Opinion Madonna King: The Biloela family has the might of Australia behind it
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Madonna King: The Biloela family has the might of Australia behind it

Australia is the home of the Biloela family
The 'Biloela family' made its home in Australia and we must stand behind it, Madonna King writes. Photo: Getty/TND
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The hard-line decision by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews to rule out resettling the Tamil family from Biloela is as baffling as it is brainless.

Those Australians who hoped for a bit of empathy after former minister Peter Dutton moved from the role should be desperately disappointed.

Those inside and outside the party, who believed Ms Andrews might make a virtue of thinking for herself, have proved to be wrong.

And those who simply thought the new home affairs minister – one of the government’s most senior females – might bring heart to a supercilious and stubborn decision, will be left shaking her heads.

And they are. Hundreds of thousands of people are now lining up behind a family that really deserves to be embraced by the Australian community.

This family has been treated appallingly – from being taken away from their homes in the dead of night, to being locked up offshore for years, to not having their daughter’s illness taken seriously.

Their children, who are growing up in detention, were born in our country, but are treated as some of vague terrorist threat.

It if wasn’t so ridiculous, it would be the plot of a fanciful Hollywood movie.

Our politicians say the country matters; small towns matter. And you’ll hear that over and over again, as the election looms closer and they don their RM Williams and Akubra to head out west.

This family – living in detention – chose Biloela in Queensland as their home, and quickly became part of its heart and soul. Working. Volunteering. Meeting friends. Helping to build a strong community.

Biloela is not a flash place, but the people are as down to earth as it comes. They work hard, look out for each other, and can spot a fake.

And it’s Scott Morrison, Ms Andrews and their crew that are now being called out.

This government has the power to grant the family visas at any time. They just won’t.

Biloela family Tharunicaa Kopika
Australian-born Tharunicaa and Kopika are now three and six. Photo: Facebook

Are they really concerned that this mum, dad and two young girls are part of an undercover terrorist plot?

Or that they risk being the impetus for a mass move to Australia by illegal immigrants?

Or are they genuinely concerned about the consequences of allowing an exception to a rule by granting them resettlement?

The first two suggestions are ludicrous, not based in evidence, and are believed by no one.

So let’s just look at the third. If allowing this family to stay here is an exception to the rule, isn’t it a good one?

Isn’t that why there are exceptions to rules?

We make them over COVID daily, when chief health officers in various allow decisions that run counter to the broader rule.

We see them in courts and in classrooms, in board decisions and policy debate, often.

We create them in budgets annually, and the Morrison government’s decision to embrace debt, after spending years attacking it, is a case in point.

We even did it this week, by granting Townsville the first State of Origin.

Karen Andrews stepped into the Home Affairs role, a false beacon of reprieve from Peter Dutton. Photo: AAP

Exceptions to the rule are for exceptional circumstances – and the case of this family is a stellar one.

But, in reality, the government’s decision looks like nothing to do with exceptions or rules; it looks more like an unsporting and obstinate position to claim victory.

Over whom? A young family trying to make a better life for their children?

Or the half a million voters who now want this decision overturned?

Just imagine if 500,000 voters decided to target Karen Andrews’ electorate of McPherson on Queensland’s Gold Coast, demanding she change her stance.

Would the government then be able to find an exception to the rule they seem to cherish so much?

It’s almost worth testing.