Prime Minister Scott Morrison shows absolutely no concern at losing an historic vote, a government first in 90 years, on legislation that will allow the remaining 1000 detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to come to Australia on the say so of two doctors and with ministerial approval for short-term medical treatment
Scott Morrison at his ebullient best
This is because he is now electioneering on a preferred issue on which he has undeniable authority. In fact he appears quite jubilant. He can now argue that Labor has failed to learn from its failure in the first term of the Rudd government and in the term of Julia Gillard to find an Asian Solution (opposed by the Coalition) for control of the arrival of refugees by boats.
He reasons that Labor has once again weakened the Coalition’s successful border policy, and will have to take responsibility when the boats start arriving again on the rocky shores of a re-opened Christmas Island Detention Centre. It was on these very rocks that some poor desperate refugees lost their lives.
Even although about 78% of those still in detention have been processed and shown to be genuine refugees, it is distinctly possible that they will be sent to the Christmas Island facility to frustrate the provision of the new legislation.
A humanitarian Bill fanatically opposed by Scott Morrison
The Independents together with the opposition, have been painstaking in their efforts to come up with a Bill that neither jeopardizes Australia’s security nor grants sick detainees with back-door access to Australian residency, even although the government has been doing so on the quiet for sometime.
In addition the legislation specifies that the medical evacuation provisions apply only to the present cohort of detainees, not to any new arrivals. This clause eliminates Dr Kerryn Phelp’s Medevac Bill as an incentive to come to Australia. Furthermore Australia now has established a potent Border Force that should have no difficulty in continuing to turn back the boats.
In spite of this the government has fought the Bill at every turn, even to the point of trying to create a constitutional furphy. Yet the Bill has been passed, and is now law. Interestingly division vote results were given standing ovations from visitors in the gallery.
Why the legislation is necessary.
You might have thought that there was little need for changing the rules for the management of detainees, given that the Coalition since 2013 has stopped new boat arrivals, and successfully removed all but about one thousand, including all children; but has there been a price for this?
The problem has been an insensitive bureaucracy that has actively, even to the point of taking legal action, tried to deny detainees from receiving treatment in Australia. One detainee died when he might have survived had he received prompt and effective medical care for sepsis. Others (11 or so) lost hope, and become so depressed, that they took their own lives.
Disturbances and riots in the two detention centres have been regarded as insubordination to be punished, rather than symptomatic of genuine underlying mental and emotional anguish that warranted specialist psychiatric treatment.
What to do with asylum seekers is still an unresolved national problem
It was actually Kevin Rudd who in August 2013 declared that asylum seekers would never be able to settle in Australia, an announcement that caused international concern for the welfare of refugees at the time, but was adopted by the Abbott government after winning the ensuing election. It has been an important factor in altering the mind-set of refugees, and deterring people smugglers.
Although it may have been an effective deterrent, the difficulty of finding satisfactory alternative destinations has never been completely resolved in the five years of Coalition government, and the problem is likely to persist for further refugees, unless there is a change in the present policy vowing to never let them enter Australia. Life is bleak under indefinite detention.
Not only are their liberties curtailed, and their housing conditions basic, many have encountered hostility from the locals on Manus Island, and all face daily uncertainty about their fate. Little wonder that so many men, women and children have developed severe mental health problems waiting.
Australia’s present rigid and hard-hearted management of refugees contrasts starkly with the willingness of the German government to accept about one million displaced persons from Syria, the Middle East, and Africa. We do not have anything like the problem they are dealing with.
We want political parties to tell us how they will tackle the nation’s problems not how good they are, or have been.