Despite the worst efforts of certain of the right-wing commentariat (Andrew Bolt and Kerry Chikarovski come to mind) 72 of the 83 Tamils, who were intercepted in international waters in February, have been assessed as being refugees.
Ill-informed comments along the lines of supporting Government action for "doing the right thing because they had come here illegally", and "not giving people priority over people in refugee camps overseas" flowed from denizens of Howard's zone of political correctness.
I find it hard to believe that I live in a country that spawned this specious brew of fear, intolerance and spin-doctoring, let alone see it become a mainstream political device of the incumbent to wedge political adversaries and divide a credulous electorate.
'Fear and gain', 'fear and gain', comes the mantra, and, in pursuit of power we have been sold down the river by ruthless politicians. Our standing in international fora on human rights issues has plummeted.
Although these people are genuine refugees Australia has dumped them on Nauru and refused them sanctuary. To their enduring shame, the media (with some notable exceptions such as the Fairfax Press) has been largely compliant with this low-rent populism.