Hugh Mackay. Immoral acts – that’s one way to stop the boats.

“No boats have arrived for 36 days!” That was the recent proud claim of our immigration minister, Scott Morrison, delivered in a tone that suggested we should all cheer such a wonderful accomplishment.

In fact, given the strategies employed to achieve this result, we should hang our heads in shame. We are living through a dark period in our cultural history where politicians like Morrison are actively encouraging a dulling of our moral sense by appealing to that most dangerous moral principle of all: “The end justifies the means”.

It’s not just this government, of course: the stain on our national conscience has been spreading for years, through the life of several governments from both sides of politics. And an odd things about this situation is that our leaders – normally so timid in the face of the polls – are seriously out of step with the majority of Australians (who, according to two reputable national surveys, favour rapid, onshore processing of asylum-seekers’ claims).

We can tip-toe around this and speak of “human rights abuses”, or a lack of compassion, or a failure to honour our international treaty obligations. But why mince words in the face of the intentional brutality – psychological and physical – being inflicted on asylum-seekers imprisoned on Christmas Island, Nauru and Manus Island, by an elected Australian government? Why not call our asylum-seeker policy what it is: immoral.

It’s immoral because it treats people who have committed no crime as if they were criminals. It’s immoral because it fails to honour that most basic of all moral principles: treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated. Even if we add the caveat “in the circumstances”, the principle doesn’t go away.

There are many situations in which we are bound to treat people more harshly than we would wish to be treated ourselves: we do it with criminals; we do it with enemies; we do it with people we’re retrenching, or lovers we’re abandoning. But even in situations like those, members of a self-proclaimed civil society are obliged to treat everybody with appropriate dignity and respect – two ingredients glaringly absent from life in an Australian detention centre.

Our asylum-seeker policy is also immoral because it involves bad behaviour in the pursuit of a “good” goal. Given the vast scale of the world’s refugee crisis, it’s arguable whether stopping the boats is, in fact, a morally praiseworthy goal, but let’s accept, for the moment, that it is (and stopping rapacious people-smugglers is undeniably good). Precisely because it is a good goal, everything done in pursuit of that goal must be good. If not – if we fall for the mad idea that we can behave badly in pursuit of a good goal – then we have compromised our own integrity and tarnished the very values we are claiming to uphold.

If you embrace the idea that the end justifies the means, then you’ll be stuck with accepting torture as a legitimate way of extracting useful information. You’ll accept that bribery and corruption are justifiable ways of achieving political or commercial goals. You’ll endorse assassination as a legitimate tool of the political struggle.

Is that us? Is that the moral framework Australians want our governments to adopt when dealing with hapless souls who arrive here, by whatever means, as asylum seekers? Are we so committed to the sloganistic ideal of “stopping the boats” that we think it’s morally okay to incarcerate such people – men, women and children – in conditions deliberately designed to dehumanise them, rob them of hope and destroy their faith in the future (including their faith in Australia as an honourable, civilised, compassionate society). Do we seriously believe this strategy can be justified on the grounds that it might discourage others from trying to come here?

Do we think it’s morally acceptable to condemn authentic refugees to the crushing uncertainty of temporary protection visas, and to deny them the right to work here? (Economic stupidity, as well: fancy deciding it’s better to support them than to encourage them to support themselves and, in the process, make a useful contribution to our economy.)

We have become participants in a tragedy that will attract as much opprobrium in the future as the “stolen generations” and White Australia do now. Having chosen to behave immorally, we are setting ourselves up not only for international condemnation, but also for massive compensation claims in the future and, no doubt, yet another hollow apology to the thousands of people we have abused because we adopted that tacky mantra “whatever it takes”.

If we really want to stop the boats, we should demand that our politicians, diplomats and aid agencies find morally acceptable ways of doing so. To pursue such a difficult goal in a state of moral blindness is hazardous in the extreme.

There’s an ironic little twist to this tale. Many Australians who support the present brutal policy seem to think they are defending “Christian values” against an invasion of infidels. But isn’t the very essence of those values that we should show kindness to strangers, offer support to the weak and disadvantaged, and succour to the poor, the hungry, the dispossessed who come knocking at our door?

Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and author.

59 thoughts on “Hugh Mackay. Immoral acts – that’s one way to stop the boats.

  1. Christian values?

    Such as thou shalt only arrive by plane or thou are a queue jumper.

    Good to see Christian values on display at Manus.

  2. We’ve had this debate, and I thought it had been shut off by Greg, but he seems to want to revive it.

    It’s a dishonest article which completely ignores the fact that asylum seekers and refugees are welcome in Australia and we have a reasonably high quota considering the size of the population.

    This is where the left refuses to acknowledge the dangers of ocean passages, the opportunism of people smugglers, and the need to process everyone who seeks entry into the country, regardless of their means of passage.

    The detention centres were deemed necessary by Labour, and populated because of Labour policy, because the Labour/Greens made a complete hash of border control and opened the door to ocean entry, after the previous Government had largely shut the channels off.

    Labor policy, which then necessitated processing centres offshore to comply with UN regulations, let everyone in regardless, or go into endless legal battles which were potentially costing the taxpayer millions.

    But, of course, for the left, money grows on trees, or you can tax the mining companies until they go, ironically, offshore with their operations.

    I am amazed how the voices now decrying the handful of boats allegedly turned back that were completely silent when boats were being deliberately scuttled at sea with infants on board, other boats were lost at sea with many drownings, and we had the terrible sight of people drowning off the coast of Christmas Island before the cameras.

    The drownings are the real moral issue here.

    Now, when, after eight weeks, and counting, as it stands, with no boats, no deaths at sea, no further inclusions in the detention centres, we have the cry of ‘immoral’, when a few months ago, as literally hundreds of paying asylum seekers were crowding out Christmas Island and Manus under the Labour Party’s open ocean policies, these same voices were silent, and saying nothing about the overcrowding, the misery, and the cost of offshore processing under Labour.

