Excuses in advance

Greg Sheridan (“Policy failure creating a monstrous problem”, The Australian, 8/6) appears to be providing excuses in advance for the inevitable failure of any Abbott government to “Stop the Boats”. In fact, Sheridan now puts it as “turn back the boats where possible”, which according to regional governments and our own armed forces, is never. Sheridan is at great pains to persuade us that such difficulties are “entirely Canberra’s own” and will make for “very hard work” for Abbott. Yet they are international in nature, and exist regardless of who is in government.

The only real policy distinction Sheridan is able to draw is in terms of regional cooperation: Labor’s “fast processing and rapid resettlement” versus the Coalition’s “deter and exclude”. The former is a global view of a global problem, the latter narrowly aims to keep refugees out of our backyard, without a thought for what happens to them next. The comparison does not favour the Coalition.

It has always and everywhere been the case that “no one is more hostile to the boatpeople phenomenon than immigrants”, as Sheridan reports; but his view that this should be the basis for refugee policy, and his dystopian prophesy of a permanent, dangerous immigrant underclass, are historically plain wrong. We’ve heard it all before.

Oh, and for the umpteenth time: it is not “illegal” to seek asylum.

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