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Is this really the be-all and end-all of asylum seeker policy?

Is this the be-all and end-all for asylum seeker policies?
Is this the be-all and end-all for asylum seeker policies?

By LUKE COOPER

The three-worded slogan, ‘Stop the Boats’, has marred the asylum seeker debate for years. So why now has that debate suddenly become one-sided?

The ALP has announced a hard-line multilateral policy that poses Papua New Guinea as the solution to Australia’s refugee problems.

All asylum seeker boats headed for Australia will be redirected to Papua New Guinea (PNG) for assessment, with no chance of refugees ever crossing our borders. While it sounds good, there is one significant problem.

This policy clashes with the isolationist policies of the Opposition and does exactly what they plan to do if elected – turns the boats away from Australia.

According to Rudd, there would be no cap on the numbers of asylum seekers sent to Manus Island detention centre, and all refugees would be resettled there instead of here.

Come Election Day, voters now have a choice between a right-wing Labor party utilising its regional neighbours to solve its problems or a right-wing, intransigent Opposition.

So why now does Rudd favour a jump so far to the right that his asylum seeker policy mirrors that of Tony Abbott?

As recently as last week’s Q&A program on the ABC, Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, Julie Bishop, confirmed a government under Tony Abbott would simply turn the boats around.

Asylum seekers held in Malaysia.
Asylum seekers held in Malaysia.
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It seems the Australian voters have no choice in the upcoming election other than to vote for right-wing politics.

The major selling point between Labor and Liberal on asylum seekers now rests on one thing – who can stop the refugees fastest and cheapest?

And yet, even this is hard to determine because the ALP are yet to release comprehensive time limits and prices for their plan.

So really, what the asylum seeker debate has boiled down to is effectiveness and expense.

At least, that’s what everyone except for the Greens think.

They have labeled this decision as a “humanitarian disaster waiting to happen,” with leader Christine Milne saying Rudd’s policy marks “a day of shame for the nation.”

With the growing number of boats that are travelling to Australia, and consequently being turned around, comes growing numbers of deaths by drowning.

So far this year, 16,080 asylum seekers have seen our shores on 224 boats – a 135% increase on last year’s 11896 asylum seekers on 205 boats.

Of those numbers, so far 149 asylum seekers on the public record have drowned attempting to enter Australia illegally.

A policy that acts to simply turn the boats around doesn’t save lives and instead shows the ruthlessness and cruelty of Australian politics.

Additionally, the ALP has posed PNG as a safe environment for refugees to be resettled outside of Australia.

One can only question whether this is a mere product of political spin, considering PNG is the world’s 124th largest economy with a GDP per capita of only US$ 1844 and a murder rate of 13 per 100,000.

With the capacity of Manus Island detention centre needing expansion in light of Rudd’s announcement, is this really the be-all and end-all of asylum seeker policies? Considering the multi-billion dollar price tag that comes with a plan such as this, Kevin Rudd will surely be hoping it’s money well spent.

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