So the dog whistling has begun. The Guardian reported both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton claiming that we must keep asylum seekers out of Australia as a matter of national security. That they both use the same language makes it clear that this is a calculated line that they are spinning in the lead up to the next election.

What a disgraceful and despicable line it is. There is absolutely no case to be made that people fleeing persecution represent a threat to our national security. Australia has had a number of terrorist attacks carried out since the 1970s and a number of plots foiled. Almost all those committing offences have been people who were born in Australia or arrived here as migrants not refugees. To the best of our knowledge two or three former refugees have been involved, but they arrived here as children and were radicalised while here (see http://theconversation.com/factcheck-qanda-have-any-refugees-who-came-to-australia-gone-on-to-be-terrorists-51192). The inference in the Prime Minister’s comments is that people arriving by boat are radicalised and ready to commit terror. It simply is not true. In most cases these are people fleeing terror.

Alongside these scurrilous comments, the Prime Minister and Peter Dutton reiterated their insistence that none of the refugees on Manus Island would be settled in Australia. We also have turned down an offer from New Zealand to take 150 refugees, on the grounds of this would only encourage people smugglers to get back into business. It seems that keeping people smugglers out of business is a higher priority for us than providing protection to people who are desperately in need of it.

But perhaps the people smuggling line is a case of dog whistling too, for there is an easy way to put them out of business and to welcome asylum seekers to our shores: develop a decent regional framework for the processing and settling of refugees that sees their countries of our region cooperating to make sure that those who come to our region in need of protection will find it. Just about everybody who works in the field recognises that this is what is required, yet our government appears to make no effort towards it. It all smells of the most base form of politics our country has seen

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