Sunday, September 18, 2011

A failure of logic

Daily we hear Gillard and Bowen bleating that they don't want to be responsible for another dreadful accident like the sinking of the asylum seeker vessel at Christmas Island on December 15 2010. They therefore go on to say that it is necessary to process asylum seekers off-shore, in order to "break the people smugglers' business model" and thus to prevent a further tragedy of that sort.
By so doing they create a much greater tragedy - they leave asylum seekers without any of the protections that they have a right to expect under the Refugee Convention and other international obligations that Australia has signed up to.
So long as there is unrest in the world, there will be asylum seekers. So long as there are asylum seekers there will be people offering to transport them to places where they might reasonably expect to be safe. So what's the failure of logic? Simply this: Both the opposition and the government seem to think that it's OK to treat asylum seekers in contravention of our international obligations; in an inhumane way; to imprison them; to turn them back in leaky boats...simply so they won't have a chance to end up, graphically on our nightly television news. Gillard and Abbott don't want that sort of footage - it suggests that they might not be being humane or sensible in their policies. So perhaps it's not a failure of logic. Perhaps if you are Gillard and Abbott it makes perfect sense: if boats sink at Christmas Island, and asylum seekers drown then current policies come into question. If boats sink after they've been turned back to somewhere in Asia, or they disappear without trace (yes one of those was reported this week) then that's much less likely to cause concern in Australia. So, let's just let them rot in Manus, Nauru, or better yet send them to Malaysia. That's logical!
Sorry it must be me that's having the failure of logic. When put like that, Abbott and Gillard make perfect political sense. It's a great, great pity that it makes no sense at all to me as a human being.
How about we adopt  a sensible and humane approach here? If asylum seekers are driven to board leaky boats then that is not ideal, however it will be a reality, whatever we do. So why don't we just treat them decently when they get here? It's their (undoubtedly forced by circumstances) choice to jump on those boats and the reality is we can do little to stop it. What we can stop immediately is the inhumane mandatory detention whilst asylum seekers are processed. We can stop immediately Gillard and Bowen's proposed watering away of our international obligations. We can stop immediately any plans to process off-shore or to send asylum seekers to third countries for processing.
I wonder why we wouldn't do what we can, rather than bleating about what we can't change?
Footnote: It was edifying to see Bowen berated by protesters yesterday. His riposte? Not a very mature way to carry on a debate. Well Chris I couldn't agree more, the approach you have taken to asylum seekers is neither mature nor effective. Your engagement of the Australian and international community is neither mature nor effective. You reap what you sow Chris. If you take a more humane and mature approach you'd be surprised what comes back to you.

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