Our bipartisan asylum seeker policy reveals Australia to be a corrupt country, writes Bruce Haigh — morally, ethically and financially.

Australia is a sick country, primarily because it has become such a selfish and self-centred country.

A sense of entitlement pervades, indeed is encouraged and fostered within the ruling class and politicians. For sure, it’s all about us, that is the white Anglo Christians, who comprise the bulk of the Australian ruling class.

Many psychologists say narcissism is on the rise in Australia; we don’t have to be told that, as we see it before us each day amongst the poorly performing politicians the failing major parties plonk before us.

To say that I am angry with Turnbull and Shorten and their sycophantic lackeys, Dutton and Marles, is a significant understatement. The utterly shameful decision not to allow the people on Manus to come to Australia following the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court decision can only be described as gutlessly self serving.  

At what point did we embark upon becoming the most selfish country on earth. Was it Howard with his smug "we will decide who comes here" exhortation? Or was it his massive mining boom hand outs to the "suffering" middle class? Or was it his deliberate attempt to create a ruling elite with his profligate hand outs to private schools?

Wherever and however it came about, we are now a society divided between the haves and have nots, and asylum seekers are at the bottom of the pile of have nots, stripped of their rights even under Australian laws designed to protect them. How sick is that?

In Apartheid South Africa, detained black activists were denied even their basic rights. They were demonised; so although Steve Biko was dying, following repeated police beatings, he was transported in a comatose state in the back of a Land Rover in a locked cage with an armed guard 700 miles from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria. This was justified by a system that saw legitimate grievance and need as a threat to the state. Political activists such as Biko and Mandela were regarded and treated as terrorists.

The blackshirts of Border Force has adopted the same mentality for similar reasons. They feel charged with the responsibility for protecting privilege from the incursions of coloured "outsiders". We have witnessed the border protection mentality at play with the tardy transport to hospital in Australia of seriously ill men, women and children from Manus and Nauru. This has resulted resulting recently in two deaths and an untreated unwanted pregnancy. All transport has been under armed guard. And this is directed against people who couldn’t lift a finger to help themselves.

This is selfishness run amok. To "save" our supremacy, we have resorted to the methods of a police state.

We learn that the asylum seeker Omid who died several days ago after setting fire to fuel he poured over himself on Nauru, had been "advised" shortly beforehand by UNHCR that he was to spend another 10 years on Nauru.

Why would UNHCR act as the stalking horse for the Australian Government? I don’t know, except to say that they have done it before. In discussions that I was party to, UNHCR agreed not to classify Chinese women fleeing the one child policy and claiming asylum in Australia. The deal on that occasion was increased regional funding for UNHCR by the Australian Government.

And now we learn that a 22 year old Somali woman has also tried to end her life on Nauru. Surely the right wing ideologues must be swayed by this. Australia is running a gulag – a concentration camp – and history will be savage in its condemnation of all those responsible. And Dutton’s statement accusing refugee advocates of causing these deaths and injuries is utterly contemptible.

Scott Morrison – the erstwhile Minister for Immigration and the now Treasurer – has demonstrated again (as if we needed to have it again demonstrated) his out-of-touch elitism by promising tax breaks for those earning above $80,000. He apparently believes that God helps those who help themselves. How do you do that when you are incarcerated on Manus or Nauru? And Australia was not built by hard-working immigrants fleeing poverty, persecution and victimisation in other lands?

Turnbull and Shorten attended private schools. Neither of them ever fled war or persecution. Are they examples of what those institutions aspire to? Most of those schools claim to be religiously based, but for the Christian schools amongst them, the Parable of The Good Samaritan appears to have gone missing in action.

I no longer attend the class reunions of my old private school. I cannot stand the attitudes of my privileged former class mates to asylum seekers and refugees. By Australian standards, they’re all wealthy and have enough to share. Their talk is of real estate and their trips overseas. Such people form the leadership cohort of Australia.

Here is the rub: to protect our privilege, our governments banned the free flow of information from the detention centres and all off shore border operations. They have threatened to gaol doctors and nurses who speak out. This abuse of free speech has nothing to do with protecting our rights. It only has to do with protecting wealth and privilege.

The Australian asylum seekers policy is an ugly, rebranded White Australia Policy. With one exception: if you have money, Australia doesn’t give a bugger what race you are. Money is the key to admission. Not the fact that you are fleeing for your life, your freedom or your family’s lives. Yes, we are now a corrupt country, morally, ethically and financially.

So many Australians – Asian, African and European – came to this land because it promised them freedom from oppression. They helped build our country — economically, culturally and ethically. Today’s asylum seekers are no different. Odds on they will prove to be better nation builders than most of the rednecks who oppose them, or the cashed-up migrants who take their place in the queue.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator, retired diplomat and former private school boy. You can follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceHaigh2.

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