When the ALP decided to ape most of the Howard Government’s anti-refugee policies last year, I said it wouldn’t “work”, even if you defined “work” as “bully vulnerable people into staying in danger in Indonesian camps indefinitely instead of getting on boats”.
And of course it didn’t. Of course it didn’t, because Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and we are, so we cannot leave refugees who come here without any humanitarian protections at all like they can.
Remember how we justified IMPRISONING CHILDREN on the basis of how many lives it was going to “save” and then it didn’t anyway?
But not letting a cruel abject failure deter us, we’re trying again! The ALP is now attempting to “deter” people on boats by being even crueller than before, and just refusing to take any refugee who arrives here on their own if it’s by boat, but not if it’s by plane, and nobody’s quite sure what the rules are for hovercrafts (god you’re hopeless, national media, why can’t you find this out?).
And, again, it won’t “work”, even under the monstrously inhumane definition of “work” described above. Why not? Because whilst PNG is worse than Australia, and dangerous, and corrupt – so long as we’re required to make sure they’re at least safe and able to eat while being processed, which we are, by virtue of the Convention and also our rhetoric of claiming to give even a vague shit about their lives – then they’re still better off than they were in Indonesia.
(Let’s ignore for now that the policy is discriminatory and will undoubtedly be challenged as being almost certainly contrary to our obligations under the Convention.)
The test if you want to “deter” isn’t “how can we treat them worse than the most vulnerable people in our society” – the test has to be “can we treat them worse than they’re treated in Indonesian camps”. And the answer is no, we can’t.
So again, this won’t work. We’re just treating refugees ever more cruelly because it makes the people in Western Sydney, who apparently blame every challenge in their lives on fantasy “reffos” who are living in imaginary LUXURY ON OUR DIME, feel like at least they’re being punished for daring to ask us for help – but it won’t stop them coming, and in a year we’ll be trying something even nastier. Which also won’t work.
I’m telling you so now. And all those who thought that the ALP’s scheme last year was going to “work” but haven’t called on them to abandon it once it became clear it hasn’t – what will it take before you recognise that “deterrence” will not work, cannot work, and we’d be much better off professing refugees promptly and compassionately and stopping trying to duck our responsibilities and drive them away.