The Federal Government now has a clear policy direction on asylum seekers: Confuse them so much they go elsewhere.
What the Government needs is a decisive way to stop desperate people getting into boats bound for Australia while maintaining our UN and human rights obligations to accept asylum seekers.
What they’ve got is a fear-induced policy spasm that tries to keep both sides (the turn-back-the-boaters and the open-armers) happy, but succeeds in pleasing neither.
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This is the third in a series of essays adapted from the Centre for Policy Development book, More Than Luck: Ideas Australia needs now. The Labor Government has set itself up for failure by upholding the view that asylum seeking is a national security threat, writes Kate Gauthier.
It is said that any civilised society can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable people. Asylum seekers, vilified by the media and feared by the public, make an excellent target for unscrupulous public figures who seek to gain power or position through a culture of fear.
In order to appear tough on asylum seekers – tough on the victims of human rights abuses – successive governments and political parties have enacted or proposed policies that severely curtail the rights of people fleeing war, persecution and torture.
The argument in favour of taking a punitive approach is that it discourages onshore asylum seeking. This is shown to be false by two issues.
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Are the people of Inverbrackie racists? Are South Australians who complain about a lack of consultation in the decision to house 400 asylum-seekers in the Adelaide Hills actually closet rednecks who simply don’t like foreigners turning up unannounced on our shores?
Some of them might be. But overwhelmingly, most of them are not. Whatever you think of Mike Rann, you would be hard pressed to accuse the Premier of racism in questioning the less-than-transparent process by which Inverbrackie was chosen as the venue for a detention centre.
There are plenty of other South Australians with similar concerns, and to suggest that they’re all pitchfork-wielding hillbillies does them a disservice.
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The last thing Adelaide Hills residents would have expected to hear this week was that their community would be home to Labor’s newest detention centre.
The ambush announcement by the Prime Minister on Monday to turn the defence housing site at Inverbrackie near Woodside in South Australia into a detention centre has caused enormous concern amongst local residents.
Now, I know there are people out there who consider themselves morally superior to me. So to them I make this point very clear to begin with - my issue is not with asylum seekers; my issue is with this Labor Government and the decisions it has made.
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