Sure, sure. No hysteria. But why do we need to debate it? We need to keep them out.
FEW issues polarise more starkly than border protection, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Australians agree we need strong policies.
While the vast majority, including the major political parties, favour current border protection measures, the Greens and a small but loud minority of agitators shamelessly engage in untruths and hyperbole to push their open borders agenda.
Refugee advocates and their media mouthpieces are adept at disseminating half-truths, fabrications and lies to smear their political opponents in a futile attempt to change public opinion.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been labelled a “Nazi”, “racist” and a “killer” and “torturer” with “blood on his hands”. But Australia is tarnished by fools with short memories who claim we are running Nazi-style “concentration camps” and “torturing asylum seekers”.
They are now accusing the Australian government of deliberately engaging in a campaign to hurt, humiliate and even starve about 800 men on Manus Island. The same people who pretend to care about asylum seekers cheered policies under which more than a thousand men, women and children drowned trying to reach our shores.
There is nothing compassionate about dangerous policies that lead to hundreds of deaths. Kevin Rudd’s disastrous decision to dismantle John Howard’s tough policies resulted in more than 50,000 arriving by boat, compromising the country’s humanitarian intake.
It was Julia Gillard who reopened Manus Island in 2012, not Tony Abbott as many refugee advocates seem to believe, judging by their fact-free social media rants. Labor, belatedly, joined the Coalition in backing tough policies that close the door on human traffickers and ensure that Australia’s humanitarian intake benefits those in the greatest need, not economic migrants who can afford to pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers.
It was Abbott who did what the commentariat claimed was impossible and “stopped the boats”. Since then refugee advocates have campaigned for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. They cheered when Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the centre must close.
Now, activists are demanding that the complex be reopened and are encouraging asylum seekers to remain in the centre that was decommissioned on October 31 rather than move to alternative accommodation nearby.
Claims that the 580 men who have barricaded themselves in the centre have been abandoned by the Australian government without food, running water and electricity are being reported uncritically by the usual media suspects. Far Left activists GetUp! released a video showing deplorable conditions in the centre but Dutton claims the footage only shows that the men had deliberately “trashed” it.
Life in PNG isn’t easy, not for asylum seekers nor for the locals, but if you believe refugee activists, the country is unfit for human habitation.
If that’s the case then the entire population of PNG should qualify for resettlement in Australia.
Nauru was similarly misrepresented by refugee activists who painted the tiny Micronesian nation as hell on earth.
PNG locals have been treated shabbily not just by some asylum seekers but also by their advocates and irresponsible Greens politicians who are openly encouraging the men at the centre to defy local laws and stay in the centre.
PNG police have informed Australian authorities of 161 offences, including sexual assault, assault and property damage, allegedly committed by asylum seekers since October 2013. Some of the most disturbing allegations centre on sex with underage girls.
Here are a few indisputable facts that are often lost in the hysteria: far from being abandoned, every asylum seeker on Manus Island has access to accommodation with running water, utilities, food and a fortnightly allowance.
Thanks to Australian taxpayers, these men have a better standard of living than some PNG locals.
Naturally, that can breed resentment, as can the horrid way that some of the locals have been treated — but to pretend that these men are starving and have no other option but to dig for water is plainly untrue.
Claims that the men fear for their lives and believe they will be assaulted as soon as they leave the centre also ring false, given that many of them travel to a nearby village to shop, go to the beach and mix with locals.
Australians should be proud of our generous refugee program. Last year we granted 17,555 humanitarian visas and we consistently rank as one of the top three resettlement countries in the world. To paint this compassionate country as a callous human rights abuser is yet another outrageous lie propagated by activists.
— Rita Panahi is a Herald Sun columnist