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Politicians: undoing their folded lies

By Jennifer Wilson

It ought to be self-evident that any individual or politician or government or opposition sincerely concerned with the welfare of waterborne asylum seekers who seek refuge in this country, would find their indefinite incarceration in off-shore detention centres obscene, and altogether unacceptable.

Remarkably, they don’t. Politicians from both major parties currently arguing that “turning back the boats” is an altruistic effort to stop people drowning at sea, need to be confronted with hard questions about what they continue to do to women, children and men after they have saved them from drowning at sea. Report after report, formal and anecdotal, reveals the appalling conditions asylum seekers endure on Nauru and Manus Island, and one has to question the sanity of anyone who advocates saving people from drowning only to treat them as human detritus, by either incarcerating them, or sending them back to a torment they’ve fled.

This is a sick and profoundly twisted argument, emanating from sick, and profoundly twisted minds. Australia treats the lives of waterborne asylum seekers with utter contempt and callous disregard, so why anyone believes politicians give a toss about saving their lives in the first place is a puzzle in an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.

We should also challenge the language in which this turn back option is framed. it is not boats that are being turned back. It is human beings.

There are two matters that are screaming for our attention. One is the way in which we currently treat asylum seekers and presumably the ALP intends to continue treating asylum seekers, as we’ve heard no plans to address and improve their life conditions expressed so far by the alternative government.

The other is the folded lie, in which on the one hand moral arguments are made by politicians implying concern for saving life, while simultaneously caring nothing for that life once it is saved. The implication is that these lives must not be lost in our waters but they can be lost anywhere else and that is neither our concern nor our responsibility. Lives we save can subsequently be subjected to all kinds of ill-treatment: our obligations to those lives are ended by saving them from dying in our waters.

It would be naive to imagine there was a golden age during which politicians didn’t lie. Politicians have always been liars, it’s part of the job description. Perhaps the difference is that there was a time when politicians actually cared about being perceived as liars, and endeavoured to convince us and themselves that they spoke a truth.

My distinct impression now is that politicians know they are liars, and they know we know they are liars and they no longer care enough to even pretend they aren’t. What matters most in politics is not the welfare of the country and its citizens, but who can lie with most authority, not the authority that makes a lie sound like truth, but the authority that says, I am the most powerful because I care the least about lying, and I am the most adept at the complex, folded lie.

This article was first published on Jennifer’s blog No Place For Sheep.

 

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22 comments

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  1. Keitha Granville

    How do we know there are no lives being lost at sea still? They say boats are being turned back, how do we or they know those boats reach safety? All of those people might have drowned, do they know? Do they care? Would they tell us in either event? In any case, what is the point- I am sure the people on the boats would probably rather drown than suffer the uncertain future and the certainty of dismal and torturous conditions on Manaus or Nauru. We have become no better than the Nazis in the 1940s.

  2. David Bruce

    Is it possible our politicians are being bribed, or blackmailed into leading us down this nightmare garden path? I don’t want to believe they are ALL psychopaths!

  3. Roswell

    Big call, David, but I too think some of them are pocketing a bit of money along the way.

  4. kerri

    Well Said Jennifer! I have been banging on for years about the “no deaths at sea” lie!
    It has nothing to do with saving lives and everything to do with stopping poor brown people from arriving on our shores! Anyone who believes stopping boats by removing passengers and placing them in a feeble boat or orange dinghy to send them straight back across the dangerous waters they have just traversed is not only lacking logic and humanity but is just plain stupid!
    It is a matter of time before the world stops trading with Australia!
    Not only are we shirking our climate responsibilities but we are also millions of miles behind so many other nations treating asylum seekers with some respect and human dignity.

  5. David Bruce

    Politicians, like corporations, need to keep secrets to survive. If a private individual did what politicians and corporations do, they would be prosecuted and jailed. Now we have an Attorney General who seems to be ignorant of the Australian Constitution and Trade Practices Act. Not only do our politicians ignore or misinterpret International Law, they appear to show no interest nor respect for Australian Law. If the Rule of Law cannot protect asylum seekers, what chance do private individuals have?

