Well the fun just never stops, does it, when it comes to the Abbott government’s asylum seeker policies, or as they call it, “border protection”. Because when it comes to needing protection, fleeing war, torture and genocide is one thing, but won’t someone think of all the poor, downtrodden borders?
How many more times must our vulnerable borders be subject to assaults by desperate people using their international right under a convention Australia has signed to sail right over them in their boats without so much as a “Sorry Australian maritime borders! Didn’t see you there!”
Because I’ll tell you one thing, this nation might have its share of problems, but we’d never violate anything so sacred as another nation’s borders! Well, at least not on purpose. Or more than, say, half a dozen times. Or unless we were taking part in a US-led military invasion for oil corporations, I mean of course.
No, when we want to systematically violate another nation’s sovereignty, we do it through proper channels and collaborate with the NSA to run huge spying programs against their governments.
Thank god, then, that we have a man Abbott called “strong” and “decent” to run our “border protection” policy based on, as Manus Island whistleblower Liz Thompson reports, systematic lies and cruelty.
Said Abbott in defence of immigration minister Scott Morrison: “You don't want a wimp running the border.”
Absolutely not. And so, when the death of 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati at Manus Island detention centre sparked nationwide candle-lit vigils and a call by the Greens for his resignation, Morrison bravely insisted he would “not be intimidated” into closing the camp.
That's what this country needs! A man who can stand up to the sheer thuggery of thousands of grieving people holding candles and members of a different political party holding a press conference!
It does strike me as odd, though, given how “strong”, “decent” and “unwimpish” those running this program are, that they seem so easily upset by allegations.
First, we had Morrison refusing point blank to comment on anything, then Abbott's dummy spit when the ABC reported allegations his government did not like. And now the commander of the government's Operation Sovereign Borders, Navy Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, gets offended when Labor Senator Stephen Conroy suggested he was involved in a political cover-up.
The allegation was hardly surprising given the huge secrecy maintained over Operation Sovereign Borders, despite information suggesting actions such as forcing boats back to Indonesia had led to the deaths of at least three asylum seekers.
One would have thought, given Campbell was there to account for himself, that a simple denial and explanation for why the accusation was false might have been what was called for. But no, rather than actually answer the allegation, the general professed offense and the government demanded Conroy apologise.
You have to wonder why anyone bothers with senate hearings if you are not allowed to pose potentially difficult questions, possibly even ones the unelected officials fronting our elected reps don't actually want to hear. What was Conroy doing there if not to put such points to the general and have the man in charge of Operation Sovereign Borders respond?
And, if Campbell didn't want to be confronted with such allegations, why on Earth did he show up to be questioned?
Maybe the general was confused and thought that, rather than front a senate hearing, he had actually been invited to help judge a homemade cupcake baking competition and, after expressing offence, went on to shout: “I came here to eat cupcakes, not be questioned! You promised me cupcakes, WHERE ARE MY CUPCAKES, SENATOR?”
I'd like to see anyone else use such a defence to a serious allegation. If the police start asking inconvenient questions about a burglary of a place you were seen hanging around, just shout “HOW DARE YOU!” and demand an apology. I'm sure the government will back you up.
There was also the revelation on February 24 that the man in charge of the Manus Island camp, which includes Tamils fleeing the human rights abuses of the Sri Lankan Army, is a former officer in the Sri Lankan Army.
This, by the government's logic, is totally appropriate. As Thompson pointed out, the aim of the camp is to be so cruel to asylum seekers it deters others from seeking safety. And there is no one more perfect for the job of violently repressing Tamils than a Sri Lankan Army officer.
The guy must have been a shoo-in. I bet they took one look at his CV and didn't even bother with an interview.
Meanwhile, as our government busies itself defending its cruel policies to those who pose us no threat, the actual threat to our wellbeing — the ever-growing jobs massacre — continues apace. But we needn't worry, Joe Hockey proudly got government representatives at the G20 meeting in Sydney to agree to a target of 2% global economic growth.
Of course, simply saying you'd like 2% growth is a long way from getting it, and Hockey immediately went on to propose a recipe of savage spending cuts — the exact sort of austerity measures that, in recent years, sent Europe spiralling into recession.
Such a plan of action is not unlike announcing to all and sundry your goal of getting fit and healthy, then celebrating with a dinner of a giant cheesecake and a bottle of absinthe.