Rudd’s boat people election fix hasn’t fooled anyone
DOES anyone in the Rudd Government know morse code? Because it seems the message that Australia is getting tough on asylum seekers is not reaching the people smugglers or their human cargo.
More than a week after the Government trumpeted a freeze on processing Sri Lankan and Afghani arrivals, citing improved circumstances in the two countries, there is no sign of an end to the boats heading our way.
In excess of 40 boats have been intercepted since the beginning of 2010 and the detention centre on Christmas Island is now full to overflowing with asylum seekers.
Back on the mainland, most readers of online news sites remain cynical about the Rudd Government’s policy U-turn, some quick to point out this is an election year.
Pat Stuart of Caboolture commented on The Courier-Mail site: “This is purely an election stunt. Rudd just cannot admit he stuffed up big time when he dismantled the Pacific Solution that worked so well and protected our borders from this unwanted invasion of illegal boat arrivals. But his ‘tough stance’ on people smugglers will disappear just like his ‘Greatest moral challenge of our time’ once the election is over.”
Allan of Gold Coast added: “This just stops the processing and not the arrivals. It just means we will need to spend more on accommodation costs to house them until processing begins again. How does that help?”
Whether they oppose the granting of refugee status to boat arrivals or seek better treatment and compassion for them, readers seem to agree Government policy on the issue is lost at sea.
Timster of Sydney commented to The Australian: “The PM hasn’t got a clue how to handle this and many Australians are becoming really frustrated at his policy-on-the-run ‘solutions’ to problems. Few people really mind Australia taking its fair share of refugees. But as correctly pointed out by the previous government, the Australian Government should decide who comes - not people smugglers. That is what is getting most Australians’ back up - coupled with the fact there should be no queue-jumping.”
Not to be outdone by the Government, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott tried to sound even tougher on asylum seekers, suggesting in a radio interview last week that no boat arrivals would be granted permanent residency if he was elected. His office later clarified this comment and confirmed Coalition policy was to seek the reintroduction of temporary protection visas.
The jockeying for an upper hand prompted Wining Pom to write to abc.net.au, accusing both the Government and Opposition of feeding public hysteria over the issue. “There is paranoia about boat people. No common sense, no humane thoughts. Abbott is stirring it up for political gain and Rudd is in a blind panic. I just can’t imagine what the boat people go through. For every one boat person that arrives, 150 arrive by other means. What’s the problem?”
Indeed, many online comments again have reflected the heightened paranoia that surrounds any mention of asylum seekers. Opinions like those by Glenda of Melbourne to the Herald Sun are typical: “The Navy must turn back the boats. If they refuse to turn back they should be fired upon and sunk if necessary.”
Over the weekend, as the first batch of boat arrivals was brought to Christmas Island since the announcement of the new Rudd Government policy, it appeared the issue was not going away.
If the Government had hoped to placate widespread concern over the mounting number of asylum seekers ahead of an election later this year, the plan seems to have backfired.
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