IT’S bordering on an international disgrace that Australia’s policy on the treatment of asylum seekers remains so flawed.
And more lives will be lost as our political leadership continues to take a don’t-give-in strategy to policy negotiations.
The tragedy – about 90 asylum seekers are believed to have drowned when their overcrowded boat capsized between Indonesia and Christmas Island on Thursday – is still unfolding while the impasse over appropriate measures are debated.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he won’t be rushed into a compromise to support the Gillard government’s deal with Malaysia, despite Labor now saying it will talk about the possibilities of Nauru.
We suggest that if, as Mr Abbott says, Labor’s policy is flawed, it should also revisit the Nauru solution.
While they talk, more asylum seekers are put at risk.
It follows years of unease about Australia’s role in these matters. We want to protect our borders, and yet want to be seen as welcoming. We want to promote fairness, yet we provoke division.
More illegal immigrants arrive by plane than sea in Australia, yet it is the policy on so called boat people that remains so divisive.
It’s an indictment that our political leaders can not put aside their differences – even in the most desperate of situations. And the situation is most desperate.
The middle ground may not be Nauru or Malaysia. Instead it might be a policy promoted by the Greens yesterday for Australia to take its refugee intake from about 14,000 now to 25,000, significantly reducing the need to attempt to arrive by anything other than legal methods.
The attraction of our country, as a free and stable society is always going to be enticing for those facing oppression, economic hardships or worse.
Accepting this state of the world must also mean accepting Australia’s role in the world.
The Federal Parliament sits only for this week before the winter break.
In all likelihood there will be no solution to this policy dilemma before this week, meaning possibly months of ongoing policy nirvana.
How comfortable should our political leaders feel about such a proposition? Seemingly not uncomfortable enough to come to a bipartisan position.
For that we should all feel a sense of despair.