    And, further, saying nothing about the way in which the Indonesian authorities turned a blind eye to the people smuggling operations, and, it is alleged, even being in cohorts with some of these operations to provide safe passage to people as they left the shores of Indonesia.

    Immoral? Indeed. The silence of the left during the drownings was immoral.

    Well, not completely silent, I suppose. Sarah Hanson-Young, when asked if the deaths at sea were a bad reflection on Labour/Green policy simply said, “No, these things happen!”

    Sure they do, which is why the Labour/Green alliance should have done something about it whilst was in their power to.

    And it’s no longer true, if it ever was, that Australia wants an onshore processing centre for boat arrivals. That is a misrepresentation of what took place after Australians witnessed and heard of people, including women and children, lost at sea.

    As I said, it is also a misrepresentation to say that applicants can be quickly processed. That is a legal minefield if they are refused entry, and I covered that in depth, with legal references, when we had the debate.

    Thankfully, the moral majority of Australia decided they had had enough of the drownings at sea and demanded action to prevent them.

    But it took a desperate electioneering move by Kevin Rudd to attempt to shut off the smuggling channels the Labour Party opened up when he first came into power in 2007. He recreated Manus when it was ill-equipped to take any human being. It was a purely political move with no thought attached.

    But it is untrue to say that asylum seekers are denied access to Australia. There is a process, and it is well organised, and it is fair.

    If you can’t state this you are as bad as those who lie about it.

  3. Steve, the whole point is should we be treating people brutally to try to stop them risking their lives, when they are not committing a crime?

    Is that morally justifiable?

  4. Immoral? Indeed. The silence of the left during the drownings was immoral.

    What of the silence of the right about tobacco related deaths?

    Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. There is a tobacco-related death about every 28 minutes in Australia, adding up to more than 50 deaths each day. In 1998, 19,019 deaths were caused by tobacco use.

    Everyone on the street that is smoking is risking their lives. But do you support locking them up indefinately in some remote place where they cant see their friends or family? No!
    I suppose you accept these deaths.

    You heartless bastard.

  5. Who, apart from you, said anything about smoking, wazza?

    So you can’t refute the fact that allowing drowning at sea in leaky, overcrowded boats is immoral.

    So you flick over to a completely unrelated issue and call me a heartless bastard for apparently promoting smoking when I’ve said nothing about it. What the…

    I think smoking tobacco should be banned altogether. How’s that?

    I think allowing people to smoke tobacco anywhere is immoral. Is that hearty enough for you?

    My statement was made in the context of a much longer comment on the thread, because it needed to be qualified and not just a on-line remark over what is a very emotive issue, and one which we have dedicated reams of commentary on other threads.

    Your lifting of two short sentences and false accusation at the end is typical of the way you operate.

    My comments pointed out that Mr Mackay had left out key issues in his article and that it was dishonest of him to do so, because there are other moral issues at stake in this and he knows it.

    So do you, but you’re more interested in your political morality than in saving lives, because you’d rather allow people to die at sea and call them collateral damage than prevent the journey and save their lives.

    If you don’t think that drowning at sea is a moral issue we face the you are a hypocrite on your own terms.

  6. wazza,
    ‘I suppose you accept these deaths [tobacco deaths]. You heartless bastard.’


    You make up a completely false allegation about me and attribute heartlessness to it for what? So that you can spin your way out of admitting you are content with seeing women and children die at sea because this is acceptable risk in your opinion.

    My opinion is different and I do not consider this acceptable risk, when there are perfectly safe ways for asylum seekers and refugees to enter our country.

    Having a different opinion to you no more makes me a heartless bastard that your opinion that men should risk the lives of their wives and children on overcrowded, leaky boats, or during deliberate scuttling of boats on the high seas. I disagree with you. I see your point, but I do not agree.

    If there were an alternative to tobacco then it would not be a risk and people could pollute their lives to their heart’s content, but, since the presence of tobacco on our shop shelves entices children into smoking at a young and vulnerable age then I think they should be removed altogether.

    It will save lives. Thousands of lives.

    I think you should withdraw your remarks. They are wrong.

  7. Of course most non-Christians have a better understanding of Jesus’s teaching than most supposed Christians who care more about what you do with your dick.

    No doubt others throughout history have made a moralistic appeal for concentration camps. I suppose you could morally justify genocide, rape, and even paedophilia.

    Shooting asylum seekers would have the same result.

    Oh wait….

    We’re doing that too. Well that’s according to everyone but the Australian government.

    Minister Scott Morrison denies reports of another outbreak of violence at Manus Island detention facility

  8. Making asylum seekers witness the death and rape of their children then neck shooting asylum seekers than burning their corpses would save thousands of lives.

    It would be the moral thing to do.

  9. Morality in action.

    This’ll teach the pricks, praise Jesus.

    Police and locals run amok on Manus Island: scores injured
    Scores of asylum seekers have been injured, some seriously as gangs of armed PNG police and locals go from compound to compound attacking any asylum seekers they can find.

    Asylum seekers were left defenceless when all staff and G4S guards
    were evacuated from the detention centre. Tension with groups of
    locals had been building throughout the day. G4S had already withdrawn
    from Mike compound late Monday afternoon.

    The attacks started late Monday night after the power was cut to the
    detention centre. PNG police and locals then had the run of the
    detention centre.

    Locals are armed with machetes, pipes, sticks and stones – have bashed
    and cut asylum seekers. One asylum seeker has been thrown from the
    second floor of a building; others have suffered machete cuts. There
    is one report that a man has been left with his eye hanging from its
    socket after a bashing.

  10. We’re financing the PNG equivalent of the SS in our moral quest.

    Who’s Policing Manus Island?

