Karma is a bugger

Photo - ABC

Karma is a Buddhist concept.  Very briefly, the concept is that nothing happens to a person that they don’t deserve. The Buddist website explains it a lot better here in case you are interested.  Others would be more familiar with the concept of ‘paying it forward’ which effectively is the same thing.  The past week in Federal Politics would suggest they can't win a trick.

It’s not the first time we have looked at concepts of karma (or reaping what you sow) on The Political Sword.  In July 2014. we looked at Abbott’s apparent inability to create a sense of responsibility for his actions.  You could suggest that the job that Abbott craved so badly destroyed his political reputation.  Turnbull isn’t doing much better.

Last weekend, people were protesting outside the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in South Brisbane as there was a concern over a young child recovering from accidental burns would be taken back to Nauru in the middle of the night.  The hospital doctors had taken the decision that baby Asha could only be released into a supportive and safe environment – something that didn’t (in the view of the medical professionals) exist on Nauru.  The protestors were in effect picketing every entry to the hospital to ensure that Border Force or Queensland Police did not take Asha and her family from the place of safety.  The was considerable support for the protest and the doctors decision – the organisers at one stage had to ask supporters from around Australia not to send any more pizzas and Queensland Health, rather than arranging for the protestors to be ‘moved on’ was tweeting to ask protestors to respect other patients and staff.

Immigration Minister Dutton finally announced that Asha and her family would be transferred to community detention in Brisbane rather than immediately being returned to Nauru.  The doctors released their patient and everyone was happy.  Well not quite. . .

It seems Dutton didn’t really like The Canberra Times headline of 21 February 2016 ‘Incredible victory’ as Peter Dutton says community detention for baby Asha because news of an investigation into how Asha suffered severe burns was released to The Courier Mail (Murdoch’s daily Brisbane based newspaper).  The claim was that Asha’s mother poured boiling water over her baby so the family could stay in Australia.  Unfortunately for Dutton, the medical records were made public – quickly and effectively calling out the lie.

Dutton suggested that he was taken out of context, which seems to be a common thread for the Federal Government this week. 

Senator Cory Bernardi claimed on Tuesday that the ‘Safe Schools’ program – used in around 500 schools around the country to eliminate bullying within the school community was really a “social engineering agenda that is radically at odds with the aspirations of many parents"The usual collection of conservative politicians fell into line to back up Bernardi, including Senator Abetz on ABCTV’s  The Drum where Abetz was interviewed for eleven minutes to make the point that bullying is wrong if you have red hair or large ears – but perfectly acceptable if you identify as LGBTI.  The Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who weeks before supported the program publically, acknowledged that the program would have been implemented differently if the LNP started it – but the objective was sound.  He will, at Turnbull’s insistence conduct a review. 

Bubbling along under the surface this week is the Government continuing scare campaign over the ALP’s negative gearing proposals.  Regardless of the proposals, all the LNP can muster in reply is that the plan would significantly reduce the prices of houses in Australia.  Well it did until mid-week when the Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer went on morning TV and claimed that the ALP policy would increase housing prices so they would be unaffordable.    Let’s be polite and suggest that O’Dwyer hadn’t read the morning ‘talking points’ email from the PM’s Office.  For the record, her original response on TV was The Labor party has a very irresponsible campaign. They have got a policy that will increase the cost of housing for all Australians, for those people who own a home and for those people who would like to get into the housing market through their negative gearing policy. O’Dwyer ‘clarified’ the remarks using the statement below – which now smacks of gobbledygook rather than logic and fact.

One wonders if Turnbull is regretting putting his hand up to be Prime Minister yet.  The initial glow has tarnished very quickly according to the opinion polls, and his PR people seem to spend most of their time putting out bushfires ignited by his own side of politics.

In July 2014, we observed that Abbott was having trouble getting clear air because he had to defend previous statements that were hyperbole (or if you’re less generous – absolute bollocks).  It seems that Turnbull hasn’t learnt the lessons of recent history and his past decisions on a number of issues – including those who he chose to surround himself with – are coming back to bite him.

You do reap what you sow – or to put it more bluntly - karma is a bugger.

What do you think.

So we do have a revenue problem after all

Who could ever forget Scott Morrison’s astonishing statement when he became our nation’s treasurer: Australia doesn’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem!

Balanced economists were aghast. Any analysis of our balance sheet left no doubt that we needed more revenue to enable the government to provide the services the people need: quality healthcare for the aged, the disabled and all; excellent education at all levels; a welfare safety net for those who need it; infrastructure; and all the other services people are entitled to expect in this prosperous country where we are privileged to live.

