Better to laugh than cry

Denise Gadd writes: Re. “Caro’s flotsam and jetsam: border idiots … think of the ‘burbs … Palin v MLK …” (yesterday). Every day I’m worried that my blood pressure will go through the roof when I read yet another stuff-up by this inept government. Diplomatic warring with Indonesia (how many times has Julie Bishop apologised to them?), allowing Nauru to get away with legal murder, culture wars resurfacing, more money for mummies who want to stay home (in my day you got $12 a week for child endowment and all my wages went on childcare, but I didn’t expect the taxpayer to pay for me to stay home),  heavying East Timor, the navy all lost at sea and our Minister Against the Environment, Greg Hunt, saying it’s OKto kill sharks. There is a light on this rather depressing horizon called Australia, though. The hysterical sight of Generalissimo Morrison and his three-star sidekick acting as if they’re in a Monty Python episode. So thank you, Jane Caro, for your humorous — even though it’s not funny — insight into what’s doing in the Antipodes under Tony Abbott’s mob. Caro for PM and First Dog for GG.  What a double.

Nauru no longer has a functioning legal system

Guy Rundle writes: Re. “Australia should leave Nauru alone — we’re doing more harm than good” In yesterday’s article, Nic Maclellan quotes a sentence allegedly from my piece on Nauru on Tuesday — “the Australian government can’t help but involve itself in this outrageous abuse of presidential power”, and then asks “but what if intervention from Canberra is the cause of the problem, rather than the solution?” That seems to imply that I believe Australia should intervene to knock Naurans heads together, sort this out, etc, etc. But Maclellan is quoting the standfirst of the article, which I did not write — and Maclellan is experienced enough to know that authors do not write their standfirsts — and which does not entirely accurately reflect the position of the article.

As was clear from my full article I believe nothing of the sort. I made the same point Maclellan is making — that Australia has hollowed out Nauru’s sovereignty. But I also made the point that if Morrison et al were to persist with the fiction that Nauru is still an independent state, then any deal made with them over asylum seekers should now be void — given that it was made with a country with a functioning legal system and a separation of powers, and Nauru no longer has that. Since the absence of a functioning legal system deprives the detainees of legal protections, and thus heightens the risk to their personal safety, I cannot see how — in normal world — it would not be a matter of immediate concern for the Australian government.

But of course that is simply to expose the fiction. For all we know, Morrison was briefed ahead of time that Peter Law and Geoffrey Eames would be excluded from Nauru — and may even have ordered it. For the record, I think the last thing Nauru needs is more Australian intervention in what remains of its sovereignty.

But I was also making the point that, if we were to take the fiction of Nauran independence at its word, then Scott Morrison’s statement that it is an “internal” affair of no interest. We signed an agreement for mandatory detention with Nauru — it is really a form of human trafficking — on the basis that the country had a functioning justice system and a political system with checks and balances. It no longer has those.

Asylum seeker deterrents a way to persecute the desperate

Lachlan Barnes writes: Re. “‘Genuine’ refugees?” (yesterday). Is Tamas Calderwood suggesting that comfortable, cashed-up foreigners under no fear of persecution at home are posing as refugees? That people would decide to risk everything and embark on a dangerous journey in the remote hope they will reach Australia? Leaving so much behind and risking everything else so they can try and start all over again, alone, on the bottom rung of social advantage, but not because they are legitimate refugees but to go up to the next tax bracket?

The asylum seeker debate should be about discussing what to do with desperate people seeking refuge in Australia by arriving unannounced in numbers that we can easily absorb into our society. We do need to ensure any policy takes into account the best interest of Australia and what message our response will send. But somehow the debate has been hijacked and the starting point (in many minds) is what should happen with illegal arrivals, with dubious motives, rocking up in numbers that are threat to our way of life. This is a nonsense but has taken root to the extent that both major parties are now debating just how draconian we can make the deterrent.

How can we have shifted the goal posts so far that a debate about people seeking asylum now centres on how to send a big enough warning to stop other desperate people attempting to find refuge in Australia?

If you believe we should make it extremely tough on asylum seekers and ensure a clear message of deterrence is sent, at least have the moral fortitude to be honest with yourself and admit the policy is aimed at the persecution of the desperate.