    They will knock a few heads in, shoot a few pigs.’ PNG’s mobile squads, involved in the Manus attack, have a fearsome reputation – and Australia is their paymaster, writes Kristian Lasslett

    Warning: This article contains graphic accounts of violence.

    Facts on the recent riot at the Manus Island detention facility, and subsequent death of an asylum seeker, remain sketchy. It appears at the very least that live ammunition was employed by Australian-funded mobile squad officers, a paramilitary wing of the Royal PNG Constabulary, which has a well-earned reputation for brutality.

    If this is indeed proven to be the case, it should not come as a surprise to the Australian government. The mobile squads, which have been stationed on the island to secure the facility, have a documented history of “solving problems” through extreme violence.

    In an interview I did back in 2006 with a former Assistant Police Commissioner the mobile squads’ modus operandi was described with disarming frankness:

    “Basically the mobile squad people are semi-military, they are aggressive, they don’t do what normal policeman do, they go in there and they beat a few heads in. I am talking frankly, they will knock a few heads in, burn a few houses down, shoot a few pigs, shoot at cars … That is not policing, that is not normal policing … The mobile squads operated with a modus operandi of frightening people.”

    By then, however, I was familiar with their methods. The mobile squads had been deployed on the island of Bougainville during 1989 at the behest of Rio Tinto subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Limited, when local landowner activists shut down the Panguna copper mine.

    With logistic assistance from the mine operator, they tortured and executed civilians, raped women and torched homes, in an action locally referred to as “destructions”.

    At the time, the Australian government was right behind the mobile squads, believing they were better equipped to deal with internal security “problems”, rather than the PNG Defence Force who were geared towards the unlikely prospect of an external threat.

    Australia has funded, trained and armed the mobile squads for a long time. The Immigration Department, in 2013, was funding the mobile squads to the tune of around $100 a day, in a country where the average wage for security staff is $1.50 an hour, according to a report from Fairfax’s Rory Callinan.

    Callinan also reported an incident in July, when mobile squad officers had beaten 21 year old Raymond Sipuan to death in front of other islanders. He wrote that the mobile squads also police domestic tensions resulting from the Manus detention centre.

    “The presence of the paramilitary unit on the island suggests PNG and Australian officials fear a major clash with landowners who have already threatened a protest if they do not get a cut out of the asylum seeker detention centre projects.”
    Over a decade earlier, at a 1990 parliamentary inquiry, Michael Commins, the Director of the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau’s Pacific and PNG division said “the main program … [was] about $19.7m worth in support for the mobile squads”.

    This support was premised, a Defence Department colleague explained, on the Australian government’s belief that the mobile squads were “relatively effective within the norms and conventions of Papua New Guinea”. A subtle nod to their fearsome reputation, orientalised as normal “tribal behaviour”. Those who have had their homes burnt, or loved ones killed, regularly contest this neocolonial view of PNG’s “conventions”.

    Despite the fact the mobile squads roamed the island of Bougainville for years sacking villages and murdering civilians, no one in the police command was held to account, nor has there ever been a subsequent inquiry into the atrocities committed by PNG’s security forces during its decade long civil war, in which Australia was deeply enmeshed.

    Forums for acknowledging abuses, and redressing them, have thus gone wanting. As a result, mobile squads continue to play the role of trouble-shooter in zones of contention that often centre upon controversial resource projects. Exxon’s massive liquefied natural gas project is one example.

    Back in April 2012, for instance, unarmed workers stationed at the project’s Tamadegi Camp confronted mobile squad officers, who had allegedly manhandled local landowners and burnt several homes. Live ammunition was purportedly used to disperse the crowd.

    One local worker was injured, and another was killed. Exxon claimed the deceased worker died from an asthma attack. An inquiry was promised. Its results, at least, were never made public.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Human Rights Watch recently noted, “physical and sexual abuse of detainees — including children — by police and paramilitary police units is [still] widespread”. This echoed findings made by HRW in 2005 where they documented numerous cases of gratuitous human rights abuses by the mobile squads.

    Sharon, a 16 year old, is one of many cases:

    “At 11:00 PM on the 15th March, 2004, I was at the post office walking towards Boroko police station. I was walking with a girl friend of mine … the 10 seater [a mobile squad vehicle] stopped in front of me. I was asked to jump in the vehicle. But I refused. But one member came out from the back of the vehicle with a cable wire and belted me twice at my buttock and forced me to jump into the vehicle … [The] driver forced, me to suck his penis and I kept resisting … he managed to put me down at the back of the vehicle and had sex with me until he released sperm into me. He did that without a condom. He left me and went away. I tried to lift my pants and jean. Another policeman, in uniform came to me and forced me to have sex.”
    After hearing atrocious cases like this, it is tempting to blame police violence at Manus Island on the “grunts”. But the reality is these men are trucked across PNG on gruelling schedules to solve problems they have not created, and which they have no direct interest in.

    Their wives and families often live far away in dilapidated accommodation. They have developed a culture of violence, bravado and drinking, principally because they are thrust into heated and contested situations by governments and resource operators in need of a quick fix.

    These criminogenic arrangements are often cloaked in a superficial garb of voluntary human rights agreements that regulate the mobile squads’ conduct.

    That brings us to Manus Island. Once again, Australia is outsourcing policy challenges to PNG — as if the country did not already have enough on its plate — and oiling palms with promises of political tribute.

    If it is indeed proven that the mobile squads are responsible for violence at the Manus Island facility, this is not an exceptional event, it is part of pattern. It is a pattern Australia has ignored, and when inclined, applauded and sponsored.

    Sadly, it is aggrieved landowners, and vulnerable urbanites who often pay the price. Now asylum seekers are too.

