The Age reported that Greens MP Adam Bandt asked”Prime Minister, will you accept that previous Labor and Liberal governments got it wrong, and will you release all children from detention?”
Yes, replied Turnbull, the policy was “tough”, even “harsh”, but “people had died” under previous policies. Offshore detention, third country resettlement, and boat turnarounds, had saved lives.
Turnbull is being disingenuous. The question was about releasing children from detention not about with people were still dying at sea.
They are two quite separate issues and should be treated as such.
Recent reports indicate that the policies of the Labor and Liberal parties have not “stopped the boats”, it simply means that boats are being turned round and towed back to Indonesia.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton admitted that Australia has turned back 20 asylum seeker boats with more than 600 people on board since the Abbott Government came to power almost two years ago.
What he did not say was how many people had been lost at sea during these exercises. This highlights the problem we have with the secrecy that surrounds the activities of the Border Protection agency.
However, we must accept that there appears to be bipartisan support, at least in parliament, for this particular approach.
Adam Bandt is concerned about children in detention. Quite a different issue from people dying at sea. We can actually fix the problem of people in detention and save the Australian taxpayer are huge amount of grief and money.
If Border Protection is still turning boats back, it can be assumed that the policy of offshore detention is probably not working as well as the government (and particularly Tony Abbott) would suggest.
So why is it not possible now for the Prime Minister to say, “We will continue to turn boats back. But we will end the inhumane detention of people on Nauru and Manus Island.”
He might be surprised at how many people in Australia would actually support this. But he appears to be too frightened of the right wing of his party to take a stand that would make them look like a statesman.