Australia’s politicians have been busy of late, excavating new and deeper chasms in their continual race to the bottom on the asylum seeker issue.
The arsehole that is leadership in Australian politics has been producing some particularly putrid sounds and smells recently. Last week Liberal bully boy Joe Hockey was stinking up the airwaves, arguing that Australia should exhume its ‘compassionate’ system of dealing with asylum seekers by reintroducing Temporary Protection Visas and reopening the detention centre on Nauru – described as a ‘hellhole’ by the Refugee Action Coalition, but a place our alternative PM Tony Abbott sees as nothing harsher than a boarding school.
If Hockey’s idea of compassion is leaving people in legal limbo for years on end, with no hope of reunification with their families, limited access to social services and a 700% better chance of developing mental illness, then I would hate to see what he’s like when he’s pissed off.
Then again, if your leader is Tony Abbott, a man with a black hole where his heart should be, it’s easier to understand how Hockey’s warped ideas about compassion were cultivated. In a rare display of bipartisanship in Australian politics – a move usually reserved for the common good – Abbott has declared he is prepared to work with the government in continuing to explore ways to destroy desperate and vulnerable people by locking them away in offshore detention centres. Abbott’s offer of policy candy to a young Labour government lost, disorientated and walking home in the rain, stretches all the way to changing the existing parliamentary act. It is sad that to hear that Australia’s federal politicians are willing to adjust the Migration Act so they can discriminate against one group of people, however will not change the Marriage Act to end discrimination against another group of people. Clearly Abbott will do anything, save for sell his arse, to get into the top job. He will even sell out those who have the audacity to flee persecution and seek a safe existence in our lucky country of Australia.
On the other side of the fence, Julia Gillard is doing no justice to the rumour that redheads are devoid of souls, after she verballed the High Court for upholding the crazy notion that Australia has an obligation to protect unaccompanied minors in our care. Her bumbling immigration minister Chris Bowen continues to search for ways to absolve the government of the responsibility of dealing with asylum seekers in humane and compassionate ways. Instead, Bowen seems hell bent on doing all he can to resemble some sort of ‘Aussie toughness’ by beating up on powerless refugees, when in fact the strong thing to do, would actually be to treat those who are asking for our help with compassion and care, not try to ship them off to mental illness factories.
In school playgrounds across the nation, teachers and parents chastise students who bully and pick on the weak and vulnerable. Yet in the childlike chambers of Canberra’s Parliament House, bullying and meanness are prized qualities when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers. Labour and the Coalition are meeting at every recess to continue their epic battle over who is tougher on those who have already suffered greatly. Thankfully, the High Court has declared that neither of them are as tough as they think and that they should both go and sit in the corner and think long and hard about their behaviour before they make their next move.