  11. I think allowing people to smoke tobacco anywhere is immoral. Is that hearty enough for you?

    Well I could stop people smoking in Australia in three weeks with a simple 3-point plan:

    1. Arrest anyone found to be smoking and detain them in a concentration camp for an indefinate time.
    2. Smash the suppliers business model by arresting owners of corner-stores and burning their shops down
    3. This still leaves the problem of private use in the home, but we should be able to get rid of this with a network of informers and a few dawn-raids.

    Do you support this simple plan to stop deaths by smoking or do you take the immoral position that these deaths should continue?

  12. Actually using your analogy, the Liberal Party is funded by the equivalent of people smugglers – dealers in death.

    According to the AEC data, since 1998 the Liberal Party has received $1,618,353 from British American Tobacco (BAT) and $1,440,595 from Phillip Morris. During last year’s election the Liberal Party received $145,035 from British American Tobacco and $147,035 from Phillip Morris.

  13. Its been almost an hour now and my plan is working…

    I’ve rounded up a few hundred thousand smokers and put them in concentration camps.
    Its cost me a few billion bucks to build the concentration camps and run them but its good for the economy.
    Thrown a few hundred shop-keepers in jail and burned their shops down…

    But, not one person has been seen smoking since I’ve been in charge!!!!

    I’ve had the lefty tree-hugging human rights lawyers yapping at me a bit – something about depriving people of liberty, due process or something. They must have accepted the smoking related deaths as natural. How immoral can you get?

    Some of the smokers have been alleging abuse in the concentration camps – who do you want to believe a disgusting smoker who wants to risk his own and his kid’s life or our wonderful beneficient guards?

  14. How is it that the left is so outraged that the boats have been apparently stopped?

    Lives saved, detention centres no longer being populated, people smugglers disarmed.

    Yet the left rages on.


  15. Someone’s lost their moral high ground.

    Poor thing.

    detention centres no longer being populated

    Yep doing a good job clearing out Manus.

    Did someone say Final Solution.

  16. Can you see how the left do it? Manus was populated under the Rudd scheme, but Bones transfers that as a matter of convenience because the Government, and the policy, has changed. Had Rudd maintained the situation as it was in 2007 Manus would have been empty, as would Christmas Island and Nauru.

    But Rudd, then Gillard, and Rudd again, populated the detention centres they maintained because they didn’t have the fortitude to take on the people smugglers or Indonesian authorities.

    So now the new Government is left to sort things out. The PNG Manus incident is, first of all, a one off, secondly a tragic error made by Rudd, and thirdly, an example of why Manus should never have been used in the first place, by Howard way back in 2001, before he stopped the boats, and then by the stubborn and reckless Rudd government, which reestablished it because they were too proud to admit that Nauru actually worked.

    These things are nothing to do with Morrison. You are no more than politically biased finger pointers.

    Your references to Nazi atrocities reflect the state of your mind.

    No matter what anyone said, stopping the boats from crossing the sea would never suit you because it would mean that a Liberal government had achieved what your commentators claimed could never be achieved.

    Stop the boats, you stop the deaths at sea, you stop the flow of people into detention centres, and you disarm the people smugglers.

    End of.

  17. So why doesn’t this paragon of virtue close Manus down and transfer people back to the mainland.

    Oh no. This is Morrison’s responsibility. He’s closed down the on shore detention centres and sent everyone off shore, dickhead. He wants people to suffer.

    And of course, we also have approximately 60 asylum seekers who nearly made it to Christmas Island, but were intercepted, and then sent back in a lifeboat, where three asylum seekers were reported to have died while trying to cross a river.

    Actually your defense of Nazi tactics reflects your state of mind.

    Of course it’s people’s lives being used for political leverage.

    Compassion, mercy and rights have nothing to do with it.

  18. By the way, I can never lose the moral high ground as long as you consider men women and children drowning in the ocean mere collateral damage, a necessary product of a dangerous scheme.

    Dangerous, but highly profitable for people smugglers and Indonesian officials who take backhanders, and the corruption in the system which uses the plight of refugees and asylum seekers to feather their nests.

    You say that, just like smokers who know they are likely to die from their habit, it is worth the risk to send men, women and children out to sea in overcrowded, unsafe fishing boats without proper safety equipment, without any guarantee of reaching their destination, at an average cost of $14000 per head, because your perceived morality thinks its akin to the Berlin Wall or some such place.

    But the truth is that, far from being as immoral as you claim, the Australian Government is extremely generous in its welcome to genuine asylum seekers and refugees and has a safe plan for their passage into the country, working in conjunction with the UN to process applicants who want to come here.

    The truth is that the majority of entrants into the country who have successfully applied for and received refugee status have come through the safe channels provided by the Australian immigration authorities and the UN.

    But on and on and on you go about the wise and pragmatic decision to halt the unsafe overcrowded passage across the ocean as if it is the only way refugees can access the safety of our shores.

    You are worse than immoral in your argument. You brazen and untruthful.

    The article left out all of these issues and falsely accused Australians of all political sides of being immoral.

    Stop the boats, you stop the deaths at sea, you stop the flow of people into detention centres, you completely disrupt the people smuggling operations.

  19. as you consider men women and children drowning in the ocean mere collateral damage, a necessary product of a dangerous scheme.

    Well they’re now dying here and on the way back so that stuffs up your triumphal morality.

    Desperate people do desperate things.

    I’m not going to stop people living in a shithole from coming to Australia.

    Neither do they and their families deserve being thrown in a concentration camp.

    You have to be pretty f**ked in the head to defend that.

  20. The article left out all of these issues and falsely accused Australians of all political sides of being immoral.

    Which is true. It’s a political stunt playing with people’s lives using veiled pretences at false morality.

    From the disgraceful Tamps, to Abbott’s appalling witch hunt and Rudd trying to out-Abbott Abbott.

    The Liberals were laughing with glee when the number of boats started to rise.

