- noun: refuge, sanctuary, shelter, safety, protection, security, immunity;
the protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee. “she applied for asylum and was granted refugee status” “we provide asylum for those too ill to care for themselves” “he appealed for political asylum”
an institution offering shelter and support to people who are mentally ill. After watching last night’s Q&A I got an unexpected text from a friend. “The numbers are only worse under Labor for children in detention because Labor let more refugees in, right? Not that it is defendable” the message read. I had to give this some thought… Yes I suppose there were more ‘irregular entries’ from 2008 onward than there had been during the Howard years. By 2008 we were really just starting to feel the shockwaves of a series of genocides in which Australia had been complicit. The number of boat arrivals increased under Labor, and with it the number of children in detention. And I suppose a veritable tsunami of new boat arrivals from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka also came as a supply-boom for a fledgling private prison industry. Australia has not dealt properly with refugees since the 1970’s. The Fraser government achieved humanitarian outcomes for tens of thousands of refugees from indo-china, in accordance with our obligations under international law. Fraser, now 84, has cut ties with his former political party and now champions the cause of refugee advocacy. He was also the man behind the coup that took down the Australia’s first and only autonomous government. Go figure. I’d take Fraser for PM over any of the current crop (except perhaps Wilkie or Wong.) Stewart West, another octogenarian, served as Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs under Hawke. I heard West address a rally last year. He spoke passionately, recalling anecdotes of his work abroad, particularly in central and south America. What echoes in my minds ear still are these words: “In my day we didn’t have a problem with refugees arriving by boat. We flew them here.” West resigned shortly after Hawke introduced his policy of mandatory detention for unauthorised arrivals. A man of integrity. Hawke brought in mandatory detention. Keating privatised it. Howard offshored it. Rudd and Gillard tried to scale it back, proposing to settle clients in “third countries”. Abbott opposed this because it was Labor’s idea, and once in power imposed his final solution to the refugee problem by turning back the boats. This instantly improved his polling, which was dutifully reported in the Murdoch press and scored him countless cheap points among the brainwashed and brainless masses. One small problem with Abbott’s strategy is that according to every legal entity, everywhere, seeking asylum is a human right, and refoulement is illegal. Australia now stands in breach of countless articles of international law, and we haven’t actually done anything to fix the problem. We’ve done nothing to address the plight of undocumented, homeless, stateless people fleeing tyranny and persecution. What Abbott has done instead is given billions of taxpayer dollars to corporate thugs and enlisted the armed forces by executive order to make this someone else’s problem. Meanwhile we have a ‘budget emergency’. I’m only crying because it hurts to laugh. The boats have stopped coming now, or so we’re told, so I guess what we do with the rest of the irregulars in detention now is a matter for the Liberal party and their business interests to decide. (Tony Shepherd, President of the Business Council of Australia, is the former chairman of Transfield which operates the facility at Manus Island, a U.S. styled private prison. Serco and G4S have also held lucrative government tenders at various times to operate detention facilities, along with Greg Sheppard, who runs the private security firm Wilson Protective Services PNG Ltd. All Liberal Party donors.) The reaction to the human rights commission’s report into the forgotten children comes as no surprise. Investment by successive governments has boosted supply in a market which now has weakeneing demand. I imagine Abbott at this moment finds himself in quite a quandary. Clearly he hasn’t thought the game through; else he would have announced something by now. My guess is he probably never thought he’d get this far. I suppose a government so committed to old world ideas about what a ‘family unit’ looks like would find the problem even more perplexing. There are whole families in detention, we are told. In the example reluctantly proffered by Mr Turnbull the father is a suspected security risk, but his wife and 3 kids refuse to leave detention without him. I shudder to think what a pallid chord the thought of broken families must strike on Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz’ god-fearing heart strings. One conservative maggot troll tweeted something along the lines of “shame on these conniving grifters for using their children as bargaining chips.” Meanwhile the same government which refused to spend $500m to guarantee the future of car manufacturing in Australia and save 100 000 jobs (sorry to labour the point), are happy to hand over $2bn to the private prison industry, which benefits the rest of us how, exactly? And where does Labor stand on this? Or is this another matter of ‘national security’ which has bi-partisan support? I cringe at the thought.