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How politicians force us to make a choice we should never have to make.

The phrase, Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite, frequently attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville but in fact coined by French counterrevolutionary Joseph de Maistre, is translated as “Every democracy gets the government it deserves.”

It’s not a sentiment with which I entirely agree: many factors are at work in a liberal democracy such as ours that bring into question the core assumption of informed choice, not least of which is propaganda distributed by media with vested interests, and its collusion with political and financial elites. This piece in Alternet makes interesting arguments against de Maistre’s maxim, describing it as a toxic idea that needs to be laid to rest. It’s worth a read.

I’ve listened carefully to all the pragmatic arguments of ALP supporters, as I have for the last seven years. I know that in almost every way an ALP government is far preferable to life under an LNP administration.

And I am enraged at finding myself yet again in a situation where I would have to endorse the torture of asylum seekers and refugees in order to have a government that we in a liberal democracy deserve. This is a choice no one has the right to force upon citizens and we need to get very angry about being put in this position.

All my life I voted Labor, until in 2009 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got into a face-off with Indonesia over Tamil asylum seekers picked up by the Oceanic Viking, refusing to allow them to be transferred to Christmas Island for refugee assessment.

In 2012 the Gillard government reopened detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru that had been closed by the Rudd government in 2008, at which time Immigration Minister Chris Evans described the Pacific Solution as a “costly, cynical and ultimately unsuccessful exercise.”

In 2013, newly returned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced, “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”

The ALP lost my vote in 2009 and they’ve never got it back. It was a difficult decision: my local member was a woman I admired, and it was hard to imagine her supporting Gillard and Rudd, who appeared to be in complete harmony on the matter of torturing those who legally seek asylum in this country.

Refugee policy is one of very many issues to be considered when deciding on the government we deserve. For mine, it’s a fundamental issue: if we have as our government a group of people who take pride in destroying the lives of those who have committed absolutely no offence by arriving here on boats, indeed, who have done so in response to the invitation we continue to extend as signatories to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, we have as our government a group of barbarians who will not hesitate, should it serve their purposes, to take severe action against any other group who in some way threaten their hold on power, or can be used to shore up their grip on governance.

For the last sixteen years LNP and ALP governments have used asylum seekers as scapegoats, fuelling entirely unsubstantiated public fears about the stranger as terrorist, and pitting those fleeing the destruction of their homelands and in many cases torture and death, against disgruntled voters who are being let down and damaged not by asylum seekers, but by their elected representatives.

Asylum seekers have proved and continue to prove infinitely useful to both major parties, as distractions from their own failures, inadequacies and corruptions. This is the moral calibre of our politicians: that they will actively or passively engage in and perpetuate this torture of waterborne asylum seekers for their political gain. There is not one of them, LNP or ALP, that I wish to support in their vile exploitation of human beings.

The Pacific solution uses cruelty as a deterrent to asylum seekers, and in so doing, compromises every single voter in this country, and ensures we are complicit. Every time we agree to pragmatically compartmentalise, we agree to the ongoing torment of refugees and asylum seekers. In this sense we do get the government we deserve as we agree to the ongoing torment of human beings by both major parties, in order to create for ourselves the life to which we feel entitled.

This is a piece written by a young friend starting out on his career as a journalist. It’s his perception of Manus Island and Nauru, together with information on what can be done to assist refugees. Cameron’s article brought to mind some lines from W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages…

There are among the young ironic points of light, exchanging messages in this stuporous world. In them I trust, because I have lost all faith in the adults who govern us.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.



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  1. susan

    With any luck, a Labor government would quietly bring in the refugees as Howard had to do. They would need to rid “our ABC” of its right wing warrior journalists though.

  2. Bronte ALLAN

    Yes Jennifer, it is almost a choice between a rock & a hard place! I too have almost always voted Labor, but this election I am really undecided whether to vote Labor or try & vote for some “other” choice—definitely NOT this inept, lying liberal mob though! Sadly, & probably like many others, I thought when Talkbull took over the reins, the liberals might get “better”, but, this was just wishful thinking. If anything they have just marked time, slipped back in some areas & have definitely NOT been “good” for Australia, & apart from all their obscenely wealthy mates, been very bad for the rest of us! IF Labor were to “change” for the better their “stance” on refugees, the so-called “Pacific solution” (sic), then I would be thinking about voting for them.This election will a very hard one for me to decide just who to vote for!

  3. Glenn K

    I am a Green voter, but I do believe if Labour win office they will drastically change their refugee policy. I choose to believe what they are currently doing is merely neutralising the issue and not giving the LNP something to scream about (though they will try anyways).

  4. Kizhmet

    ^ GlennK. I do agree. Asylum seekers should never, ever, be used for political brinkmanship. I believe (desperately hope) ALP remain quiet to maintain a small target before the election. Sadly there are far too many voters whose vote can bought by promising to keep asylum seekers offshore.

    It is a sorry state of affairs when we exercise our democratic rights voting for the lesser of two evils rather than for what is self evidently best.

  5. Kyran

    A refugee in ‘our care’ in one of our concentration camps, has passed away today. He admitted himself to hospital on Nauru with chest pains. Two friends were attacked on their way to visit him. From what I gather, there is some suggestion he attempted suicide, but the stated cause of death is heart failure. The appended article first appeared early this morning and, true to ABC standards, they have amended the original article rather than write a new one.

    It happened on Nauru. Like the rapes, attacks, intimidation, etc, it will never be investigated.
    I am no longer enraged. It will be a cold day in any of their Christian hell’s that I would vote for any of them. This could have been changed in 2012, but the Green’s wanted to make a political point.
    We are in election mode. These mealy mouthed bastards, the whole lot of them, are now looking to justify their existence for one day out of three years. They are all worried about ‘border protection’ or ‘border security’ as a peripheral issue to protecting or securing their jobs. They extol the virtues of strong defence, but have lost sight of what we are meant to be defending.
    “This is a choice no one has the right to force upon citizens.”
    We are left with “Sophie’s Choice”. We are trying to pick the child (political party) worth saving, and realising neither are worth it.
    My bad, I may still be a little enraged. Thank you for your rage, Ms Wilson. Take care

  6. Emmee Bee

    Thank you for writing exactly how I felt. I too used to vote Labor and Labor has lost my vote over this issue. It is getting difficult for me to still preference Labor. I too would rather a Labor government than an LNP one but Labor needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. It is almost as if they don’t want government. Hope I’m wrong.

  7. Jack Russell

    I too believe the ALP are biding their time. They’ve had three years to carefully organise thrmselves, and they know the enemy very well.

    There is no sense in making themselves even larger targets for this vicious pack of rabid LNP mongrels by handing them the incendiary issues they are lying in wait for because they have nothing of their own to promote.

    The only government we can have that will make any of the changes we want and need is the Labor party, and I’m voting the full monty for them this time to add my weight toward, hopefully, a majority in both houses that will give them clear air and ability to erase the neo-conservative ordure.

  8. Florence nee Fedup

    One can have offshore regional processing without being cruel. One makes the effort to work with all within the region.

    One can go back to likes Malaysian scheme. Yes we bring in more from the region. Those who attempt to come here by boats sent back. No real need for detention centers. Indefinite detention not a option, not sustainable.

    This government has suspended bring in refugees from anywhere, None from countries in the region. Countries where they get on boats to come here.

    No need to have defence force tied up in the north. No need for sovereign borders. Just put them on a place back, Need to be able to cooperate with those in the region.

  9. win jeavons

    Would ‘the public’ be so supportive of punitive solutions if the news media were not so feral? Horrible Murdoch and his megalomania again!

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