    Ask the Americans. It’s on wikileaks.

  21. He is now. Of course. And he will have to sort it out.

    But you are in complete denial about every other issue but your righteous indignation about actually stopping the boats.

    You are so angry that Morrison seems to have pulled it off, when most commentators claimed it was impossible.

    What you have to weigh up is how many lives this will save compared to allowing the passage to continue as it was under Rudd and Gillard.

    What you have to weigh up is how many people will be saved from having to be in detention centres having their applications processed when most of them have destroyed any papers they might have had to prove they were genuine.

    What you have to weigh up is whether it is safer to work through the UN in an organised processing system or let people risk their lives by using illegal profit making people smugglers, and by maintaining the people smuggling trade.

    You have been altogether disengenuous in your attack on the concept of stopping the boats. It is a hard decision to make and difficult to achieve, but it will be better in the long run and has already, in all probably, saved lives.

    It is in Morrisons lap now, but he did not manufacture it.

  22. I think I’ve had enough of your warped view and foul language. We’ve had this discussion. We’re done. Rant on.

  23. You are worse than immoral in your argument. You brazen and untruthful.

    Jesus specifically spoke about your kind.

    Life in detention: What would Jesus do with Christmas Island? – Part 2 –

    I spent some time in the Christmas Island Immigration Detention centre a few years ago. I met a number of ‘boat people’ who had fled persecution in Sri Lanka. These people were genuine refugees who had fled their homeland seeking protection. Last week I wrote about some of the misconceptions surrounding these people.

    The crucial question now is: how should we respond?

    How would Jesus respond? Jesus gives firm principles on how to respond to asylum seekers on Christmas Island and his perspectives are found in the Bible.
    Tony Abbott once suggested that Jesus wouldn’t have accepted every asylum seeker. On the ABC TV Q&A program Abbott said: “Jesus was the best man who ever lived but that doesn’t mean that he said yes to everyone”.

    Is Abbott’s perspective, ‘no, the door is shut’, how Jesus would respond?

    The best place to understand Jesus’ position is in the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10: 25-37). Jesus tells this parable after explaining that the essence of God’s law revolves around loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself. Someone then asks, ‘who is my neighbour’?

    Jesus tells a story of how the upstanding religious people, the Levite and the Priest, left a vulnerable man on the road to die. We’re not told their motivation for not helping – they may have wanted to remain pure under Jewish Law; they may have been running late; or they may have just been selfish.

    Then the Good Samaritan provides compassionate, costly hospitality and care to someone he wouldn’t have otherwise spoken to – the Jews and Samaritans had a strained relationship at best. Jesus is saying hospitality, generosity and compassion forms part of love to neighbour.

    And cost! Care for this unfortunate man was very costly to the Samaritan. He gave up his time to tend to him; he took him to an inn on his own donkey; he paid for him to receive full care out of his own money; every expense was paid for.
    Compassionate, costly care shapes Jesus’ response to vulnerable refugees who are fleeing danger and persecution.

    Hypocrisy of our response.
    Another contour of Jesus’ response may be found in Mark chapter 3 (3:1-6) where Jesus was confronted with a man who had a shrivelled hand. Jesus was confronted with this man on the Sabbath and according to the Pharisee’s law it would have been illegal for Jesus to heal the man. Jesus turns to the people opposed to him and says, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ Jesus’ question exposed the hypocritical attitude of the people who really didn’t care for the plight of the man concerned.

    Jesus could have waited to heal the man the next day, but instead he healed the man there and then fully expecting the hypocritical reaction of the people. The people didn’t say, ‘oh it’s so great that this man was healed, but it’s a shame our Sabbath laws were bent’. No. These people wanted to kill Jesus. They put legalistic observance ahead of care and compassion.

    I think this shapes Jesus’ response to those who enter our waters unauthorised. Our nation’s reaction is generally not ‘I wish there wasn’t a queue so I could help you’. No. The greedy and selfish hearts of Australians are exposed as these ‘queue jumpers’ are condemned for escaping from a life-wasting wait in third world squalor.
    Jesus’ response to Christmas Island

    This is a very brief exploration into Jesus’ response to asylum seekers. To summarise…
    Jesus’ response is hospitable; where refugees are welcomed and cared for. Jesus’ response is compassionate; where practical love is provided to those in need. Jesus’ response is generous; where the cost, regardless of how great, is met.

    This provides a firm basis for response because it’s about following Jesus who reveals God and the right way to live.

    At this point we are at odds with Tony Abbott’s perspective on Jesus. Yet I think that Jesus would disagree with Abbott’s opinion as our nation’s political analysts have also observed. This was highlighted by Peter Van Onselen in April 2010 who was critical of both Abbott and the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He writes,

    “I find it disappointingly inconsistent that both of our political leaders, Rudd and Tony Abbott, wear their religion on their sleeves, yet neither of them practises the compassion that Christianity extols when it comes to boatpeople.”

    Perhaps politics has unfortunately muddied Tony Abbott’s (and Kevin Rudd’s) reflections on Jesus and boat people?

    What would Jesus say about Christmas Island?

    So what would Jesus say about Christmas Island? How would Jesus respond?

    The Bible provides clear principles on how to respond.

    Jesus would adopt a stance which loves our neighbour; a stance which welcomes refugees and the vulnerable and a stance where we are willing to bear the cost.
    Jesus’ stance is diametrically opposed to the common selfish objections of modern Australia; a country which is rich and wealthy, but not welcoming, compassionate or generous. The excuses our nation often provides sound like the excuses the Priest and the Levite could have used to abandon the man in need.

    Remember Jesus’ words, ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him’. Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’.

    Food for thought.

    Food For Thought is a public theology & Bible advocacy blog from Sophia Think Tank, gathering top Christian thinkers to take a closer look at how the Christian faith addresses matters in society at large every week.

