By freelance contributor Stefan J Bos in Budapest
Tony Abbott is lobbying for his migration policies to be introduced to Europe and he’s in Hungary this week to convince European nations to take on his controversial ideas.
Hungary’s fiercely anti-migration government has already embraced Mr Abbott, inviting him to address the third Budapest Demographic Summit, where he delivered a warning about the “shrinking West” and urged the UK to “leave the EU even without a deal”.
“I have something to say about the implications of the shrinking West,” he told me during a break in a turbulent meeting of the conservative-leaning Danube Institute, a think tank in Budapest backed by the Hungarian government.
And he had a message for Britain: “Don’t be bluffed by the European Union.”
Mr Abbott’s lecture “Immigration: What Europe can learn from Australia” was part of a wider debate moderated by Mark Higgie, who was Australia’s ambassador to the European Union and Mr Abbott’s international advisor.
Gabor Csaba, Hungary’s former ambassador to Australia, was also there to help host the Abbott meeting.
Australia’s former prime minister told delegates he was pleased that Hungary’s tough policies “against uncontrolled migration” were similar to Australia’s.
“The vast majority of migrants did not come to Australia to change us but to join us. There were the British or the Irish coming in our first 100 years. They changed us but for the better, in for instance the artistic sense,” he said.
He supports the anti-migration policies of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who critics view as an increasingly autocratic nationalist.
Mr Orban has warned of what he views as an invasion from mainly Muslim nations who allegedly undermine Europe’s Christian traditions.
“The problem with the people who have been swarming across the borders in Europe in very recent times is that you don’t get any impression that they come to join. You get the impression they come to change,” Mr Abbott told his audience.
“I mean … you get a million angry military-age males swarming into a single country in a year”, he said, clearly referring to Germany.
“They are not there to be grateful, they are there with a grievance. And people who come with a grievance are very different to people who come with gratitude in their hearts,” Mr Abbott claimed.
A least some people attending the gathering seemed uncomfortable with his remarks.
“This word ‘swarming’ almost verges on racism I am afraid. It is the word we use for the worming and insects, not for human beings,” argued Nick Thorpe, a prominent British journalist and author who penned a book about refugees.
The emotional writer denied assertions by Mr Abbott that Europe faced “uncontrolled migration”.
Mr Thorpe recalled that Hungary’s security services had recently caught a suspected Islamic State fighter at Budapest’s international airport.
That shows, he said, that border controls were working.
However, Hungary adopted several of Mr Abbott’s policies, including detaining asylum seekers.
In Hungary they aren’t dropped at islands. Instead men, women and even children have been kept in container camps at the Hungarian-Serbian border.
Afghan refugees held at these camps have told me that they were denied food for days and there were limited water supplies.
Rights groups are concerned about these measures.
But Mr Abbott supports the harsh policies of Hungary, which also erected huge razor-wire fences along its borders.
When I asked Mr Abbott whether he had advised the Hungarian government, he told me: “It’s not up to me to advise the government … But yes, the Hungarian and Australian migration policies are very aligned.”
He also backs Prime Minister Orban’s attempt to encourage couples to have more babies with massive financial incentives.
Mr Orban is against “too much mixing” of races and he views more Hungarian children as the answer to migration.
“I think he is perfectly entitled to take that focus. As a general rule I am all in favour of families with children,” Mr Abbott told me.
Mr Abbott suggested that Mr Orban could see the Australian example. “It was [Australian Prime Minister] Paul Keating who said: ‘The best migrants are our own children.’ So there is a long tradition in Australia beautifully articulated by Keating. along those lines.”
Mr Abbott recalled that the “baby bonus” was introduced when he served in the government of prime minister John Howard.
“It was said: “Have one for mum, one for dad and one for the country. And I think [they] were good messages.”
In his speech, Mr Abbott also said his government showed it was possible to stop the people-smugglers and organised illegal immigration.
He recalled that during the previous Labor government, 800 unauthorised boats had arrived carrying 50,000 asylum seekers, with an estimated 1,200 deaths at sea along the way.
Mr Abbott stressed that his government “succeeded in stopping this criminal enterprise.”
The former prime minister accused NGOs of supporting human smugglers by picking up migrants at sea, saying that both Australian and European navies should return migrants home.
Additionally: “There is an absolute moral world of difference between people who cross a border to be safe, and people who cross multiple borders to have a better life. No one can blame them for wanting a better life but nobody has a duty to give it to them unconditionally and with no questions asked, ” Mr Abbott stressed.
He accused the left of wanting to undermine Western rich societies with migration and the “climate cult”.
Mr Abbott also stressed that migration-prone Britain should leave the EU, even without a deal. Not doing so would be a major defeat and a historic mistake, he said.
It all seems to be music to the ears of Hungarian Prime Minister Orban.
But Geza Jeszenszky, a prominent scholar who was the first foreign minister in a democratically elected government in Hungary, told me he could no longer support the hardline prime minister.
He says he is “amazed” that Australia, despite tensions, could integrate people from Asia and Muslim nations. “How did you do that? In Europe we seem not successful in that,” the former minister told Mr Abbott.