  6. Christine. Farmer

    Thank you Jennifer, and Keitha, and Kerri. I’ve been saying the same things for ages. By comparison with other countries so few asylum seekers aim for Australia. And why shouldn’t they seek asylum here? What makes us think we are so precious? And why shouldn’t they be seeking a better life? Isn’t that what our parents, grandparents, great grandparents or whoever did? I know one of my great-great grandfathers jumped ship, changed his name and went to the goldfields in the 1850s. As for joining queues to come to Australia, first find your queue. As for having the right papers, try getting a passport in Australia, and imagine what it might be like in a country in total turmoil.

    I wonder what future generations will make of this completely disgusting treatment being dealt out to desperate people. Not only is it totally inhumane, it’s extraordinarily expensive (which you might think would be a consideration for this mean-spirited government). I am appalled at Shorten saying he may also turn the boats back, although I can see why he is doing it; there’s no doubt he’d be torn to shreds were he to suggest abandoning the practice. Talk about a race to the bottom. Apart from the indigenous Australians, we are all boat people of one kind or another, somewhere in our family trees.

  7. David

    This afternoon Brendan O’Connor a Labor MP and individual I used to hold in the greatest respect, this afternoon sold his Labor Left principals to the devil. He has unconditionally supported Shortens ‘turn back/tow back Asylum Seekers, in conjunction with the Abbott Govt heathen say nothing stance, ensuring we will never know how many are drowning.
    I am disgusted and will be writing to him and telling him in no uncertain language.
    His final absurd reason, he would have no way of justifying, he believes the great majority of Labor supporters are in favour of Shortens actions.
    Where do these fools leave their brain, when they open their mouths?

  8. stephentardrew

    Point is the lying is getting to be the norm which is incredibly worrying. Abbott and his minions take the case as compulsive liars whereas Labor have learned to be a bit more devious. A federal ICAC investigation into travel rorts will end up crucifying politicians on both sides and so it should.

    Wake up people and show some courage and get rid of the dross on each side of parliament. Then scare the living hell out of the rest by noting that both rorting the system and blatantly lying about demonstrable empirical proofs will be held to account by a board of experts including scientists. It should also include moral philosophers.

    If we are going to elect scientific and moral illiterates to parliament they must be held to account for the facts. Abbot is trying to corner scientists with funding because he knows many of his beliefs are unadulterated lies.

    We unreservedly need a parliamentary committee of experts to review demonstrable scientific facts and to hold politicians to account scientifically and ethically. Furthermore there should be no business, corporate banking or finance industry ties to those on the committee.

  9. Win jeavons

    I suppose that the old idea that if you intervene to save a life you accept responsibility for it is just too conservative and moral for our current selfish people or politicians. So old it must be new and radical by now. Will we EVER be told how many still die at sea AFTER turn back ?

  10. Lee

    Somebody provided a link this morning to a webpage listing Australian border deaths. There were less deaths recorded during the Abbott government’s term than during Labor’s last term, so that was apparently proof that the LNP is saving lives at sea. It should be worrying that the supporters of Australia’s asylum seeker policy are so lacking in critical thinking ability. Many times I’ve pointed out to these people that European news agencies are reporting thousands of drownings of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean, and that the LNP is not providing any figures on deaths outside of Australian territory. They cannot seem to comprehend that the LNP is lying to them. The only way to stop the deaths at sea is to stop the boats from setting out in the first place. That is never going to happen.

  11. mars08

    @srephentardrew… “Point is the lying is getting to be the norm which is incredibly worrying…”

    It seems that Abbott’s bold “whatever it takes” attitude has pleased the frightened sheep. He’s our very own Dirty Harry.

  12. Harquebus

    Perhaps if we tackled the tyrants, oppressors and abusers of human rights, people might not need to flee in boats.

  13. John Hermann

    All governments routinely tell lies to their own citizens and to the rest of the world. And politics is largely concerned with organised lying, distortion, evasion, and manipulation of the perceptions and views of gullible citizens.

