Friday, August 16, 2013

Refugees - Mr Morrison, Mr Abbott and a staggeringly stupid inhumanity

I do not know if the reports coming through on the Coalition's latest stance on refugee policy are true or not. I quote from Bianca Hall's story in the Age.

The Coalition will ramp up its hardline stance on refugees on Friday, announcing that almost 32,000 asylum seekers who have already arrived in Australia by boat will never get permanent settlement as well as stripping them of the right to appeal to the courts.

The Coalition would also introduce indefinite work-for-the-dole obligations for those found to be refugees.

A Coalition government would scrap the right of asylum seekers to appeal to the courts, which in the March quarter brought the number of asylum seekers who were granted refugee status from 65.3 per cent to more than 90 per cent.

To my mind, this is a bridge too far. It displays an inhumanity of staggering proportions. All objectivity has been lost in the continuing race to the bottom.

Let me start with a simple question. If the Coalition is prepared to do this to one group, what makes you think that they won't do it to you if politically expedient? Once the principle is established that Governments can simply overturn due process and the rule of law, where do you draw the line? Why are you different?

My second point. In playing on this issue in the way they have, Governments of both persuasions have created a festering sore that has begun to poison the country. Think I'm wrong? Just read some of the comment threads.

My third point. This is just bad policy in practical terms. Yes, it may stop the boats. But can it be enforced? Leave aside the legal challenges, leave aside the moral or value issues, this is punishment policy. I would have thought that the practical problems associated with, for example, indefinite work for the dole obligations for those found to be refugees would actually make the policy unenforceable.

I know that assimilation has acquired a bad odour.  It's not a politically correct word. However, the idea of assimilation provided a path acceptable to the broader community that allowed new groups to be fitted into Australian society. There is no path in these latest pronouncements. There is no room for assimilation.  There is just exclusion, regardless of case.

If these latest pronouncements prove to be correct, then I am forced to the conclusion that we cannot trust the Coalition to run this country. We cannot trust them to be objective or fair. We cannot expect them to observe the rule of law. We cannot trust them to look after us.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? To slightly mangle the Latin tag, who will  guard us from the guardians? 

I write with sadness, knowing that many will disagree with me. Looking at the polling data, I would think that I am in a minority.

But who would have thought that issues such as productivity improvement, the economy, decentralisation, the future we want to build together, would be so overshadowed by a single, arguably peripheral, issue? 

Shakespeare wrote: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves." I think that's pretty right. Neither Labor nor the Coalition would be running on the refugee issue in the way they have if they didn't think it appealed to the electorate, ie us.  


Anonymous said...

Looking at the (not scientific) poll attached to that article, there's a neat 50/50 split of some 6300 votes thus far - so I'm thinking you might not be so alone in your view, Jim. These are "policies to get elected" - useful for that purpose, but then deferred, delayed or discarded in the months to come.

I wonder where the younger generation is in all of this? Both leaders have adult, thinking, children who could make their views known on their fathers' policies. About the only good thing I can remember of Mr Ruddock's tenure was his daughter's frank criticism.


ps What's that old chinese saying about 'when small men cast long shadows'?

Neil said...

I simply cannot vote for either major party now, Jim, for the first time in my life.

Cecilia said...

As an Australian in Japan it is an enormous relief to read this. I don't want the country to be run by a party with no basic respect for the rule law or human dignity.

If this is a vote winner, it is hard to comprehend that this is same country I grew up in.

Evan said...

I entirely agree with you.

This is slavery.

I have never been so disgusted by Aus's politicians (and that is saying an awful lot).

How I wish that I believed Labor would be any better if they thought it politically expedient to introduce these measures.

Jim Belshaw said...

The poll is now running at 55% against, kvd, but that's the Fairfax readership. I don't know re the younger generation. Mine aren't typical.

This may be a bridge too far, in fact. I don't think that it will affect the outcome, but my feeling is that it's going to unwind.

Jim Belshaw said...

Neil, it's difficult. Cecilia, I don't think that it will be a vote winner. Precisely, I don't that it will shift any votes to the Coalition. But I think that we have to wait for the opinion polls. On the surface, its all too ramshackle.

Anonymous said...

Regarding my wondering what the younger generations think of this, I thought this report was interesting:


Jim Belshaw said...

Heard the radio reports. Sadly, I am out of my maximum free SMH viewings for the month, so will have to let response go the keepers.

Cecilia said...

In that case look at The Age or the Northern Daily Leader etc The concentrate nature of Aus. media means it's pretty difficult to exceed the 30 if you look for the same article in a different paper.

Just as a follow up the NP candidate for Hunter, Michael Johnsen, has sent out a letter urging protest about the proposal to have the army camp in Singleton hold 1,000 refugees. Meanwhile Jordan, smaller in size than the Upper Hunter I would guess, has more than 700,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees...

Jim Belshaw said...

I am doing that Celia, plus the Canberra Times. I actually ran out of my limit on the age too! I have been meaning to write a post on the commonality, but was slightly scared they might change the access rules!

Hadn't heard the Singleton story, but it does put things in perspective.