Carlo's Corner: Soon, we'll all be unAustralian
So if the government's bill excising the entire Australian mainland from the migration zone is passed in parliament, I guess we will all be unAustralian.
That is one insult used by politicians to describe anything they don't like will now lose its force. Forget Aboriginal people protesting on Australia Day, logically there can surely be no more unAustralian act than legally declaring Australia unAustralia.
Of course, Australia will not actually be abolished for everyone. It will merely being abolished as far as anyone who arrives seeking asylum by boat is concerned. It extends the existing laws that removes Christmas Island and other non-mainland territories from Australia for the purposes of dealing with desperate people who risk their lives to ask for our help.
Australia will still exist, for instance, for those who arrive by plane. If you fly in, Australia is right where it always has been. And should you choose to seek asylum when you get off the plane, perhaps because you flew in on Virgin and can't face the return flight, then you will be able to enjoy all those special privileges, like access to courts, that signatories to the UN Refugee Convention are legally required to offer.
But come via boat and the Australian mainland magically disappears. It will act like an invisible forcefield that keeps out poor people who can't afford plane tickets.
And fair enough, because a sure sign you are not really serious about needing asylum and are just trying to rort our generous system is spending your life savings to put your family on a leaky boat to risk their lives on a treacherous sea journey. Really, how can they expect anyone to listen to their tales of woe if they haven't even been willing to make even the most simple sacrifices like enduring airline food?
Immigration minister Chris Bowen justified his total backflip from 2006, when he described the former Howard government's similar proposal as “hypocritical and illogical” and said it would be “a stain on our national character”, by claiming that removing all of Australia from Australia's migration zone “will save lives”.
It is worth taking time to consider just what a great humanitarian Chris Bowen truly is. He is pushing a law to make it easier to lock up asylum seekers in isolated prison camps in horrific conditions that breed such despair there is a spate of suicide attempts … because he wants to save lives.
Labor's left faction has already committed itself to supporting the bill. To get a sense of just what an extreme example of abject cowardice this is, it is worth remembering that when John Howard tried to pass similar laws, the Coalition faced an internal revolt. Labor's supposed “left” is proving further to the right of sections of the Liberal Party.
There is, of course, some parliamentary opposition. Expelled Labor MP Craig Thomson, not a man renowned for his high moral standards, joined the Greens in insisting he won't vote for a bill he condemned as “disgusting”.
He might be a poster boy for corruption, facing allegations of stealing huge amounts of union members' money to pay for prostitutes, but Thomson still manages to show more respect for other humans than the entire Labor Party caucus that expelled him from their ranks.
Related article: Despairing refugees protest, self-harm on Nauru