In a post a week back, Saturday Morning Musings - The Turnbull Ascendancy?, I said in part:
The first thing to note is that Mr Turnbull was a senior figure in the previous Abbott administration, jointly responsible with others for the decisions of that administration outside Mr Abbott's personal captain's picks.This includes those decisions that have eroded Australian's personal freedoms, that have given the Government an authoritarian flavour. This includes the evolving mess resulting from recent changes to the Migration Act. These provide, among other things, that any foreigners who serve a prison sentence greater than 12 months will automatically have their visas revoked, a change previously defended by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton because it targeted people who were detracting from Australian society, not adding to it.
In the three years July 2011 to July 2014, 372 people had their residency revoked, itself a not insignificant figure. However, since the legislation changed in December 780 have had their residency revoked of which 151 have been deported. The rest are apparently held in immigration detention. On Christmas Island, refugees are being replaced by former residents awaiting deportation, including some very bad eggs indeed.
A core problem with the legislation is that the twelve months is bringing within the scope of power people guilty of relatively minor offences who have spent most of their life in Australia. Apart from tearing families apart, this is a severe form of double jeopardy.
As I write, the Australian and indeed global media have been covering the latest disturbances at the immigration detention centre on Christmas Island, while the country has come under criticism at the UN Human Rights Council. Many Australians would and indeed have simply said piss-off in the face of criticism. Many Australians too, and with some justice, have pointed to the patchy and inconsistent record of the UN Council itself. However, the erosive and corrosive effect of the continuing troubles should not be underestimated.
The latest public opinion poll show a further slight strengthening in the Government's position, if with a slight decline in Mr Turnbull's personal popularity. At 56% approval, 24% disapproval, it's still very high, but it's also the first decline since he became PM. Unless Mr Turnbull can find some way of at least humanising current policy, the drip-feed of negative stories flowing from current immigration policies will continue to eat away at the Government.
This is, I think, an objective judgement. It's not just the local effects, but also the damage done to Australia's international reputation and credibility. You have to ask just how long all this can continue. Perhaps the worst outcome that I can see is one in which current policy continues with majority Australian popular support. This would, I think, do considerable damage not just to our reputation, but to our own sense of fairness and justice. It would also play into the hands of those seeking to use fears about immigration as a weapon in attempts to create a populist right. Not a pleasant prospect. .