piece from June 2018 on the common sense of Australia's border policies, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, responsible Aussies and those that understand the importance of secure borders to maintaining nationhood, especially in the modern era.


Further details on the Tampa Affair and its legacy

The Australian Government, led by a more conservative, principled and clear-headed Prime Minister John Howard, refused to allow the Tampa to land any of its cargo of illegal immigrants onto Australian territory (eg Christmas Island or our mainland). Within two weeks, the Howard Government had arranged for the illegal boat arrivals to be transferred to the Pacific Island of Nauru for detention and asylum processing (131 were on-sent to New Zealand). Soon after, the Coalition established a new and effective legislative framework for handling illegal maritime arrivals known as the “Pacific Solution”.

The Pacific Solution included both Nauru and Manus Island (off the coast of Papua New Guinea) as off-shore detention and asylum processing centres as well as a system of three-year temporary protection visas (TPVs). The Pacific Solution also excised many of Australia’s offshore islands from Australia’s migration zone, including those so near to Indonesia as Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands and Ashmore Reef. This removed the automatic 'right' of illegal maritime arrivals to apply for refugee status should they reach such islands.

Kim Beazley’s Labor opposition – with weak border instincts – initially opposed the government’s suite of tough measures to fix Australia’s mounting border problem. But with growing anger and public opinion against our borders, Labor eventually relented. But the damage had already been done and after the tragic 9/11 Twin Towers terrorist attack in the US, the 10 November 2001 federal electoral ship had turned away from Labor.

Whilst attracting much criticism, wails and gnashing of teeth by radicals, border-openers, activists and globalists at home and abroad, Howard’s Pacific Solution fixed our maritime border problem fast.

After ballooning out to 180 boats carrying over 12,000 people over 1999-2001, the next year saw just one boat carrying one person arrive illegally, and just 18 boats carrying 288 illegals arrived in the six years prior to 2008. 

Until the Pacific Solution was naively dismantled in mid-2008 by then Labor PM Kevin Rudd and his immigration minister, Senator Chris Evans (see our Action Plan here), no more than six boats or 148 people had arrived illegally per year since 2001. This contrasted to the next five disastrous years under Labor where over 800 boats carrying more than 50,000 people arrived illegally, with over 1,200 deaths at sea, before the boats were stopped again, turned back and a similarly effective Pacific Solution was reinstated. Ever since, the boats have in effectively stopped - but what will a future Labor-Greens government bring?

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