JOHN MENADUE. Are we stopping the boats to save lives at sea?

To justify its harsh refugee policies, the government has been telling us that its policies are designed to save lives at sea.  The ALP also joins in this shabby chorus

What hypocrisy! Please spare us this charade.

The objective of our inhuman refugee policies is overwhelmingly political, to be seen to be tough on boat arrivals and win electoral support as a result. The object of the present government has been to deride the Labor party for its alleged softness on refugees and to parade its own toughness on boat arrivals, and particularly towards Muslims. It has been overwhelmingly playing to our fears of the foreigner. It is not about stopping drowning at sea. In return the  ALP wants to show us that it is just as tough or even tougher.

To justify these disgraceful policies we are told continually that their purpose is to stop the drownings at sea. Hugh Mackay wrote is this blog a couple of years ago ‘One of the most devious aspects of the government’s defence of its treatment of asylum seekers is that ‘we are trying to stop drownings at sea.( Labor employed precisely the same sophistry ). If this were true it would have resulted in a vigorous policy of air and sea rescues patrols committed to saving any refugees at risk of drowning. So the claim is self evidentially hypocritical”.

During the Indochina outflow in the late 1970s and early 1980s there were tens of thousands of refugees drowned at sea. We will never know the number. Thousands were thrown overboard, raped or robbed by pirates on the high seas. But we did not turn away from the plight of desperate people by suggesting that if we helped it would only encourage more risky voyages and more drownings.

If we were seriously committed to a genuine policy of stopping drownings at sea, one would expect  Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton to be nominated for humanitarian awards – perhaps a Nobel Prize each. But when they are honest with themselves they will know that this argument about their policies being designed to stop drownings at sea is disgraceful and dishonest nonsense.

And by what moral authority have we a right to say that we should stop desperate people taking risks for freedom. If a family is fleeing the Taliban or that death cult IS or fleeing persecution and facing death in Iraq or Syria have we a right to say that they should not risk their lives in flight either by land or sea. Surely it is for them to make the calculation that the risks in flight are less than the risks of staying in their homeland and facing persecution or worse. How can we honestly say that it is up to us to make the moral decision about whether other people should take risks for their own survival?

If we are genuinely concerned about human lives we would not be behaving so abominably on Manus and Nauru

The whole campaign against boat arrivals is to politically exploit our fear. It is not to stop drownings at sea.

Let’s be honest with ourselves.

With guilty consciences, self deception is essential for both the Coalition and the ALP


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4 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. Are we stopping the boats to save lives at sea?

  1. Geoff Seaman says:

    Thank you, John, for expressing so well my own thoughts about the dishonesty of both the Government and the ALP in this cruel treatment of those asylum seekers who tried to seek safety here by undertaking a hazardous boat voyage.
    I feel ashamed that we as a nation are seen to be behaving so abominably.
    How the major Parties can continue with this cruelty beggars belief.

  2. Julian says:

    Thank you once again John for bringing this matter to our attention; it is perhaps one of the best examples of the triumph of ideology over simple humanity – and that the same argument of preventing drownings at sea is still being run is nothing more than callous indifference dressed up as concern.
    Historically I found it odd that boat persons slowly came to be regarded as “economic migrants” rather than refugees or asylum-seekers, but the fact that they were described thus by a coalition government that one would normally expect to praise such risk-taking behaviour and entrepreneurial acumen, seemed to me to be a Party membership gone a wasting – but there you go, that’s ideology for you.

  3. Julian says:

    Well said John and thank you.
    As an aside, I have often heard or seen in print a comment that goes roughly as follows: “If those buggers (the boat people*) can afford the cost of the boat trip and thus beat the queue, then they are not the sort of people we want in Australia.”
    *It is always the “boat people” that are the target here and not the large number of “asylum seekers” that arrive by plane over the course of any twelve month period.
    I leave it to other readers to ponder the curious logic at work here.

  4. Jenny Haines says:

    If we were about saving lives at sea we would be doing what the Italian Navy does, rescuing people, not turning them around to an uncertain future

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