During today’s question time in the House of Representatives Tony Abbott, drawing upon all his newfound warmth and compassion for brave refugees who undertook the perilous journey to our fine country, undertook his own journey into new waters:
My question is to the Prime Minister. I can guarantee that no asylum seeker sent to Nauru will be subject to caning, can the Prime Minister make the same guarantee about asylum seekers sent to Malaysia?
I don’t think compassion is a sea that Mr Abbott can sail with relative calm, although the ‘hear hears’ from the Backbench would suggest that he is considered amongst the party of changing tides to be the absolute pillar of moral virtue. And please note they are now asylum seekers, not illegal boat people. Such empathy. Such sympathy.
This surely couldn’t be the same man who just over a year ago started his angry threats to turn the boats back to sea if his party won government. Could he promise that no asylum seeker would perish if he did turn the boats back? No.
Mr Abbott acknowledged that turning boats around could provoke asylum-seekers into taking dangerous measures, such as scuttling their vessels.
“But the fact that it was prepared to do it, I think let people in these countries know that trying to come to Australia illegally was a pretty risky business,” he said.
And now he wants an assurance that asylum seekers won’t be caned although it would be quite acceptable if they drowned. That’s the risk these people take. Drowning is one of the consequences. And possibly the consequences of this policy making butterfly.
The only compassion Mr Abbott has ever shown for asylum seekers was during his question to the Prime Minister today. Today he was the reincarnate of Mother Teresa. Yet I find it difficult to believe that a man who has up until now shown that he cares not one ounce for the dangerous and pathetically desperate situations these people faced in their own country, for the risks they may have undertaken just escaping from their war torn borders, for the perilous journeys en route to Australia, not being bothered if they perish at sea . . . cannot bear to think that they’ll be caned because of an apparent heartless Gillard Government. The Boston Strangler himself could never have been that evil.
Like the Government’s Malaysia plan or not and for the flaws it may contain, they are at least trying to promise a new life for these asylum seekers.
Other than sheer hypocrisy, what can the Coalition promise?