Waleed Aly's soft option on 'The monstrous failure of our bipartisan asylum seeker policy'

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(Image via radioaustralia.net.au)

Martin McMahon comments on Waleed Aly's assessment of Australia's bipartisan asylum seeker policy, highlighting his points with a refugee's personal story.

But here's the problem: that centre was always illegal. It didn't suddenly become illegal when Abbott took power. Marles is right it was botched from day one, but that was Labor's day. It takes some special level of gall to establish an illegal detention centre, then insist it's the Coalition's mess. ~ Waleed Aly, The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 2016

'"STOPPING THE BOATS" was a bipartisan policy and both sides of politics are responsible for its monstrous outcomes,' wrote Aly.

Waleed, I hate to see you making a fool of yourself on this issue. 

But if you had a memory you would know that the Rudd Labor Government was elected with a strong mandate to change the refugee state of affairs. Howard, perhaps, even lost his own seat partly as a result of the general dissatisfaction with the far-right-wing policies on refugees.

However, it wasn’t long before the right-wing press and so called "shock jocks" realised they were on a winner by attacking the humane policy.

Compounded by unfortunate circumstances and inclement weather, they were able to propagate the argument that it would be "saving the lives of women and children" by refusing them shelter in Australia. Everybody seemed happy with that one.

In his second coming, Rudd had no option but to change his previous policy. And it’s no use saying "yes, there is always a choice". Well, it’s no use having choices in policies if you are never going to be in government.

This Liberal Government has been in power now for a whole term. Your argument reminds me of watching Lateline many years ago and Turnbull was arguing with Gillard and blaming the Labor Party for something they did that was causing the problem at that time, even though his Government had been in office for 10 years.

I didn’t see you, Waleed, come up with a single piece of evidence to refute the "saving women and children from drowning" mantra.

Did you do any research to show that refugees don’t just die at sea? Where is the research to show how many die in the concentration camps (sorry, refugee camps) as against those who were drowned? Where is any attempt to counteract any argument?

You didn’t even suggest bringing them to Australia and giving them the estimated $400,000 per person cost to keep them on Manus Island for a year. With just two years expenditure, they could retire or buy a business or move to some welcoming country. In every case a win, win.

Where is any research at all? Yours was just a loud and enthusiastic voice about something that you seem to know nothing about. The policy wasn’t illegal or unconstitutional in Australia — at least not any more than detention centres in Australia were. And when we deal with other sovereign countries we don’t automatically check their constitutions.

You didn’t even make the point that it’s virtually impossible to escape from any country as a refugee without people smugglers.

Where is your condemnation of this country where a government is unelectable unless it has harsh refugee laws in place and of your fellow journalists that hold sway over the naïve and gullible?

Media commentators, including Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Janet Albrechtsen, Peter Reith, Gerard Henderson, Alan Jones and others, may not have much clout individually but collectively, they have a dominating political potency.

But is criticizing them too close to home? Is that biting the hand that feeds you?

This is just the soft option, Waleed. You made it look like you had an opinion without actually having one. Just blame both parties but make no attempt to blame the mainstream media where the real blame lies.

I’m so disappointed, Waleed.

The heartfelt story of a refugee who came to Australia without people smugglers

Hi! My name is Mo and I’ve just arrived from Dadaab in Kenya; the world's largest refugee camp. The name Dadaab means "the rocky hard place", because just below the red sand are sheets of diamond-hard stone. I spent 10 years there waiting in a queue.

Q A UNHCR queue to get to Australia?

No, I never found that queue. This was just a queue to get some chicken soup. The soup, when I finally got it, was not so much soup for the poor, as poor soup – soup made from the shadow of a scrawny chicken that had itself died of starvation.

However, one day I decided to head for this country called Australia that everyone dreams about especially when they heard Kevin Rudd was in control.

So, I headed off in what I thought would be the right direction and away from the land-mines. It turned out to be the wrong direction. I had google maps upside down. When I reached the Mediterranean and saw the name Cairo in the distance. I thought it might be Cairns. Can you imagine my disappointment?

Q What did you do for food?

I had become a Breatharian and didn’t need food, just light and air.

Long story even longer; I headed into Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and finally into Indonesia. Lovely and safe places one and all.

You can’t walk to Indonesia.

I worked as a crewman on a boat making the perilous crossing daily to save the $10,000 I had heard was the fee that I would need for people smugglers later.

Q You could save that kind of money?

Yes, ten thousand trips at a dollar a piece.

When I had the money I found a local would-be fisherman, in a nice yellow plastic boat, a description that fitted "people smuggler" perfectly and brandishing my wad of notes, “to Australia”, raising one eyebrow, I gestured.

"Rudd’s not there anymore", he said succinctly, and turned away.

"But I’ve got this money for Australia", I said running after him.

He reprimanded me in broken English, "That doesn’t work anymore. There’s a new guy there now. 'Scomo' they call him. He gives me more than that to stay at home. Besides, they have educated me on the error of my ways. Women and children dying at sea; I can’t be a part of that concept anymore."

"But’ I’m not women or children", I implored.

He said, "That just means you have no status at all. Only women and children have any status for the purpose of propaganda. Goodbye."

So what happened?

I prayed for Devine intervention.


I was standing at the shore with a handful of other hopefuls, looking longingly towards the land of my dreams when the seas began to part. "It’s Devine intervention", I said. "We must hurry."

The mention of the word "Devine" made them all cower in panic. "No, no, no," they pleaded with me. "It’s a trap. A Bolt from the blue will close it all on top of us. We’ll all be drowned and forgotten because we are not 'women and children'."

Q What happened next?

Luckily, I come from that part of Africa where distance running is very popular on TV so ...

You had TV in the refugee camp?

Well, no we didn’t; so I must have heard the tales around the campfires.

You had campfires? How romantic.

We just had the camps actually but I digress. I started running like my ancestor would have done from the guns of the British and I made it across in two hours and 30 minutes — not a record, I know, but the terrain was very rough and sharp. It shows that I’m agile and nimble.

Q What are you planning to do now that you are here in the Promised Land?

I’m just happy to be in a country where it will cost $400,000 a year to keep me in a camp. That’s about the same as Scomo and Devine will make in a year. How good is that?

There’s never been a better time to be in Australia.

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