Now we musn’t get misty-eyed…

Not one of Malcolm Turnbull’s finer turns of phrase. Even made the South China Morning Post though.

Australia cannot be “misty-eyed” about boatpeople, the country’s prime minister said on Thursday, the day after his immigration policy was thrown into disarray when Papua New Guinea ordered an offshore processing camp to close.

Malcolm Turnbull, who likely faces an election in coming weeks, said allowing even genuine refugees who arrived by boat to settle in Australia would encourage more people to make the risky journey.

“By stopping the people-smuggling we have stopped people drowning at sea,” he told reporters.

“We cannot be misty-eyed about this. We have to be very clear and determined in our national purpose.”

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Simon Letch in today’s Sydney Morning Herald

See related news: Manus Island detention centre to be closed down and Nauru refugee who set himself on fire in critical condition in Brisbane hospital.

You can review my posts on this blog in the past about asylum seekers and some of those refer you to posts on my earlier blogs. It is a topic I have quite often raised. Rather than saying more today I refer you to three items worth your consideration.

First, Jim Belshaw back in February: A brief note on Australia’s refugee policy.

Statement of Problem

The Government has been successful in stopping the boats but this has come with costs.

Our international reputation has been damaged. We may or may not have breached UN conventions and our treaty obligations, but at the very least we have lost moral authority. I for one find it discomforting when Australia is quoted as a role model by European parties of the far right. We have also done some damage to our relations with our neighbours and especially Indonesia.

The policy and the rhetoric around the policy has fed into domestic division within Australia, encouraging the rise of groups with more extreme views.

The policy has cost and continues to cost large sums of money at a time of budget constraint. There has been a running sore of complaints and apparent cases of mistreatment and injustice, not aided by a lack of transparency…

Second, Robert Manne in The Monthly, 22 October 2015:

Many Australians recognise that we have a responsibility to people who arrive on our shores seeking our help, which is different from the kind of responsibility we owe to the 50 million or more refugees worldwide – even if it is not always easy to determine what actions that responsibility entails, as was revealed in the debate about whether we should try to discourage boats from coming to Australia to prevent predictable mass drownings in the future. If what I call an ethic of proximity does indeed exist, clearly the 1500 people Australia transported to Nauru and Manus Island fall within it. Given what has occurred, we cannot now say that what happens to these people is none of our concern.

Third, Waleed Aly in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Perhaps the most stupefying aspect of our asylum seeker debate is that we call it a debate in the first place. It’s not. It’s a complete political consensus. Our current policies are a bipartisan concoction; the result of years of mutual posturing, outflanking and then outbidding. “You’re banishing asylum seekers to detention centres in the Australian desert? Fine, we’ll send them to Nauru for processing!” “You’re still resettling them here? We’ll banish them forever!” “Oh yeah? We’ll get an army general to do it!” And so on…

“They have botched this from day one,” puffed Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles when Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled our detention centre there to be illegal.

But here’s the problem: that centre was always illegal. It didn’t suddenly become illegal when Abbott took power. Marles is right it was botched from day one, but that was Labor’s day. It takes some special level of gall to establish an illegal detention centre, then insist it’s the Coalition’s mess…

They’re there because “stop the boats” – in truth a bipartisan slogan – only ever masked a question we could never answer: what happens to these people? What happens to the ones who don’t die at sea, or the ones we convince to return home? Do they die elsewhere? We don’t really know because the minute they aren’t on boats headed for us, they cease to exist. And as far as we’re concerned, their misery doesn’t exist either…

Updates

Sadly the Nauru refugee who set fire to himself has died.

Jim Belshaw posted Cranes and Australia’s growing refugee mess yesterday.

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