One of the more interesting aspects of the recent Federal election result was the complete failure of the self-appointed élites to influence the voters on the issue of asylum seekers.
From the day the Tampa was refused entry to Australian territorial waters, the Government has enjoyed over 70 per cent public support for its stance on this issue. This is in spite of the fact that the “Pacific solution” of sending asylum seekers to Nauru and PNG for processing is not a long-term solution at all.
However, rather than engage in objective debate, the élites have done nothing more than selectively moralise.
They have shouted from the roof-tops about our obligations under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, but conveniently neglected to mention that the same document does not allow for destination-shopping. They have labelled the policy of refusing entry to boat-loads of asylum seekers as cruel and heartless, but have failed to explain why Australia should aquiesce to a process which it does not control.
While the Government had little alternative but to take a stand on the uncontrolled entry of boat people, there are several shortcomings in its policy.
Boat people have been reaching our shores for about three years, but no attempt has been made at reaching an agreement with other countries in our region to stop the flow.
Both the processing of people in detention centres and the appeal process takes too long and needs to be speeded up. We need an honest and objective debate about how many genuine refugees can be accepted as part of our overall immigration program.
While most boat people may be desperate, it should not be forgotten that a number of those rescued by the Tampa committed what was at least the equivalent of an act of piracy by demanding that the captain re-route the ship to Australia. Many people including this writer have serious reservations as to whether such people would make good citizens.
It is a credit to the voters that they did not allow themselves to be browbeaten by a mob of holier-than-thou charlatans who are more interested in proving their moral worth than finding a solution to a complex problem.
The hiding they have copped since the election is richly deserved.