29 Oct 2015


Title not specific enough - I mean Tony Abbott, dumped prime minister, gave a speech in Europe (where he is kicking back not doing the job for which he is still overpaid) that should embarrass the country – Australia – that he was never fit to lead, and which deep down, knew him for the unimaginative throwback he always was.

I’m tired and short of time so I’ll let Waleed Aly sum it up:
“ "The only way to dissuade people seeking to come from afar is not to let them in," he declared as thousands fleeing the civil war in Syria flood into Europe. Anything less than turning boats around would make Europe "a facilitator rather than a deterrent" of people smuggling.

But there's a reason this argument, which is utterly mainstream in Australia, tends only to win fans like UKIP's Nigel Farage in Britain. What it offers is not a solution at all, but instead a determination to opt out of a solution. That much becomes clear when you think through the implications of Abbott's prescription.
European turnbacks could only mean millions of people piling up in places like Lebanon and Turkey. Indeed, the basis of Abbott's argument is that these people reach Europe via other countries to which they've already fled, and are therefore, by definition, economic migrants rather than refugees fleeing a war zone.

But unless Abbott wants to argue explicitly that the burden of the Syrian catastrophe must fall disproportionately on these countries, they remain just as sovereign as us, and can therefore assert a right to seal their own borders, too In fact, every nation can make a similar claim, leaving only one ultimate consequence: that those fleeing Syria are hemmed right back into the war zone they're fleeing.

That makes the ultimate mockery of any "deaths at sea" reasoning...

That's the kind of conclusion you tend to reach when your response is really to shift the problem elsewhere. And that kind of reasoning seems solid on an island like ours with a political culture that mostly ignores arcane matters like foreign affairs.

But it's also the kind of conclusion you reach when, deep down, the actual lives of people in far off lands barely feature in your moral calculus.”

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