Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's On You Now

All right. The government has decided that if you try to claim asylum via a boat journey, you're not getting in. You'll end up living in Papua New Guinea, at best. The government has decided that this will stop the boats, and the government is telling us that this is necessary to save lives, because the most pressing need is to stop people drowning at sea. The government is clear that this has nothing to do with pandering to xenophobia, nothing to do with a lowest common denominator grab for votes, nothing to do with embracing the politics of fear. It is about saving lives. The government has a responsibility to stop people taking risky sea voyages, and so they've put in place a plan to stop them.

Very well. They can own that then.

Personally I never thought drownings at sea were the fault of the government. I never thought that any government in Australia had ever "lured" people onto leaky boats. I thought it was ridiculous to suppose that simply by maintaining the possibility that people with a legitimate claim to asylum could find assistance and refuge and a better life in Australia, our leaders were somehow tricking those silly foreigners into believing their journey across the sea would be safe. I thought that I was in no position to judge whether refugees from war-torn lands were right to risk their lives to improve their circumstances. I thought that asylum seekers were neither halfwitted morons unable to figure out the dangers of a sea journey in a rickety boat, nor mindless puppets reacting only to the string-pulling of Australia's government - pull this string, they come, pull that string, they stay. I thought that in a world of refugees, we cannot prevent people taking terrible risks to escape terrible situations: all we can do is our little bit to assist those who come to us seeking assistance. I thought it is not our place to lecture those who've seen terrors we can't fathom on whether the chance of death at sea is worth taking if it means getting away from those terrors, or if it means avoiding decades eking out a fearful, hopeless existence in a refugee camp, or if it means giving their children the chance of a future containing possibilities. I thought the government does not bear responsibilities for the tragedies caused by the sick and sorry state of the world - only the tragedies resulting from the treatment it metes out to those who beg it for help. I thought that accepting desperate people into our country and allowing them to become Australians was the noblest thing that our government does, and that the ones who came by boat were no more or less deserving than those arriving by other means.

I thought all these things.

The government thinks differently.

Well, fine.

But they should know, they can own that now.

I never believed the government bore responsibility for deaths at sea, but that's a responsibility they've taken on. Both major parties have stood up to willingly declare that the blood of asylum seekers who drown is on the hands of the Australian government.

Let them own it.

The PNG plan is said to be the way to prevent these drownings. The Opposition has their own tow-back, TPV plan, that they say will prevent these drownings. If this is the way they wish it to be, if this is the priority they wish to adopt, if this is the function they see as proper for the Australian government, then this is the standard by which they will be judged.

Because if Labor puts the PNG plan in place, or if the Coalition implements their own Howard redux policy, they'll have achieved their goal. They'll have done what they claim is necessary to stop deaths at sea.

And that means every death at sea from that point on is on them.

And we've got to hold them to this. If asylum seekers drown on their way to Australia, after the government declares that drownings are its responsibility and its policy the proper reaction to them, then with each death our politicians will stand judged as murderers - not by our judgment, but by their own. And it'll be up to us to remind them of that.

It's on you now, noble leaders. You want responsibility for their deaths, you got it. We'll hold you responsible, and see if you are so eager to hang yourselves when you've got no excuses.


Felix. said...

G’day my dear friend Ben. I’d really love you to be living under a Muslim Government in Australia, then perhaps your posts and silly pontifications might be a little different under the threat of death, which is the ’Muslim Way’, of course. In the end we all get what we deserve and I certainly hope you do.

Anonymous said...

Felix not only is your comment Xenophobic it also has nothing to do with the article at all. Well done on proving his point.

Agree with the article. If they want to make BS excuses for new policies its our responsibility to call them out on it.

melbournesurprise said...

Good stuff. The huge range of creative responses I've read concerning current/proposed asylum policy really shows how arbitrary and disingenous these policies are.

I wrote up my own skewed take on things a couple of days ago if you're interested.

While I agree with you that nobody is "luring" asylum seekers here, I see the problem slightly differently.

By being party to the refugee convention -- which is designed as a "signpost" for refugees, indicating that if they come to a convention country, they will be treated humanely -- Australia is essentially laying out a welcome mat for asylum seekers, and then turning around and bopping them on the head when they have the audacity to knock on our door.

If this PNG "solution" is to continue, the least they could do is cease the hypocrisy and withdraw from the convention. But no, Australia's a nice, humane country, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Firstly, Felix is a peanut. Secondly, this is beautifully written