This is Frank Brennan’s most recent post of Facebook.
When interviewed by Fran Kelly this morning, Malcolm Turnbull suggested it was a simple binary choice: strong border protection including the cruel, endless warehousing of proven refugees (including children) on places like Nauru OR deaths at sea. It’s not a simple binary choice, and he knows it is not. If the government’s priority were safety at sea they would be transparent with us in how they intercept boats and send the people back to Indonesia, being so concerned about the safety of those very people on the boats. But that’s not their main priority. Their main priority and their main concern is stopping people coming to Indonesia and then leaving Indonesia heading to Australia seeking asylum.
There are three options: 1. Stopping and turning back the boats AND warehousing refugees on Nauru and Manus Island; 2. Stopping and turning back boats AND resettling the proven refugees on Nauru and Manus Island in a timely manner; and 3 NOT stopping and turning boats back. Option 2 deserves consideration by our major political parties when they are satisfied that those on the boats are not fleeing persecution IN Indonesia and when they provide through UNHCR and IOM adequate processing and security IN Indonesia. Government, the Opposition, and refugee advocates should do more work on Option 2. By positing a choice only between Option 1 and Option 3, we are either positing the impossible objective of a hermetically sealed border or making the perfect the enemy of the good.
Fr Frank Brennan SJ
Professor of Law
Australian Catholic University