Politics is about messages and Tony Abbott’s message is clear, stop the boats getting to our shores and you will stop the boats. His rationale is that if asylum seekers cease to believe that their boats will get through then they will stop making the journey to Australia.
This may be true and effective, but the other message which we are sending if we adopt this policy is that we as a country do not want to deal with asylum seekers, refugees or any people from other countries who may be in trouble, unless of course they can fill out the required documentation in their country of residence and purchase a plane ticket to Australia. What we really only want to deal with, according to the Liberal party, are a small percentage of asylum seekers who have the means, financial, intellectual or otherwise to get themselves over here by using the proper routes, preferably a politician or intellectual in exile who needs to use another country as a base. This we would welcome.
This message is not humanitarian, it avoids any consideration of the needs of asylum seekers and the circumstances from which they flee. Instead it focuses on the needs of Australia and its border protection record, with boats that make it through seen as black marks on an otherwise unblemished report. There is an undeniable need to find a practical international solution to assist desperate asylum seekers, however in the absence of such a solution, the importance is in the message. Do we project ourselves, both internally and externally, as a nation that cares about the needs of asylum seekers and is committed to helping them, or as a nation that considers this first and foremost as a “border protection” issue?
Tony Abbott’s message to asylum seekers around the world focuses on the latter and ignores the values of compassion, kindness and friendship that Australians hold dear.
For more on this issue see the following article http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120116/asylum-seeker-myths-australia