The federal government’s generally occurring agony reached a new level of wincing yesterday after an outrageous High Court decision that took unto the court the power to decide who comes to Australia and the circumstances in which they come.
Essentially, while acknowledging Malaysia is a perfectly safe place to process asylum seekers, the Court ruled that because it hadn’t signed a treaty (the signatories of which aren’t always safe places to send anyone) that the Minister Chris Bowen wasn’t legally able to send them there.
It is an example of silly judicial over-reach of a kind that will no doubt be celebrated in the salons of Canberra and dinner parties of across the inner-cities of our land.
But the majority judgments appeared to be a desperate search to nobble the policy, using a pretty silly technicality to do so that ignored the prevailing facts of circumstances in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the government is left looking inept on an area of policy that concerns many Australians.
Some of us worry about the plight of those who take such a big risk to come here in unauthorised fashion, exploited by people smuggling gangsters who are also involved in other high-risk high-profit opportunities like prostitution, arms smuggling and drugs.
Some of us worry about the apparent inability of the Commonwealth – which is meant to defend us from foreign invasion and an increasing number of other ills – to control the borders. This is not just the concern of rednecks and angry Fairfax radio hosts formerly of One Nation. It’s a legitimate worry even if we do keep it in perspective.
The government ought be congratulated not condemned for the “Malaysian solution.” It was lateral and bold thinking from a generally very cautious and sometimes uninspiring lot. Putting our unauthorised arrivals at the back of a pre-existing Malaysian queue of some quite deserving refugees there in return for increasing our humanitarian intake made good sense. It was and remains – as Chris Bowen described it – “elegant” policy and in our view a classic modern Labor solution that showed compassion, decency but addressed the political issue of the federal government needing to stay firmly in control of our national borders.
It’s a terrible shame for the government that it ran into a meddling Court full of formerly prosperous barristers who don’t share the concerns of many Australians on border security or much else. (The government would do well to consider that the dissenting judge in this case Justice Heydon would be extremely unlikely to be appointed to any court by this government. He seems to be the sole voice of reason on the court at the moment.)
But much more troubling is the fact that more people will die as a result of the High Court’s erroneous majority decisions.
More people smugglers will get richer.
More kids will drown. Or be thrown overboard.
More Australians will be whipped up into a frenzy against immigration and immigrants by seeing worrying images on the front-pages of our tabloids and leading the news bulletins of asylum seekers entering our territory without permission, facilitated by gangsters.
It’s a worry.
The Greens party’s cynical and sinister approach to the issue is to actually be firmly opposed to immigration because we’re running out of land and water while saying they really want more asylum seekers. It is a classic example of how they get away with the most extraordinary and egregious self-contradictions without proper scrutiny. They are as we once liked to pen in our predecessor publication truly lying liars who lie.
And the Coalition’s approach on the issue is not much better.
It’s true that their policy on Nauru was effective. Not pretty. But pretty effective.
They were lashed by Labor on it, including by PM Gillard, for its supposed cruelty and viciousness.
Now they are engaged in a form of payback by opposing rather than embracing the government’s proposed Malaysian solution and insisting that it reinstate their Nauruan one.
Their position on this important area of public policy is totally governed by a desire to use PM Gillard’s own quotes condemning the Pacific solution against her should she adopt it herself. Or even worse by an unstated desire to have the boats keep coming on her watch, regardless of the potential loss of life.
It’s politics at its worst and most depressing.
The Opposition is almost certain to win the next election.
At the heart of that is a brave decision made by conservatives in the Liberal Party room in the aftermath of the dismal Copenhagen climate conference to oppose taxes on carbon emissions and to put up a then most improbable leader to implement their will when his predecessor stubbornly refused.
They don’t need the boats to keep coming to win. Their political damage is done anyway. Labor is variously seen as too soft, too hard or just totally inept on this issue despite the elegance of what Bowen has crafted.
That’s why the Coalition should support it and any other reasonable measure that will “break the business model” of the gangsters who smuggle people on dangerous craft across treacherous seas for as much as ten grand a head. Oscar Schindler they aint.
The Coalition’s support is necessary for changes to the Migration Act to prevent the High Court from continuing to meddle in what are clearly political questions best resolved by those willing to subject themselves to the vulgarities of democratic contest.
It won’t happen, of course. Extracting the government from a political mess is not considered a desirable pursuit for any Opposition and Labor’s frenemies in the Greens.
And because of all these political games, some very desperate men and women, girls and boys, will die at sea, spend years in captivity, be separated from loved ones because they craved a better, safer life.
The debacle that will almost certainly follow this decision should haunt the judges responsible for it and the politicians so irresponsible that they’ll gladly trade on misery for votes.
The false piety of Hanson-Young, the arrogant presumption of six High Court posers and the horrid opportunism of the Coalition on this issue makes the battered and bowed Chris Bowen look pretty good by comparison.
We hope he doesn’t wave the white flag to political pirates.