    See more at:

    Of course if this was your Jesus, the story would end with the Samaritan arresting everyone on the dangerous road and placing them in a concentration camp.

  24. I think I’ve had enough of your warped view and foul language. We’ve had this discussion. We’re done. Rant on.

    I’m nowhere near done.

    Such is your morality that you’re more offended by foul language than the disgraceful treatment of asylum seekers.

    I don’t give a rats about budgets, deficits or whatever but I do know that this treatment of asylum seekers for political gain is a f**king disgrace and a stain on this great country perpetuated by the likes of you.

    But you don’t live here.

    Good! Stay over with the EDL. Disgrace their country.

    Manus isn’t going away. Reichsfuhrer Morrison will make sure of that. The suffering and riots will continue being cheered on by the likes of you and your disgraceful politicising of desperately vulnerable people. What a despicable sham you are.

    Your Jesus is the same as Abbott’s who is a cunning, negative, lying career politician.

    And honestly there’s nothing about your Jesus that is worth worshipping.

  25. Manus Island: security contractor G4S denies involvement in violence

    As the Australian and PNG governments launch separate inquiries into Monday night’s riot, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said they would stand firm and not bow to demands to close the facility.

    Enough said.

  26. Death on Manus Island: the govt is offshoring the accountability
    by Bernard Keane

    What happened last night on Manus Island? One thing is clear: the government lost control of the detention centre, which was re-established by the Rudd government and maintained by the Abbott government. As a result, one person is dead, another is critically injured and 13 others are seriously injured. Dozens more were taken to hospital.

    Whether the death and injuries were the result of rioting and escape attempts by asylum seekers or, as refugee advocates claim, the result of assaults by Papua New Guinea police and locals, isn’t yet clear. Refugee advocates have a history of overstating claims of abuse in detention centres. But the allegations made — that PNG police have been involved in unprovoked attacks on asylum seekers — are extraordinarily serious.

    The following, from yesterday, was provided to Crikey from a source on the island:

    “The PNG police have just entered the compound on Manus Island with machine guns. A client called me, and I heard machine gun shots. People are going to die tonight. There’s nothing on the media because they cleared the expats out of the centre. It’s just the PNG police and locals beating up our refugees. I called a refugee activist, but there’s not much I can do. I’ll probably lose my job for leaking info.”

    The rationale for Australia’s offshore detention and resettlement policy — and in particular, the use of Papua New Guinea as both a temporary and permanent destination for asylum seekers arriving by boat — is that it deters people from undertaking the risky maritime journey to Australia, which regularly results in drownings. Thus far it appears to have worked — since the Rudd government signed its agreement with PNG that re-established Manus Island, boat arrivals have fallen precipitately; the extent to which the Abbott government’s policy of surreptitiously sending asylum seekers back to Indonesia while our navy risks unauthorised entry into Indonesian waters has contributed to the decline remains open to debate.

    But even putting aside that Australia has a duty of care toward those it detains, once people begin dying and being seriously injured while in our custody, that undermines this bipartisan policy rationale of seeking to prevent deaths.

    The Coalition professes to be concerned about the welfare of asylum seekers. When then-prime minister Julia Gillard announced the government’s asylum seeker swap deal with Malaysia, the Coalition opposed it on the basis that the rights of asylum seekers were at risk. Then-opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison mounted his high horse to complain that asylum seekers would have no work rights or access to education, that the Malaysian government would not protect their human rights. Tony Abbott was later forced to make a humiliating apology for these claims to the Malaysian government when he became PM.

    Whatever might have happened in Malaysia, it doesn’t appear comparable to what has occurred on our watch on Manus Island. Morrison, who was so concerned about asylum seekers being caned in Malaysia, readily notes the high levels of violence outside the Manus Island detention centre should asylum seekers try to escape detention.

    And judging by his media conference this morning, Morrison is already seeking to use the location of Manus Island — on PNG soil — to deflect responsibility. This is an intended consequence of offshoring — the diffusion of responsibility when things go wrong, making accountability and investigation that much more difficult. This is what governments of all kinds now do: they outsource, offshore and delegate responsibility to other agencies, to the private sector, to other countries (in the case of asylum seekers, all three), enabling them to duck responsibility and redirect scrutiny.

    Overlaid on this is the Abbott government’s refusal to provide even basic information about its treatment of asylum seekers, with the absurd excuse that we are engaged in some sort of war that justifies national security-style secrecy. Moreover, it lashes out in confected fury at media scrutiny, claiming the ABC was unpatriotic in reporting allegations of abuse by Royal Australia Navy personnel — although curiously, the likes of Coalition frontbenchers Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop didn’t demand an apology from Fairfax or Reuters when those outlets followed up those allegations with additional evidence.

    Allegations of physical abuse are one thing; now, an asylum seeker is dead because of our detention policies, and others severely injured. A transparent inquiry into the circumstances in which these injuries occurred is critical both in terms of providing accountability and to assure Australians that, together, the Labor Party and the Coalition haven’t offshored the issue of asylum seekers into exactly the kind of violent world so many of them are fleeing.

  27. Again, yes, again, Australia has a very caring and open policy towards asylum seekers and refugees. They have a great system which, in cooperation with the UN, processes refugees and asylum seekers in the various camps around the world. There is a quota, but it is a fair quota which is reflective of the Australian conditions and population.

    Refugees and asylum seekers who go through the proper processing channels are given a new life in Australia. Before coming here, where we work in the most multicultural part of UK, we were involved with helping refugees settle in our city.

    I do not agree with the Abbott government’s decision to deny access to those who are currently in detention centres. I am on record on the other threads as saying I would like to see those who are detained processed as soon as possible with the aim of emptying the detention centres as soon as possible.

