Jul 10, 2014

Razer’s Class Warfare: asylum seeker policy not a moral question

Tony Abbott does have a moral reason for refugee cruelty. But it's not a question of morals -- it's a simple banal evil.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

To watch Australian television news these past 24 hours is to have been caught in an Oedipal trap. Between the Father Knows Best reason of a cold Tony Abbott and the warm tears of Holy Mother Sarah Hanson-Young, an electorate was bound to find favourites in a national family already split by news of an unusually cruel and cursory maritime processing.

Yesterday, Dad responded to reports, first published by Sydney’s Refugee Action Coalition, that detainees on Christmas Island had attempted suicide. His latest was a real clanger, even for a man who offered “shit happens” to soldiers whose brother had recently fallen. He did not deny that the heartbreaking act of protest had occurred on his watch; the truth of this atrocity would be minimised later in the day by Scott Morrison and Eric Abetz. Instead, he said, “I don’t believe any Australian, any thinking Australian, would want us to capitulate to moral blackmail.”

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29 thoughts on “Razer’s Class Warfare: asylum seeker policy not a moral question

  1. Altakoi

    Oh thank heavens for an appeal to pragmatism. Basically the only question worth debating is “This is what it will take to stop people wanting to come here, are you up for that or not?”. If not, then stop the wailing about boats coming and get some policy about dealing with new immigrants from traumatised backgrounds. Quite possible, quite ethical, quite OK. If not, then stop pretend that we have some deep care for maritime safety and do it. But be ready for the world to say we are awful people because we probably will have to be. Decisions on actions, not decisions on feelings should be the stuff of democratic debate and process. I just don’t care if people care deeply for refugees or not.

  2. Peter Tertis

    What if the boat people declared Terra Nullius upon arrival?

  3. Altakoi

    Thats worked before. Of course it helps if you have a (then) superpower backing up your claim.

  4. puddleduck

    Ummm. Where is the second part of this piece?

  5. klewso

    Do you think it’s all right, to leave the kids with Uncle Ernie Labor?

  6. Peter Murphy

    puddleduck: I think the intention is that “we” (the people) are meant to fill in the gap, as it were.

  7. David Hand

    I’m not in your intellectual division Helen.

    I get that both Abbott’s “we are doing it out of concern for deaths at sea” and SHY’s “we are morally bankrupt” positions are inadequate and easily challenged.

    But the movements of millions of people across the world seeking a better life for their families and our policy response to it is banality?

    I don’t understand that at all.

  8. Greybeard

    Surely the moral arguments are just the beginning. We’ve allowed Abbott to turn the issue from “What should the Australian people do to help refugees” into the banal “Stop the boats!”. Stopping the boats should be one of the many consequences of good policy, not the policy itself.

    Hearing the moral justifications politicians use is interesting so we can try and work put where they are coming from. All sides might agree that we have some sort of moral obligation to refugees, but we have to ask the right questions in the first place, and try to understand each other’s moral priorities (wherein lies the real argument I think).

  9. Dianne Longson

    At last someone who actually says it like it is. These decisions are not moral ones. they are decisions based on political expedience and it has to stop.
    Your 3rd to last paragraph is the key paragraph for me in the whole essay. And I do love the Mum and Dad analagy even if I don’t agree with your interpretation of Dad’s position.

  10. klewso

    It did take them a while to eventually settle on the “humanity – to stop the drownings” excuse.

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