An admission of cruelty

Finally a politician has admitted it-asylum seeker policies are quite intentionally cruel. Malcolm Turnbull was quoted in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald as saying

Our policy is a harsh one, it really is. All of the policies to deal with asylum seekers and people smuggling are harsh, cruel in fact. But the problem is the status quo is cruel. It is analogous to what people say about the Middle East: there is no shortage of bad options here. You have to work out the least cruel, most effective, most efficient means of depriving the people smuggler of a product to sell.

It’s extraordinary. A national leader admitting his policy is designed to inflict cruelty. I am not sure what disturbs me more, the admission of cruelty or the fact that the electorate is not disturbed but applauds.

Nor should we let Malcolm and his fellow pollies get way with the argument that there is no option but cruelty. There is another, better way: love, welcome, service. Work towards a humane regional approach and in the meantime send planes to Indonesia and Malaysia and fly asylum seekers here. That’ll stop people boarding leaky boats but do so through an act of kindness.

Even if that means bringing 30,000 or more a year, it’s not really a problem.  We’re remarkably good at receiving migrants-since 1945 Australia has received 7.2 million, including 1.2 million between 2000 and 2010.So we have the capacity to absorb large numbers of refugees. We just seem to lack the heart.


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