    As they came in under the previous Government’s policies they should be processed offshore where they are and, if they prove to be genuine refugees, given visas to enter the country. I am sure we can accommodate them.

    At the same time I do support the idea of stopping the boats because it solves three problems. Deaths at sea. The need for detention centres. People smuggling operations.

    Just about every article you or Greg have appealed to leaves out the true fact that Australia is generous towards asylum seekers and refugees and has a large intake coordinated by the UN.

    This, I have said, is a dishonest misrepresentation of what is actually taking place when you disregard the good Australia is doing, and has done for many years with asylum seekers and refugees.

    I have never been against asylum seekers or refugees and have worked with them to integrate into Australian, and, more recently, British society, where I have helped them gain qualifications to gain work.

    What I am against is the dishonest political misrepresentation of Australia by some portions of the leftist media.

    You have wantonly misrepresented what I have said over and over about this, and you have shown yourself to have no ability to either see another perspective or acknowledge that you have left out several important factors in your defence of your own opinion.

    I can understand your position. To a degree I think it is admirable. I am personally troubled by the potential for loss of life at sea. I am personally troubled by people being detained in camps for long periods of time. I do not see an open ocean policy as a solution.

    That is where we differ.

    Being aggressive and abusive solves nothing.

  28. wazza,

    1. Arrest anyone found to be smoking and detain them in a concentration camp for an indefinate time.
    2. Smash the suppliers business model by arresting owners of corner-stores and burning their shops down
    3. This still leaves the problem of private use in the home, but we should be able to get rid of this with a network of informers and a few dawn-raids.

    Well, smoking isn’t illegal in most places in Australia, so your analogy is rather weak.

    It also presupposes that there is no alternative to smoking. But there is. Giving up smoking is one of them.

    But there is a solution to the refugee issue.

    1. Work with UN experts to help process refugees and asylum seekers offshore in the refugee camps which are filled with people seeking resettlement because of persecution in their homelands.
    2. When they are found to be genuine refugees grant them travel visas and assist them to move to Australia for resettlement.
    3. When they reach Australia and produce their visas allow them into the country, and assist them to settle and become integrated members of the community, and, ultimately citizens.

    Oh, wait a minute, this idea is already at work, and has been for several years. And literally thousands of immigrants have entered through this perfectly safe and logical scheme, enjoying the comfort and relative peace of the Australian community, and contributing greatly to the colour and variety of the nation. Hoorah!

  29. Being aggressive and abusive solves nothing

    Except that it solves the asylum seeker issue dosent it? If you are aggressive enough then people wont try to come to your country.

    Then you save lives. A win all round.

  30. You see, wazza, you have it fixed in your mind that no-one can come into Australia. You’re wrong.

    It’s quite the opposite in fact. Australia allows something like 22,000 refugees pa into the country. We are neither aggressive nor abusive towards them. We process their requests and they are granted entry.

    Greg feels this is not generous enough. He may be right. At least he admits there are people who are allowed into the country.

    The intake numbers didn’t slump because Howard stopped the boats in 2004-7.

    I agree with Greg that Australia could look at doing more, but not with an open ocean policy.

  31. Besides which, it is Bones’ aggression and abuse which is offensive and unnecessary.

    Maybe you think it’s helpful, though, wazza.

    Do you think that if I started being more like Bones and joined in with the aggression and abuse it might actually solve something?

    What do you think, Greg? A foul-worded angry free-for-all?

  32. We send asylum seekers to other places to be abused than brag about it.

    Then theres the allegations against the navy. Including the leaving of a lifeboat which cost the lives of three asylum seekers.

  33. Well, smoking isn’t illegal in most places in Australia, so your analogy is rather weak.

    It also presupposes that there is no alternative to smoking. But there is. Giving up smoking is one of them.

    Neither is it illegal to seek asylum in another country. Asylum seekers break no laws in attempting to come to Australia. We have said that many times but it appears not to sink in.

    It may be illegal however, under international law and under the constitution to transport people to other countries and lock them up when they havent been charged or accused of a crime.

    And I’m not presupposing there is no alternative to smoking. Yes we could encourage people to give up smoking, give them nicotine patches etc – just as we could do much more to help the asylum seekers – eg. assess their claims in a reasonable amount of time.

    But my policy is just to stamp smoking out. Be tough, and put people in camps. Thats the only way to get rid of it entirely. Anything less would be allowing people to die, and that is immoral.

  34. I’d ban smoking and being obese.

    Anyone caught smoking or having more than 30% body fat (for male) would be sent to a camp. And I’d be the commandant. Maybe have the gays and liberals theologians sent there too. I’d sort em out!

    Wazza, stop putting ideas in my head!!

    Seriously, though.
    I wonder if there is anything that was learned from the refugee camps set up for Vietnamese back in the 80’s in the Philippines? People I knew lived there and learned English, kids were schooled etc while they waited. And the ones that came while initially living on social security brought up kids who all went to uni and are good citizens who are high tax payers. So, they have put back much more than they took. (Although yeah, there are some who argue that they took uni places that “real Aussies” could take).

    If it were up to me…..I’d welcome anyone under the proviso that for the first 5 or so years they live in Western Australia and give them jobs building infrastructure. Build a train line from Perth to Darwin along the coast. Or something. There’s room for more people, and I’m all for helping people who want to leave Iran or Afghanistan.

    Then again, I don’t live in Australia, so it’s easy for me to say. But the attacks on Steve are way over the top.

  35. 999% from me.

    Though I wish you didn’t remind me. I’m already scarred from what I saw on that video.
    Couldn’t eat for days.

    Almost enough to make a person backslide.

  36. I think you might be onto something, though, wazza. If you sent smokers to an offshore camp on a remote island with no tobacco for three or four months, all food provided, shelter, recreation and the like, they would go through the cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms, maybe break the habit, become far more healthy and save heaps of money.

