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“None of us have hearts of stone”: refugees and the necessity of morality

Peter Mares writes in Inside Story (22.6.16) about the policy positions of the major parties regarding refugees and asylum seekers. The author argues that, while the Coalition and Labor both say their offshore processing policies are driven by realism, a practical approach must engage with moral questions as well.

‘Labor and the Coalition are united on border control. Both are committed to turning boats back to Indonesia, Sri Lanka or any other country they may have set sail from. If boats evade naval patrols, make it to Australian territory and can’t be returned, then Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull are equally adamant that the asylum seekers on board must be packed off to detention in Manus or Nauru. Both sides insist that people already being held offshore, who have been there almost three years, will never come to Australia, even though close to 1500 of them have been recognised as refugees. Both major parties have ruled out using the only other viable resettlement option, New Zealand.

‘The Manus detention centre has been found to be unconstitutional and must close; the PNG government says refugees can settle in the country if they choose, though few want to. Nauru has made it clear that refugees can’t remain permanently on its territory. Bill Shorten might have promised to redouble efforts to find alternative resettlement places, but the reality of the Labor–Coalition unity ticket is that neither side has the faintest idea of where these refugees might go.’

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