Robert Manne – The Age – 19 January 2016
“As in my opinion and experience, most Australians would not inflict grievous suffering on innocent human beings for no reason, what needs to be explained is why as a people we are willing, in full knowledge of the facts, to refuse to settle these people in Australia and to tolerate their destruction in body and in spirit.
“The principal answer is surprisingly straightforward. Between 2009 and 2013, 50,000 asylum seekers arrived on Australian shores by boat. On their way to Australia another thousand drowned. Officials in Canberra, both major political parties and the overwhelming majority of the Australian people, believe the sacrifice of those now on Nauru and Manus Island is justified in order to prevent a return of the boats. What is so terrible is that the logic underlying this argument is so easily shown to be false.”
“It is clear that for the foreseeable future no Australian government will return to the kind of policies that saw the arrival of 50,000 asylum seekers during the Rudd and Gillard years.
“Equally, the belief that the asylum seeker boats will return if Canberra softens any element of present policy flies in the face both of historical evidence and of reason.
“But while these mindsets dominate our asylum seeker debate, the lives of the refugees on Nauru and Manus Island will continue to be slowly destroyed.
“To save the 1500, compromise between the supporters of the asylum seekers and the supporters of current policy is now desperately needed. In practical terms, this will involve both gradual re-settlement in Australia of those now on Nauru and Manus Island, and the retention of turnback and the mothballing rather than the closing of the offshore processing centres.
“In ideological terms it will involve something even more difficult to imagine: a rhetorical truce between the entrenched camps of Australia’s bitter, 15-year-old asylum seeker culture war.”
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