Feb 19, 2014

In the race to be brutal, you have to finish the job

Australia's policy of brutality towards asylum seekers isn't foolproof, as the deadly Manus Island protest revealed. Pitched into the Pacific solution by Labor, the government now has to own it.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


There’s a story, probably apocryphal, about Stalin, in the immediate aftermath of the Russian revolution. Sent south to put a bit of steel into the backbones of some local anarchists the Bolsheviks were in temporary alliance with. He breezes into their office and says, “right, how many priests have you shot?”. When he hears the answer “none”, he says, “oh, you people aren’t serious at all!”. Nor is there any doubt he meant it, by that time.


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26 thoughts on “In the race to be brutal, you have to finish the job

  1. klewso

    I thought “Pontius” Morrison’s “absolution” that if these people (held under these conditions – we’re not allowed to see) took things to such extremes (as protesting their sort of incarceration) then they should be prepared for the consequences handed out by the relevant authorities – like being shot?
    What could happen if this clown was in charge and a protest got “out of hand” as judged by someone having an off day?

  2. Dez Paul

    Another cracker of a read, thanks Guy. I don’t think this gummint or the official opposition have the nuance or subtlety to manage such a fine balancing act – keeping the subject of refugees off the front page just won’t work. Its the inverse rule of exposure – the more desperately someone wants something hidden, the more likely it is to be exposed.

    The bastardry has now sired a few more bastards of its own. Morrison won’t own this problem and will deflect it to G4S, the PNG police, refugees themselves – anyone but him and the Coalition policies.

    As an aside, be interested to know what your take is on governments outsourcing the administering of punishment and detention. Just as we collectively abrogate ourselves of responsibility for humane refugee treatment with “liberal” justifications for “conservative” practices, do governments abrogate responsibility for punishment and detention with “economic” justifications?

  3. paddy

    Well worth my sub today Guy. Thanks for the view from just outside those sovereign borders.

  4. Wynn

    I’d like to take some comfort from this analysis that someone somewhere in the political class might be driven to a different approach, but I don’t know. So far they seem to be doing a pretty good job of sheeting responsibility for the death and injuries to the asylum seekers themselves, and by the time any investigation is completed, the ‘news cycle’ will have moved on.

    God knows what does have to happen.

  5. mg57

    Excellent piece Guy. I’m fearful for the people who will suffer as the ramifications of this bloody excuse for a policy, plays itself out. Both sides should hang their heads in shame.

  6. Ingle Knight

    Mention of Stalin leads me to wonder whether the islands, Christmas, Manus and Nauru, now constitute our very own Gulag Archipelago.

  7. zut alors

    ‘…we now seem to be willing to choose our governments solely on their capacity to manage our collective anxieties.’

    I’ve always thought this to be the case.

    But who suspected that an Australian Immigration MInister could actually be more odious than P Ruddock.

  8. sureshpathy2

    Well, this was the next step in the dance that the Greens committed us to when they wrecked the Malaysian solution.
    The last and inevitable step is Australia withdrawing from the Human Rights convention.
    Many other first world countries are watching closely and will be taking comfort from Australia breaking down previously impenetrable barriers.
    Gillard held out the only option in ensuring that Australia avoided the depravites that we are engaged in, but all the Greens could do was reject it. I hope that they are feeling nice and smug and immune to the consequences of their actions. They put Abbott into power and ensured that Australia is a cruel country

  9. Andybob

    Thanks Guy, interesting as always.

    Morrison gives every impression of being pleased that yet another horror has been added to incarceration on Manus Island, without directly implicating HMG. There may even be a second edition comic prepared showing these new and dangerous risks of coming by sea.

    Meanwhile the reality: that Australia does not have a refugee problem, but has such deep and underlying problems with its relationships with Malaysia and Indonesia, such that those nations wink at the people smuggling operations, just continues to deteriorate.

  10. Dan Murphy

    “one that taps into a conservative indifference to the suffering of others, or even a degree of forthrightness/bastardry, is more likely to win slices of support in socially conservative Labor seats where the Libs don’t have a chance, and lose support in some marginal Liberal seats”

    Turn it up! The old ‘doctor’s wives’ theory that was discredited in the elections of the early 2,000’s. Poor buggers sewing their lips together in Woomera couldn’t shift significant numbers of middle class ‘small l liberals’ to vote against their economic interest.

    Disappointing from Rundle. As some sort of former or post Marxist I expect him to stick to economic determinism i.e. that people act according to their economic interest.

    This was proven in 2007 when the Liberals were finally turfed out because they wanted to rip up working conditions and the working class voted largely united.

    The lesson for the left? The main game is economic well being/quality of life issues: job security, wages, housing affordability, education health, pensions, super etc.

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