Much international legislation is outdated and the United Nations Convention on Refugees falls into this category. Formulated in an age before the term 'economic migrant' was recognised, it is now being used to turn away genuine refugees. The economic and political face of the world has changed dramatically since the years of hope that followed World War II. Globalisation has taken hold and its far-reaching tentacles mean people have new perceptions of their needs. For many, the bottom line is consumerism, and this can only be fuelled by money. Smuggling gangs are taking advantage of this trend to make cash quickly from desperate people. But this trend can also be confused with genuine refugees who are fleeing persecution or war. Before Afghanistan became an issue internationally, a flood of people fleeing the persecution of the Taleban were often being treated as economic refugees. There is no doubt that Western nations that see themselves as being desirable places to live do face a political problem when the issue of refugees comes up. Voters from such countries - Australia, Britain and Canada among them - are outraged when seeing money being pumped from social services to providing amenities for uninvited asylum seekers. A conference on the issue ends today at the University of New South Wales in Australia. The international gathering has been examining ways to reform the convention and make recommendations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Of particular concern during the four-day session has been Australia's policy towards refugees, which was dramatically changed several months ago to the outrage of human rights groups. The Government reversed its policy of taking in all asylum seekers, shut its door and is now pursuing a policy of sending those caught trying to enter the country to third countries. The policy won huge support from voters, who returned Prime Minister John Howard to a third term in elections last month. Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock is also pushing for the convention's reform, which he will take up this week in Geneva at celebrations for its 50th anniversary. He has said he will press for reform within the UNHCR, including adopting a global plan to tackle people smuggling. Although human rights groups may question Mr Ruddock's motives, it is true that changes are needed. Presently, people fleeing wars - genuine refugees - can be treated differently depending on whose soil they land. The regulations must be made clear, universal - and enforced.