Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to the future on boat people - Australia's political culture fails the test of leadership

I am appalled by the decision to reprise the Pacific Solution. On so many levels it is an abject failure of public policy. A legacy of the Howard years is a default toward fear and division on the issue of boat arrivals. It was an easy target for ideologues bent on shoring up the conservative support base with a radical reactionary agenda that lends itself easily to demagoguery.

Although the recommendations of the expert panel point toward a more humane regional framework approach as a long term objective, the reality is that many asylum seekers will be subject to years of uncertainty and an outright violation of their human rights by a Labor Government. A mandatory detention regime is a violation of human rights. To preempt someone's refugee status on the basis of their irregular arrival by boat is illogical and cruel. However, the tenor of public debate in Australia since Tampa has been infused with the kind of hysteria associated with fear politics. We have seen this construct at work all through history and it invariably succeeds for a period, until people wake up to the fact that their prejudices have been manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and their supporters for political gain.

The evil banality of the hypocrisy underpinning the Coalition's stance on boat arrivals is laid bare for anyone with a passing knowledge of refugee matters. You will hear constant mealy mouthed posturings by Coalition politicians purporting to be concerned about the refugee convention and the welfare of children. In the same breath as they plead for off-shore processing to be restricted to countries that have signed the refugee convention, they advocate turning back boats to a country that hasn't signed the convention, putting the unfortunates on board in more harm's way. Where was this great concern for the refugee convention when the Pacific Solution was initiated? No where to be seen.

The media has mainly been a pliant player in prosecuting this nasty farce. It is hard to feel proud of this country when its key institutions are so culpable in enabling this mind-numbing outcome to be foisted on the body politic. Rather than represent the best of us, these politicians have stooped lower and lower to the point where we are plumbing new depths of intolerance, fear and cruelty, with poor neighboring countries active participants in this perfidy. It is truly disgusting and should be condemned in the strongest terms.

I'm ceasing this blog activity as my will to persevere has been crushed by this demoralizing climate of bigotry and 'creeping crypto-fascism'. I find I don't have anything else to add - my previous posts sum it up. I am ashamed of this country's political culture, which routinely rewards the worst political opportunists who dress themselves in the garb of the common folk and who pitch successfully to the lowest common denominator. There are none worse in my lifetime than the current leader of the Opposition. Poor fella my country.....