John Menadue. Drownings at sea.

Repost from 22/04/2015

The recent tragic loss of 800 Libyans in the Mediterranean has given once again an opportunity for the Government to infer that Australia’s refugee policies are designed particularly to stop people drowning at sea.

It is self-deception or worse for the Government to suggest that its policies towards refugees have been motivated by humanitarian concerns and not political advantage. Perhaps with guilty consciences self-deception is necessary.

In Opposition the Coalition was not interested in stopping the boats to save people drowning at sea. Its political objective was to stop the Labor Government stopping the boats. That is why the Coalition with cooperation from the populist Greens voted in the Senate against amendments to the Migration Act which would have allowed the Malaysian Arrangement to proceed and curb boat arrivals, in cooperation with UNHCR. By frustrating the government, the Coalition showed no interest in stopping drownings at sea.

On 10 December 2010 the SMH reported from Wikileaks that ‘A key Liberal Party strategist’ had told a US diplomat in Canberra in November 2009 that the issue of asylum seekers was ‘fantastic’ for the Coalition and ‘that the more boats that come the better’. With such a cynical approach, it’s hard to see much concern for innocent asylum seekers who might drown at sea.

Scott Morrison told us on many occasions that asylum seekers bring disease, everything from TB to Hepatitis C, to Chlamydia and Syphilis. He told talk-back radio that he had seen asylum seekers bring wads of cash and large displays of jewellery. He urged the Coalition to ramp up its questioning … to capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment. Does that sound like genuine concern for the lives of asylum seekers?

Scott Morrison and Senator Abetz both called for the registration of asylum seekers moving into residential areas on bridging visas, just like paedophiles. Does that sound like genuine concern for asylum seekers?

To provoke hostility to asylum seekers, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison both continue to call asylum seekers ‘illegals’. They hope that we would think that asylum seekers were akin to criminals. That didn’t show much concern for the rights of asylum seekers.

The Coalition’s campaign to demonise asylum seekers was overwhelmingly for political reasons. They succeeded.

But please spare us the propaganda of suggesting that the Coalition’ policy on refugees was to stop drownings at sea.  It was not. It was crass and cruel politics.

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