This is simply not a fair go

IT’S not that the federal government won’t talk about its border protection operations that should most bother Australians.

It’s also not the politics of border protection which creates severe furrowed brows. We are, after all, in the midst of two decades of a multi-party slippery race to the slimy bottom of the debate.

Sri Lankan asylum seekers sent back by Australia queue to enter the magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle

Sri Lankan asylum seekers sent back by Australia queue to enter the magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle

We shouldn’t be surprised at the current government’s approach to border protection – a hardline stance was made clear to all voters in the lead-up to last year’s federal poll. 

It’s an approach built on fear of what might happen if Australia lets asylum seekers onto the mainland.

Australians have expressed concerns about all these points – and rightly so – yet amid a complicated and terribly divisive issue, they pale in comparison to what the approach to border protection says about us as a nation.

Australia is built on a fair go for all, where the battlers are held in higher regard than the elite and where opportunities abound. 

We are a democratic nation where we judge people as they are.

Yet, in relation to our policy, and the strongly-held beliefs of many Australians, we are not fair regarding asylum seekers arriving by boat. 

We disregard the battles, putting it mildly, many endure before deciding to make the perilous journey in search of something better. 

Our protection policy aims to eliminate any skerrick of opportunity. When we determine the future of asylum seekers, we do so via a video conference which lasts five minutes. 

The underlying theme is that the next asylum seeker could be a terrorist.

Simplistically, within Australia, the government and its beholden supporters dismiss these descriptions as far-left extremism.

Outside Australia, our reputation is diminished.

Not only are the sunny perceptions which have developed over decades now clouded internationally, there’s deep suspicion that we are neither fulfilling our legal duties nor our moral or ethical requirements on the world stage. 

It’s become an embarrassment.

The problem is that our politicians don’t care. 

If they did they would be open about our policies. 

If they did, the Labor opposition wouldn’t be claiming it was in fact their policies which have “stopped the boats” as spokesman Richard Marles suggested this week. 

If Labor really cared, and was true to its values, it wouldn’t be aligning itself to this shameful period in our nation’s history. 

It would instead have implemented a humane and responsible policy when it had its chance.

There’s no hope of the current Coalition government taking such an approach.

And for what? Are we safer? There’s no evidence to say fluctuations in refugee intakes even mildly impacts crime. 

Will there more jobs for Australians? No.

What should be of greatest concern  is that we’ve always been so proud to tell anyone who would listen why Australia is the greatest place in the world. 

An amazing place to live.

We’re in the process of undermining the very aspects which have helped build this reputation.

andrew.eales@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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