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.