Nov 22, 2012

Deterrence goal locks us onto a path of cruelty

The government has no alternatives in its treatment of asylum seekers other than deterrence. It will stick to his guns no matter the public outcry over camp conditions.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

That the government's revamped Pacific Solution always risked being both less effective and more brutal than the Malaysian policy overturned by an unusual combination of the High Court, refugee advocates, the Greens and the Coalition was apparent from the moment the Houston panel presented its report. So far, that's exactly how it's panned out. The government doesn't, however, have a political problem arising from the cruelty of its Nauru and Manus Island facilities, whatever the constant criticism from the Left (especially the meaningless, irrelevant and inaccurate claim that we are not meeting our treaty obligations) or on social media. As an issue of importance to voters, asylum seekers has actually diminished in the last five months, Essential Media found this week. Indeed, there may be many voters who are only too happy to hear that asylum seekers are suffering from poor conditions on Nauru. Moreover, whatever the government might say, it is in its interests for the media to detail how bad things are there, in the hope that a deterrent message reaches would be asylum seekers via relatives and communities in Australia. Complaining that conditions on Nauru are cruel misses the point: they are supposed to be cruel, sufficiently cruel that they will deter people from trying to come here by boat. Whether that holds once an asylum seeker takes their own life, as may well be the case the longer they remain in a state of uncertainty on Nauru, is something we hopefully never learn. But the government's admission yesterday that it had, in effect, been overwhelmed by people smugglers and would be resurrecting a form of Temporary Protection Visa for those people it wasn't able to (yet) fit onto Nauru or Manus Island resets the political problem. We now have virtual offshore processing. Whatever the deterrent effects, dumping asylum seekers on Nauru and in PNG had the political value of exporting the problem. Out of sight, out of mind. That's no longer the case. Nonetheless, the government could not have done anything else. It is locked into the policy. It has no alternatives: its own, preferred Malaysian Solution, which would have been both more effective and less inhumane, has been wrecked (the Greens should dwell on that as they whip themselves into a frenzy over the current policy); the Coalition's policy is no different, except for the weird fantasy of turning back the boats, which Tony Abbott can't even bring himself to broach with the Indonesian president, and the only plan coming from the Left (and some on the libertarian Right) is to essentially throw open Australia's borders via a processing centre in Indonesia. The only successful part of the government's policy has been returning hundreds of illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka, who despite a campaign by some to portray them as victims of a brutal victor in the civil war in that country, have no claims to asylum. Locked into the objective of deterrence, the government has in a way handed policy to people smugglers. The more boats they try to send, the more the government will have to do to make life inhospitable for those who arrive. It is a path that has already taken this government beyond the boundaries pushed by the Howard government, and it may take them to places still less comfortable as time goes on. There is no realistic choice.

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75 thoughts on “Deterrence goal locks us onto a path of cruelty

  1. Hamis Hill

    Patriot, how about reading “The Conformist” by Aldo Moravia.

  2. Hamis Hill

    Camp of The Saints looks like a follow up to Mein Kamph.
    A Mittel -European preoccupation with the threat of Auslanders, ingrained down through the centuries.
    Inturn the effect of enslavement to a debilitating religion which weakens and destroys the spirit by deliberately holding its masses in the darkness of ignorance.
    The Roman Institution of slavery now under scrutiny in a Royal commission.

  3. iggy648

    Hi GeeWizz, for the slow like me, can you define an “illegal” and what they have done that makes them “illegals”? (See also 19 above)

  4. Ian

    not the other one

    If you need help you knock on the front door. If your illegal, you break in through the back door, after having jumped the fence.

  5. iggy648

    If someone was trying to kill you, and you came in my back door seeking safety, I’d probably say “Welcome stranger”, as long as you explained your predicament.I hope I wouldn’t say “I’m alright Jack, bugger off and die”.

  6. Venise Alstergren

    OBSERVATION {27}: Congratulations. You actually read what I was trying to say. Very refreshing, and accurate.

    To actually take over foreign governments is a ludicrous take on my comment. However, the right person, at the right time, can influence an outcome. And, it’s not my fault if America is always going to war whilst demanding blood sacrifices from Australia.

    The cost of these refugees to the Australian government-read the tax payer-is staggering. Add to that the billions of dollars paid to Saddam Hussein by the Australian Wheat Board, and we are being bled white-so called to pacify the red-neck vote….

    The whole thing is unconscionable. Nor does it make any sense. It would be much cheaper to do something at the beginning of the problem.

    It is all such a revolutionary mind set for Oz to come up with something different to the perceived wisdom of American thinking.

    I came up with an original idea. After all, silly me, I always thought prevention to be preferable than curing.

  7. Venise Alstergren

    MARILYN SHEPHERD: It would seem you wish to revel in your chosen subject matter to the extent of reading, inaccurately, whatever someone else says.

    Please, find me one comment where I have ever suggested refugees should be treated in the manner to which they are subjected to under any form of Labor or Coalition government.

    Till then honey, shut your yarp.

  8. GeeWizz

    Iggy under the U.N refugee convention someone coming to our country without permission.

    Under Australian immigration legislation introduced by Hawke and Keating persons arriving without a valid visa are deemed “unlawful non-citizens”.

    Abbott and Morrison pointed out that out in todays press conference. Why do the lefties and Labor supporters want to use weasel words?

    This is why only a Coalition Government can stop the boats they aren’t about niceties, they are about getting a job DONE.

  9. Venise Alstergren

    GEEWIZZ: You are so right. Why don’t we treat refugees in exactly the same manner as we allow foreigners to treat the animals in our live export trade?

  10. Chris Sanderson

    Well done Bernard! Spot on analysis. Thank God there’s someone left who isn’t afraid not to be politically correct and can name the reality as it is. If it wasn’t for you I probably wouldn’t still be reading Crikey.

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