Houston: ‘we’ no longer have a problem; refugees do
It was a brilliant ploy by Gillard. Appoint a committee of ‘experts’ whom you knew would always recommend the vile and inhumane offshore processing of refugees.
If they recommended Malaysia then all the better. If they recommended Nauru then that would give Labor the cover to back down.
The ‘experts’ recommended dumping refugees on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They didn’t rule out Malaysia; they just said it needed more work.
Essentially what the trio of rich white males in the Houston Report has served up is the Opposition’s deterrence policy, with a few sops thrown in about increasing the humanitarian intake a little. It is basically a policy of punishing the refugees. It strips asylum seekers of the meagre rights they currently have.
This is Howard’s Pacific Solution made worse. It is not Pacific Solution Lite but Pacific Solution Dark.
There will be no time limit on how long asylum seekers can be kept in Nauru or Manus Island. This is to ensure they will spend longer there than they would have in Indonesia or Malaysia. Given that some refugees rot their lives away in Malaysia, asylum seekers could be held indefinitely in Australia’s concentration camps on Nauru or Manus Island.
Those coming by boat will also lose family re-union rights.
Labor, Left and Right, is joyfully and joyously implementing a vile policy worse than anything Howard dared introduce.
That assumes the boats get into and remain in Australian waters.
The Houston Report disgracefully but not unsurprisingly recommended turning back the boats where that is legally and physically possible. It isn’t yet, so Houston wants the legal and other ‘niceties’ fixed to ensure it can be done.
Nauru, Manus Island and turning back the boats are Coalition policy. What Houston has done is transform them into Labor Government policy and action. The ALP will be secretly pleased.
Gillard Labor will rush through legislation this week to adopt all 22 of Houston’s recommendations.
At the heart of the report is the false idea that harsh action at our end will stop the boats. As they keep on coming the pressure and now the response has been and is to get harsher. It hasn’t ‘worked’.
People fleeing war, civil war, dispossession, rape and the like are desperate. A journey of a few days across the sea to a better life eventually, even if it puts their lives at risk or means they’ll spend time in Nauru before coming to Australia, is better in their eyes than being killed.
Of course indefinite detention is a factory for mental illness so once here many of them try to kill themselves to escape a life of indefinite imprisonment for no crime.
Some of the refugees come from Afghanistan. Often they are Hazaras, a persecuted minority under the Karzai government that Western troops, including Australian soldiers, have imposed on the people of Afghanistan.
As leader of Australia’s defence force, Angus Houston was one of the key architects and implementers of this invasion strategy. Withdrawing Western troops from Afghanistan would help stop one of the reasons for refugees fleeing from there to Australia.
Instead of recommending ending Western invasions, Houston recommended we attack the very people we force to flee their homes. This from the former head of Defence. What a surprise.
Given that both the Government and the Opposition are in favour of brutalising asylum seekers, the Committee was never going to recommend a sensible caring approach to dealing with refugees.
If we really want to save lives at sea, Australia could process all of the asylum seekers in Indonesia, about 5000 and the 100,000 in the hell holes of Malaysia quickly for resettlement here.
If we can’t process them there, then we could process them here – not by forcing them to flee in rickety rotten boats to Australia but by sending Australian ships and planes to bring them here for processing.
Of course neither side will do that. They are leaders in racism but followers too. Their policies are driven by the desire to appeal to and deepen the crimson thread of racism that runs through sections of the working class, a crimson thread the ruling elite use cynically to divert attention away from the real problem – capitalism.
For some in an alienated population in an alienated society, attacking others restores a seeming sense of their own humanity. It is a false god but idolatry is useful tool in the exploitation fo workers for the Gillards and Abbotts, the Rineharts and Palmers, the Gail Kellys and Grant O’Briens of the world, even if they or some of them personally find the policy obnoxious.
Far better that we worship false gods than attack the bosses and their prostration at the altar of profit.
Only the Greens will oppose this legislation. However they will not mobilise their membership and millions of decent working Australians in support of refugees.
Let me give an example of what can be done by demonstrations and agitation. Same sex marriage is on the agenda, and is in touching distance of victory, because of the actions of a few hundred activists in mobilising support for the issue across Australia; in calling demonstrations in which thousands turn out.
The Greens are the only ones with the political credibility to be able to mobilise hundreds of thousands in favour of refugees and to save those who will now risk their lives in coming to Australia. If they are successful in getting here they will be black-birded to Nauru and Manus Island.
There should be no more mister nice guy from us in our defence of refugees. Make Australia ungovernable to defend asylum seekers.
To the Greens, for humanity’s sake, mobilise us to save refugees. Do it now. We are ready.