MUNGO MACCALLUM | Pearls & Irritations | Extract
CANBERRA - Our new foreign minister, Marise Payne, assures us that the Pacific Solution is still in place and the men, women and children held as asylum seekers in overseas detention can stay there until they rot.
This policy has always been arbitrary, and arguably against international law – it is clearly against international standards of human rights. But last week Payne took it to a new level of cruelty.
During the Pacific Islands Forum at Nauru, the New Zealand deputy prime minister, Winston Peters, repeated his country’s long-standing offer to take 150 refugees from Nauru.
Knowing that the island and its corrupt and despotic ruler Baron Waqa were wholly owned subsidiaries of Australia, Peters went straight to Payne, who equally promptly said no.
But Peters tried again: Australia’s refusal to release its victims to a haven across the ditch was, ostensibly, based on the fear that they might somehow make their way back to Australia, thus undoing John Howard’s unbreakable prohibition and unleashing untold armadas of people smugglers on our vulnerable shores.
This never made much sense; apart from the obvious fact that refugees made welcome in New Zealand would be unlikely to want to go to an Australia which was happy to see them die rather than admit them, Payne remains eager to send a few to the United States, where the same risks – if risks they are – apply.
And in any case Peters said cheerfully that the problem was easily fixed: New Zealand would legislate to prevent it happening, so why not get on with it?
Because – well, because we said we won’t, and we will decide, et cetera. At which point the brutal slogans lapsed into sadism.
The suffering, trauma, dementia and death no longer have any real point: we do it just because we can.
At which point our new prime minister insists he never bullies anyone and has no time for it, and asks his acolytes if they love Australia and all Australians – but not, presumably, those nasty foreigners.