Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Compassionista versus Chris Kenny

According to Chris Kenny, the single reason 1200 terrified people died en route to Australia on rickety vessels belonging to people smugglers, is the lack of moral fibre of the left. Specifically, it’s down to the spineless attitudes of a bunch of lefty wusses he’s called ‘The Compassionistas’ in his blog

Apparently, the Compassionistas can’t see the dangerous imbalances in the people smuggler’s model, and are in favour of issuing an open invitation to the world’s most desperately hopeless souls, creating an inundation of refugees that would swamp our precious land.

Chief Compassionista is Jessica Rudd, who wrote in her new Brisbane Times column yesterday of her escape from the near-solid toxic air of Beijing, and spoke of kindness and compassion and the very Australianness of being welcome.

I have a fair idea why Mr Kenny had to invent a new label to describe these bleeding heart lefties – they are imaginary. Mr Kenny can’t see the difference between 1200 people who died at sea on their way to Australia, and one man, Reza Barati, who died while in our care on Manus Island. Therefore, those of us requesting an explanation for Mr Barati’s death are “moral poseurs” – a description I assume is somewhere in the realm of Chardonnay Socialist.

Mr Kenny wrote:

So there you go, protesting about the tragic death of one asylum-seeker in a detention centre riot seems far more important than the deaths of 1200 asylum seekers over the previous five years, not to mention the trauma and uncertainty 50,000 others faced in detention or on bridging visas.

While the existence of the people smuggling trade is entirely abhorrent, it is a reality. For all the talk about “breaking the people smuggler’s business model”, it’s not likely to happen. It is a demand-driven industry, and while people are being persecuted and murdered in their countries of origin, there will be a demand.

As Mr Kenny points out, the demand was there and they came in their tens of thousands, and some died on their way. But no-one makes asylum seekers board those barely seaworthy vessels to make the voyage to Christmas Island. That’s a choice made by each adult asylum seeker. Their deaths are heartbreaking, but they are not our responsibility.

Reza Barati made the same choice as every other asylum seeker who has boarded a vessel bound for refuge in Australia. He thought that on reaching Australia, he’d be safe. Australia would protect him – his life would not be in danger. At the very least, he’d be safe.

But successive Australian Governments – first Labor and now Coalition – denied him sanctuary in Australia, and sent him to Manus Island, an off-shore detention facility where we wouldn’t dream of housing our worst convicted criminals, but which costs the Australian taxpayers more than the equivalent amount of accommodation in a five star resort. We did that. Manus Island was not his choice any more than it was his choice to have his head bashed in multiple times by a lump of wood.

And it was not my choice either.

The Australianness that Jess Rudd wrote about is more than the various twists and turns of international law. The Government may think it’s shuffled responsibility offshore, but moral responsibility is not as easy to shift.

The fact that Mr Barati’s death is still being discussed and debated on social media and on talk shows is proof that many Australian people are not ready to let go of our morality.

Mr Kenny’s blog concludes:

Yes the moral posturing is far more important than proffering solutions. After all we have seen over the past five years it seems inconceivable that we could still be dealing with these attitudes. It makes me worry that all the horrors of this evil trade could one day be unleashed again – no matter how successful Scott Morrison is with the current operations.

Is it moral posturing because a few people on twitter failed to offer acceptable alternatives? I’m no expert on refugee policy, and neither is Mr Kenny, but here’s a thought: Let’s continue to light the dark. Let’s take this outpouring of emotion, this determination from the so-called Compassionistas and have a genuine conversation about how Australia wants to deal with asylum seekers and other irregular arrivals.  

Australia is not accepting nearly enough people in need. Throwing open the borders is not an option - even for Compassionistas - but the breadth of options between where we are now, and where we should be, is tinged with generosity and hope. 

The current Coalition policy to “Stop the Boats” is the wrong focus, the wrong policy and the wrong conversation. 

Let's talk about people.

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