  14. totaram

    I think all of you are missing the crucial ingredient: Secrecy (of “on water matters”). With all the laws now in place, no one can know what is happening. Have the boats stopped? Yes, we say so. Can you prove otherwise? (if you can you will spend many years in Jail so think about it!). Did anyone drown? Of course not! (And if you can prove otherwise…. heh!heh!).

    The beauty of this system is that you can lie to your heart’s content, but no one can prove you lied. Problem solved! Why does Shorten want the option of turning boats back? All he needs is to keep the secrecy provisions! With those in place no one need ever know if he turned back any boats or not! And the stupid redneck punters will love him for being “strong”.

    I think the Labor guys are pretty dumb not to think of this. Maybe I need to give them some ideas (for a price of course – there is always a price) I mean for a self-funded retiree, any income is welcome.

  15. Anon E Mouse

    Brendan O’Connor is another who is of Gillard’s gang that lurched Labor to the right, as Rudd said they would. Just look at his outburst at the 2013 election.

    I am sure that Shorten and co know damn well that the boats haven’t stopped – there was one this week that suddenly disappeared off the media spotlight under Operation smoke and mirrors. If boats had stopped Abbott and cartel wouldn’t be paying the crews to turn around back to Indonesia.

    Abbott lies and Shorten is covering for him.

  16. Danni

    I think it’s time we DEMAND to know if all these ‘human being turn-backs’ have arrived safely back to where they came from & have not had an unfortunate accident along the way! Why is not one journalist asking this very simple question of Abbott or Dutton?

    I don’t appreciate being treated like a ‘mushroom’….my vote will count next election and it certainly will NOT be going to Team Abbott’s Secret Service party!

  17. Ange

    Has anybody got the statistics on how many asylum seekers drowned due to Abbott playing politics and absolutely refusing to join in with Labor’s humane attempt to stop the drownings? It was Abbott who said NO to every suggestion Labor Govt. came up with to solve the problem and as the boats kept coming, so did the drownings! ABBOTT BLOCKED – THEY DROWNED!

    It was Abbott himself who didn’t even want to give it a chance to see if it would actually prevent the deaths at sea…so many of the actual drownings are actually on his head… not the previous government who shares part of the blame only.

  18. David

    Ange,,,excellent question and one we will never know the answer to due to the Abbott Govts silence re boats, stopped, floundered and sank, towed or turned around.(The new Shorten policy of appeasement)
    The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry has said they are aware of approx 100 boats that left Indonesian shores and were never heard of again, since January 2014.
    A thorough investigation of the whole turn back situation was conducted by Andrew and Renata Kaldor at the the Centre of International Refugee Law, University of NSW, covers probably everything we know on the subject, legality, whys and responsibilities.

    http://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/publication/%E2%80%98turning-back-boats%E2%80%99

  19. Terry2

    Jennifer

    I believe that Labor are committed to emptying the offshore detention centres and when in office they will do so by resettling those unfortunate people who have been recognised as refugees, in countries in our region including Australia .

    The major failure of the coalition policy is that by refusing to settle any refugees in Australia – yes, I know it was Rudd’s idea – has meant that no country anywhere will assist us ( without being bribed a was Cambodia ) and these people are stuck on Manus and Nauru indefinitely.

    Having said that, you cannot blame Labor for not telegraphing their punches in the current toxic environment with Abbott and Dutton together with News Corp ready to go ballistic – as they already are.

    I believe that Shorten is already showing the way and with the open nature of the Labor party they will achieve the humane result. Already they are anticipating lifting the refugee quota and opening up processing to the UNHCR and introducing transparency.

  20. Neil of Sydney

    I believe that Labor are committed to emptying the offshore detention centres

    Too funny. It was Labor who reopened the offshore detention centers and filled them up.

  21. Harquebus

    Ange
    I don’t recall the Coalition controlling the senate. How exactly was he able to block legislation and why didn’t he block the carbon tax?

  22. Blinkyewok

    How did Tony Abbott and his family get to Australia from England? Was it by boat? If so could we banish Tony the terrible?

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