Sniping will continue with no good effect

by on September 1, 2018

SNIPING at the Liberal Prime Minister will no doubt continue. The difference now will be that the sniping will come from the left or progressive side of the Liberal Party. The other difference is that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not take any notice of it, unlike his predecessor who made endless concessions to the far right. The main policy discord will be over refugees and climate change.

You would have thought it would be a good time to end the indefinite imprisonment of these refugees both practically and morally. On the practical side, Peter Dutton is no longer Minister for Immigration. On the moral side the new Prime Minister is a committed Pentecostal Christian.

Dutton said that a single act of compassion to anyone on Nauru or Manus Island would be a clarion call to people smugglers to resume their trade.

He thought that using them as an example of what might happen to you if you tried to use a people smuggler to get to Australia was an effective deterrent.

But we know this is not the case. Fairfax Media reported a week ago that the effective turn-off is in fact the boat turn-back policy.

Many refugees in Indonesia say Australia’s advertising in that country has made it clear that dealing with people smugglers is a complete and certain waste of money.

Refugees are not going to pay thousands of dollars for a place on a dangerous passage if they are going to be turned back. Manus and Nauru do not rate as a deterrent, refugees say.

So on a practical level Australia should continue with its tough turn-back policy and quietly settle those on Manus and Nauru in Australia or whatever other country will take them.

But we should combine this with much greater help to Indonesia for looking after refugees. The critical thing is physical safety. People’s lives are not threatened in Indonesia. The onward journey to Australia is unnecessary to ensure safety.

We should also concentrate on taking more refugees from Indonesia and few from other parts of the world.

The turn-back policy should still be seen as successful despite the first boat arrival for four years in Far North Queensland last Sunday.

A trip to Christmas Island or Ashmore reef is merely dangerous. A trip down the north-east coast verges on the suicidal.

Strong south-easterly winds blow much of the year. Treacherous reefs dot the area. Many people smuggling boats have hopelessly unreliable engines and little or no navigational instruments.

In the west a boat could drift for days without hitting anything while awaiting rescue. In the north-east the wind and reef combination make survival without a working engine unlikely.

The fact the excellent mariner James Cook hit a reef was not just a small piece of bad luck. He was always going to hit a reef. The only question was which one.

The 17 Vietnamese who came ashore near Port Douglas are lucky to be alive. Even with a good motor and successfully dodging the reefs, once ashore they have to contend with crocodiles and mangroves. Several people have been killed by crocodiles in the past few years within 50kms of where they landed.

The fact that they were Vietnamese suggests that they had not see the advertisements about the turn-back policy.

On the moral side, the turn-back policy has probably saved a lot of lives. But there is no practical or moral inconsistency between a strong turn-back policy and ending the plight of the refugees on Manus and Nauru.

Now Scott Morrison is Prime Minister and chief jailer he stands open to accusations of hypocrisy if he allows the situation to continue.

This is what Morrison says about his faith: “From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil.”

This is simply not compatible with indefinite detention of people whose original country of residence will not take them or is too dangerous to go to, especially as nine of the 189 refugees on Nauru are children.

The evil here is that they are being punished supposedly to set an example to others. Fascist and communist governments do that kind of thing, not liberal democracies. It is made worse by the fact that their misery is not the key deterrent.

The vast majority of people in immigration detention (971 of 1347 according to the latest figures) are people who overstayed visas and who go back voluntarily. The nationality with the highest number is New Zealand.

In short, there is no practical or moral reason for the people on Manus and Nauru to remain there in indefinite detention. The fact they still are is a moral stain on our nation.

The other cause of Liberal discord is climate change. It seems the best we can expect of this government is to do nothing. The worst is to renege on the Paris agreement. That would trash our reputation as a nation that keeps it word and cause trade repercussions. Every nation has to pull their weight on this.

The Liberals collectively are not capable to doing what a majority in either the parliamentary party or the electorate at large want. Again, it is unlikely that Morrison will give the progressive side of the party any ground, but it is also unlikely that those on the progressive side will make it easy for the conservatives.

For example, there is every reason for Julie Bishop to recontest her very safe seat of Curtin at the next election rather than hand it over to neighbouring Liberal and Dutton supporter Michael Keenan.

Let him face the electoral backlash of his party’s divisions and policies.
CRISPIN HULL
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Fairfax Media on 1 September 2018.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>