    Who knows, by the time they come back to the mainland they might have kicked the habit altogether and many lives would be saved, hospitals would be less crowded, families of saved loved ones would be forever grateful and the entrances to shopping centres would safe environments for non-smokers to walk through.

    I think you might have a life-saving winner there.

  37. I think we need to start a signposts02 party, Bones you can be Minister for Foreign Affairs adn Communication, Q Minister for Health and Education, Steve you can be Treasurer and i will of course be Lord High Grand Pooba!

  38. Well now we’re deporting Australians. Apparently being born in Australia still has you labelled as an unauthorised maritime arrival.

    Some here’ll be hoping they send the little prick to Manus to show what we do to queue jumpers.

    Decision to deport asylum seeker’s baby to be challenged in high court

    Government rejected application for protection visa for Ferouz, born in Brisbane after his family were transferred from Nauru

    A legal bid to stop an Australian-born asylum seeker baby from being deported has reached the high court in a test case for Australia.

    Ferouz was born in a Brisbane hospital in November after his mother, father and two siblings were transferred to Queensland from the Nauru detention centre. Last month the federal government rejected an application for a protection visa for Ferouz, and the child was classified as an unauthorised maritime arrival despite being born in Brisbane. The baby’s mother was pregnant with him when the family, who had left Indonesia by boat, arrived on Christmas Island.

    On Friday, lawyers for the family filed documents in the high court challenging that decision. Lawyer Murray Watt said it is a test case on the legality of removing an Australian-born child for offshore processing.

    “For the Department of Immigration and the Australian government to decide that a boy born in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital has come to Australia by boat is a new low when it comes to how the Australian government treats the children of asylum seekers,” he told reporters outside the court. “I think many Australians believe that Australia is a better country than that.

    “It is simply ridiculous. This is an important test case that will potentially affect the rights of all babies born to asylum seekers in Australia.”

    The family remains in detention in Brisbane.

    Ferouz’s parents, from the minority Rohingya group in Myanmar (Burma), fled their homeland more than a decade ago. Watt said they lived for years in Malaysia and Indonesia in refugee camps before making their way to Christmas Island.

    But blame Labor.

  39. Don’t know if any of you saw this.
    I’m doing catchup on this issue because I don’t know much about it.

    This is Rudd answering a student at Oxford when asked whether turning away asylum seekers conflicted with his telling students to work for peace.

    “Mr Rudd said “a large slice’’ of people arriving by boat weren’t genuine asylum seekers.

    “Where it got to by the end of 2013 was the number of folks coming by boat was overwhelming the whole (Australian) refugee intake,’’ he said at the prestigious Oxford Union.

    ‘The lesson that sent out to people smugglers was ‘You come by boat, we’ll get you there quickly (but) if you stay in a camp somewhere around the world, in some hellhole, you’re never going to get anywhere’.’’

    Mr Rudd said Labor was facing a “practical, moral and political dilemma’’.

  40. Rudd’s solution was disgraceful.

    ““Mr Rudd said “a large slice’’ of people arriving by boat weren’t genuine asylum seekers.”

    That simply wasn’t true.

    “The Immigration Department’s most recent quarterly data combining those assessed by the department and those dealt with by the tribunal shows that 90.5 per cent of people who arrived by boat were found to be refugees in the first three months of 2013.”

    Rudd was trying to out-Abbott Abbott and pander to people’s bigotry.

  41. I was told to lie: Manus Island staffer

    In an interview with SBS’s Dateline, a migration agent who worked on Manus Island claims she was told to lie to inmates and labelled the government’s processing system ‘fake’.

    ‘Fake’ processing system

    Ms Thompson is the first staff member to publicly resign from Manus Island following a recent outbreak of violence which left one dead.

    She was originally bought in to conduct refugee-assessment interviews and claims she was told to tell inmates their only option was resettlement in Papua New Guinea.

    Ms Thompson said she knew their only option was indefinite detention, and so did they.

    “I would not go back because there is no process, nothing for me to do, no process to assist people with – it’s fake,” she said.

    “It’s not designed as a processing facility, it’s designed as an experiment in the active creation of horror to deter people from trying in the first place.”

    Ms Thompson told Dateline she was given a script to follow while conducting refugee assessments.

    “We were informed that we were not to discuss resettlement, we were not to discuss third country options,” she said.

    “It was made very clear to us every day, sometimes even twice a day, under the threat of being removed from the island, we were not to talk about a third country, we were not to suggest there were any resettlement options, we were not to suggest they would be able to get off PNG,” she said.

    “We knew that this was ridiculous, but we were lying to people and we were told to keep that message going to keep it clear.”

    “What’s not happening is any clarification on where they are going to end up.”

    “There is no process, the process doesn’t lead anywhere except indefinite detention.”

    Ms Thompson believes this is partly behind the violence that rocked the Manus Island detention centre last week.

    She was in the compound on Sunday night and says she could hear the noise from her room.

    “What they wanted was not just the interviews, the process, something to feel better about, something to feel involved in. They want to know where they are going,” she said.

    “I believe what happened was completely predictable, that tensions were allowed to build up, that misinformation was allowed to circulate, that people were allowed to be driven into a frenzy about what was going to happen.”

    “That’s what Manus Island is, it’s the active creation of horror in order to secure deterrence. And that’s why I say again, Reza Barati’s death is not some kind of crisis for the department, it’s an opportunity to extend that logic, one step further – to say ‘This happens, but deterrence continues, Operation Sovereign Borders continues.”

  42. Indonesia’s foreign minister Dr Natelegawa after learning about us spying on their trade talks about shrimp exports said “I find that a bit mind-boggling and a bit difficult how I can connect or reconcile discussion about shrimps and how it impacts on Australia’s security,”

    Those shrimp have a history of not respecting our sovereign borders. Many of them have crossed into our waters.

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