For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share …

There are many Australians who were shamed by the Howard Government’s treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. It was not so much that people desperate enough to travel half the world at great personal peril and in hardship were welcomed with mandatory detention, or that their prisons were located in some of the most god-foresaken corners of the continent … what galled many above all that was the way in which the policy was implemented cynically for political advantage.

There’s a double edge to that of course: for a government to turn the detention of men, women and children to a vote winner it must first tap something latent and obnoxious in the public subconscious. Let’s hope that something is changing there in the Australian soul.

But perhaps not. Today we learn that the Australian Government, never mind that its popularly elected face has changed, is seeking to recover money from former detainees. More than $7 million is outstanding. What is this money for? It is the bill for their mandatory detention. It’s enough to make you stitch your lips.

Peter Fray

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