Carlo’s Corner: Let’s all welcome Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Issue 
Image: Leslie Richmond.

Congratulations to Tony Abbott on becoming prime minister. We all know how just badly he wanted this job, and he didn't even have to sell his arse. Or worse, support nominal action on climate change.

His rise to the nation's top office was marked on August 15, when his government passed his asylum seeker policies, with the opposition — Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie — voting against.

His rise was celebrated the next day with the Senate passing Abbott's laws to throw Australia's international obligations out the window and send asylum seekers to prison camps on Nauru or Manus Island to be jailed indefinitely. At least, in those cases where the authorities fail to tow the boats to Indonesia.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has conceded that when the policy comes into force in mid-September, the prison camps on Nauru and Manus Island may not be ready — and asylum seekers may have to live in tents. To find out what she thinks about this possibility, let's ask her leader. “So be it” was Abbott’s response when asked about it on August 15.

So, heads up to Serco, the multinational making millions in profits running the prison camps for refugees. Time to invest in the tent industry. For those in the business of profiteering from human misery, the smart money is getting into canvas.

The whole refugee-bashing exercise is not just a crime against humanity and a violation of international law, it is also a crime against logic.

We are told by both major parties that we have to send desperate people fleeing persecution, who risk their lives to seek assistance, to prison camps on isolated islands in the middle of nowhere to be jailed indefinitely.

Apparently, this policy is being carried out to save the lives of asylum seekers. The argument goes that by making already inhumane policies that punish desperate people for seeking asylum — as is their right under international law — even more inhumane, it will deter would-be asylum seekers from making the life-threatening journey to Australia by boat.

I think, however, if people are not deterred by the prospect of risking their lives by putting themselves and their families on small overcrowded boats to take a perilous journey into the open ocean in which all passengers could drown at any moment, then there is really nothing our government can throw at them to stop them coming.

These people are fleeing horrors such as torture and possible death. There is nothing we can do to make their lives worse. We could try to match the horrors of the Afghan war or Sri Lanka's genocidal polices towards Tamils — and let's be frank, our politicians are giving it a red hot go — but we cannot actually hope to impose a more hellish life on these people.

So, rather than trying to do so, out of a misguided fear that somehow the small numbers of people who arrive in boats seeking asylum are going to take something away from ordinary Australians, how about we focus our attention on those who are actually taking things away from us right now?

Like, say, the mining corporations taking our non-renewable resources to enrich themselves. Or Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, taking tens of thousands of Queenslanders' jobs. Or New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell, taking money away from injured workers. Or Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, taking away Victoria’s TAFE programs.

It’s just a thought.

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