Hadi Ahmadi has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, with a non-parole period of four.
The dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen was found guilty last month of helping bring two boatloads of asylum seekers to Christmas Island in 2001.
The judge said that while Ahmadi was not a primary organiser, his conduct was clearly of importance.
David Weber reports.
DAVID WEBER: Justice Andrew Stavrianou said a clear message must be sent. The judge said he accepted Hadi Ahmadi was a middle man in the operation. He said the 35-year-old was of good character and had not re-offended since 2001. Yet there was no alternative but to impose a prison sentence.
Outside the court, Hadi Ahmadi's lawyer Jonathan Davies made a statement on behalf of his client.
JONATHAN DAVIES: The sentence handed down today is severe as is mandated by Australian law. The offences are such that in determining sentence, reduced weight is given to the personal circumstances of Mr Ahmadi.
Mr Ahmadi's trial has been a reminder of the bitterness in the Australian community with respect to those who have no choice in life but to seek safety and freedom on our shores.
This case revealed the danger to refugees in Indonesia at the time; a danger which was largely forgotten by the Australian Government. It revealed action by the federal police at the relevant time, which seemed to increase danger of repatriation of refugees from Indonesia to their countries of origin.
DAVID WEBER: Several of the witnesses who gave evidence against Ahmadi were people who came by boat in 2001 and are now settled in Australia.
The statement read by Jonathan Davies suggested that Hadi Ahmadi still felt some pride in his role.
JONATHAN DAVIES: The case is a sad reminder of the status of Australia's obligations to refugees under international law.
Mr Ahmadi hopes that history will judge him in a far kinder light and asks you to remember that there are members of our community who will forever be Hadi's Australians, thank you.
DAVID WEBER: The prosecutor had said the penalty needed to reflect the concept of general deterrence.
But criminologist Michael Grewcock says he believes people smugglers won't be stopped by the prospect of prison sentences.
MICHAEL GREWCOCK: The reality is that people move for reasons of fear and because they're in need of protection. The people who assist them, and this Mr Ahmadi's a case in point, are often people who are travelling with them or who have protection needs of their own.
He is someone who, like the people he was travelling with, sought the protection of the Australian state of something like the 900 people he was accused of bringing into Australia. Over 860 of them have been granted refugee status. Another way of looking at Mr Ahmadi would be as someone who's served a humanitarian purpose by bringing these people here.
DAVID WEBER: How do you think the Australian Government, the current Australian Government, or future governments will be able to stem the tide?
MICHAEL GREWCOCK: Well, I'd query whether or not there is a tide to be stemmed.
DAVID WEBER: But there may be greater numbers in the future though.
MICHAEL GREWCOCK: Well, the reality is that the reason why people attempt to enter by boat is largely because the formal methods are closed down to them. The numbers of people coming in, even though now it's up around the three or 4,000 mark for this year, is still tiny compared to the people who are refugees globally and it's tiny compared to the numbers of people who seek asylum through more formal routes, through flying in and so on and so I think that we need a sense of proportion about what we're talking about.
Really if the Government was serious about getting rid of people smuggling, it would open the front door, it wouldn't leave the back door as the only option for people.
People smugglers aren't the reason why people seek protection. It's the wars in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan; the persecution of the Tamils and so on in Sri Lanka, these are the causes of refugee flight, not people smugglers.
MARK COLVIN: The criminologist Michael Grewcock of the University of New South Wales speaking to David Weber.