News National The heartless reality of Turnbull’s new refugee policy

The heartless reality of Turnbull’s new refugee policy

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Some refugee families transported from Nauru have been temporarily housed in Adelaide. Photo: AAP
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“You should not underestimate the scale of the threat. These people-smugglers are the worst criminals imaginable. They have a multibillion-dollar business. We have to be very determined to say no to their criminal plans.”

Thus said Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday. Really Prime Minister? The worst criminals imaginable? I find that very hard to believe. History would find that very hard to believe.

The worst criminals imaginable. Let’s mull that over for a bit. Oh, here’s a few names: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Ted Bundy, and Martin Bryant.

Even allowing for the hyperbolic nature of prime ministers trying to appear what they are not – for example, strong leaders – it is beyond reasonable belief to equate people smugglers with the phrase Turnbull tossed out.

He is an intelligent man. Surely, he knows what he is doing and the consequences. Perhaps he doesn’t care.

Yes, people smugglers trade on the desperation of desperate people to make a buck with little regard for their welfare.

Yes, they prey on the vulnerable for profit. Do they torture these people? Do they send them into indefinite detention, suck the life out of them, suck them dry of hope? No, we do that.

And now we are going to ban those people found to be genuine refugees from ever settling in Australia.

About 3000 adult refugees are housed on Manus Island, Nauru or having medical treatment on the Australian mainland.

The law will be retrospective. Legislation to be introduced into Parliament will seek to ban for life asylum seekers who may have even gone back to their homeland from coming to Australia for whatever reasons, be it as a tourist on business or as the spouse of an Australian.

This is merely turning the screw ever deeper into the refugees’ despair, since in July 2013 the Labor government made it policy that anyone who arrived by boat from Indonesia would never be settled in Australia.

But where do you begin to condemn? Such is the machine-like grinding of policy over compassion that one wonders if there is a heart beating at all in the chambers of government.

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Mr Turnbull described people smugglers as “the worst criminals imaginable”. Photo: AAP

Despite the first-hand testaments, the reports, the global and national outrage, despite the tears, the self-harm, the torture by incarceration made blind to us, on purpose, the screws are turned tighter?

That our government should do this in our name, in each and every name of each and every one of us, is beyond shame.

How to fight, and thus condemn, is to shine lights into the dark corners. It is to raise a voice and say, it was not done in my name.

It is to say, when others speak to the vulnerable and say, “Your life is worth nothing. I don’t care if you are genuine refugee”. We say shout back, “That is not my voice. That is not my belief”.

Warwick McFadyen is a freelance writer and editor.

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