"It is this unwillingness to consider consequences that prevents the Left from effectively participating in the debate and, thus, wringing its collective hands when the extent of voter antipathy toward asylum seekers is demonstrated."Haigh's piece displayed one of the ongoing characteristics of the Left's response on asylum seekers: an inability to distinguish between what is moral and right for an individual to do and what is the best outcome, in moral terms, for governments to pursue. Individual actions have limited consequences, but government policies can have far-reaching consequences including, in this case, encouraging both genuine asylum seekers and those who would game the system for economic advantage, like those coming from Sri Lanka, to risk their lives trying to reach Australia. It is this unwillingness to consider consequences that prevents the Left from effectively participating in the debate and, thus, wringing its collective hands when the extent of voter antipathy toward asylum seekers is demonstrated. And some consideration of consequences by the Greens would not have gone astray when they voted down the government's "Malaysian Solution" legislation, opening the way to a return to a more barbaric, and less effective, Pacific Solution. I've been accused on several occasions of substituting utilitarianism for morality on this issue, which begs the question: what should governments do instead? Should a government make a decision that benefits one individual or group, knowing it may have lethal consequences for others? Where's the morality in acting in a way that you know increases the risk that people may die? At this point, some fall back on insisting we should fulfil our obligations under the Refugee Convention. Putting aside the fact the claim Australia has breached its international obligations is bandied around far more often than it is ever actually demonstrated, this substitutes adherence to a treaty for hard decision-making. Mere adherence to a treaty doesn't make a policy any more or less moral; there's certainly no morality in a policy that leads to drownings while observing the nuances of the UN Refugee Convention. One refugee advocate who has attempted to move the issue forward is Julian Burnside, who put forward a four-point plan to overhaul the processing of asylum seekers. His proposal has some implementation issues, particularly around the idea of keeping asylum seekers in regional Australia, given the likely lack of community and support services and economic opportunities, but nonetheless it demonstrates Burnside is wise to the need to put forward workable alternatives rather than adopting what might be called the Ian Rintoul approach of reflexively criticising anything and everything short of an open-borders policy. If more progressives dismayed by what we're doing on asylum seekers copied Burnside and actually tried to grapple with policy solutions rather than demonising efforts to impose some basic rules on our processes, the disconnect with the majority of voters might start to diminish. Chris Bowen, meanwhile, is stuck with having to navigate a path between the outright racism of the Coalition, which advocates policies demonstrated to place lives at risk, and the wilful refusal of progressives to accept that policy is more complicated than simply throwing open our borders because it's the moral thing to do at a personal level. He's also stuck with the task of trying to do the right thing by genuine asylum seekers, more of whom will be welcomed to Australia on his watch than ever before, and illegal immigrants trying to game the system.
Left disconnected from reality on asylum seekers
The growing disconnection between progressive and most voters on asylum seekers is driven by the Left's refusal to accept there are consequences to government policy.