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Can we retrieve our moral values?

By Duncan Graham - posted Thursday, 18 February 2016


Now here's the rub.

Only those lacking compassion and the determination to discover alternatives would find the so-called Pacific Solution acceptable.

Nauru and Manus are poor locations for camps though probably not the 'hell' refugee supporters allege; over-egging claims do advocacy harm. We need a reasoned debate with practical proposals, not hyperbole.

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Nonetheless prolonged detention and delayed claim resolution would break anyone's spirit. That's immoral and inhumane.

The cramped accommodation sounds far from ideal though probably better than the Calais camp and detention centres in Southeast Asia. Services include flying the seriously sick to Australia for treatment. That doesn't happen in Indonesia, where refugees squat where they can.

The Pacific Solution will be ranked in the future alongside the Stolen Generation and trusting churches to care for kids as policies of shame.

Nor is it acceptable that only those with enough money to pay smugglers and who pass through other safe nations to reach Australia should have priority over the poor already in refugee camps with proven fear of persecution.

We can't be sure there have been no recent arrivals because our democratically elected leaders won't share information with their voters. That's authoritarianism and it should outrage us all.

Fortunately for the government the media crisis means there are few journalists with enough resources to investigate, while the ALP has decided to play possum to its lasting dishonour.

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No-one wants people risking their lives to get here. If the boats have stopped that's something we might all agree is positive. Some points need to be acknowledged while deploring the overall policy, the demeaning of inmates and staff, and the cost.

But an equally effective and more humane way than creating misery has to be found to halt human traffickers and deter people from trying to reach Australia by sea.

Fortunately we have a forum capable of finding a solution. Unfortunately it has failed.

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About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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