Just as sensible economists accept we have a revenue problem, they also acknowledge we have a spending problem. Reducing government waste and more prudent spending of taxpayers’ money should always be a fiscal objective. That has never been disputed, but it seems mysterious that the government has consistently placed so much emphasis on the expenditure side of the budget, while ignoring the need for more revenue. The only plausible explanation seems to be the way the government frames its fiscal policy.

Harking back to the Howard era, Costello’s boast was always: “We are a low taxing government – we want to give money back to the people, not take it away.” How many times did you hear him say that?

Morrison echoed Costello. To Morrison, increasing revenue equates with increasing taxes, which is anathema to him. It seemed too that in Morrison’s mind removing concessions from superannuation, negative gearing and capital gains was tantamount to increasing taxes. So all he could suggest to balance our national budget was to cut expenditure. He was no better than his failed predecessor; we knew that his expenditure cuts would hit the poorest in our community just as they did in Hockey’s 2014 Budget. He was bereft.

He seemed to be channeling his ‘Stop the boats’ rhetoric into ‘Stop the revenue’ so as to ‘Stop the taxes’. In fact he went the other way, the Costello way, towards reducing personal and corporate taxes. His approach is ideologically driven; it is shored up by the discredited concept of ‘trickle-down economics’, which posits that supporting the top end of town creates prosperity that eventually trickles down to those at the bottom of the pile. A more colourful descriptor is ‘horse and sparrow’ economics – feed the horse enough oats and the sparrow will get his share in the manure.

Morrison seems to have now come to his senses though, perhaps he’s listened to the sagacious economists who have not only insisted that we have a revenue problem, but have pointed to where it might be addressed now that a rise in GST has been ruled out by all parties.

The contemporary debate about negative gearing, prompted by the recent release of Labor’s policy, has focussed attention on revenue raising by reducing the present concessions which allow the well off to benefit substantially by acquiring multiple properties. We all know that negative gearing applies also to equities and other assets, but it is when it’s applied to housing that the concessions have the most impact.

On AM this morning, in introducing Ben Oquist, executive director of The Australia Institute, Michael Brissendon began: “New research shows young Australians are receiving little benefit from three of the biggest, most expensive tax concessions.

“The modelling, commissioned by think tank The Australia Institute, shows Australians aged under 30 receive only 6 per cent of the combined tax concessions on superannuation, the capital gains tax discount and negative gearing. The concessions are worth more than $37 billion in total, yet young Australians only receive a share of around $2 billion.

Is it such a surprise that young people are missing out on the benefits of tax concessions? After all, they earn less and pay less tax.

Ben Oquist replied: “I think it's a surprise the extent of it. It's worse when it comes to the capital gains discount and negative gearing in particular.

You mention that overall it's 6 per cent of those tax breaks combined but when it comes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax, it's 1 and 1.7 per cent respectively of tax breaks that are growing all the time.

The capital gains discount in particular is projected to be at seven or eight billion in the next few years and it's that discount in particular that I think is unfair.

It's widely known that 73 per cent of that tax break goes to the top 10 per cent, but it isn't as widely known that only less than 1 per cent of it goes to young people.”
Later Oquist, referring to this debate, said: “I guess overall that's the good thing that's happened…we are slowly accepting that we have a revenue problem…that's the big shift from 2014 to this year's budget. We're debating tax reform and it's been accepted that we have a revenue problem.

“Now, we don't have to increase tax rates to solve that revenue problem, we can address tax concessions, loopholes. If you like we can broaden the base. And in that way you raise the revenue and you don't have to compensate people…With the GST being taken off the table it's actually allowing us to look at the smorgasbord of options that we've got for increasing revenue without having to compensate people and having that churn.”

The fact that we have a revenue problem has been publicized long enough for Morrison to hear. Why did he take so long?

So exasperated was South Australian premier Jay Weatherill that just this month, he took a swipe at the treasurer for not telling the truth about Australia’s revenue problem: “Scott Morrison is perpetrating the same deceit on the Australian people as his predecessor Joe Hockey…Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised a new government, but they perpetrate the same lies to the Australian people that we have a spending problem and not a revenue problem”

Just a few days ago John Menadue, businessman, public commentator, and formerly a senior public servant and diplomat, wrote on his blog: “In a submission to a Senate Select Committee into the Abbott Government’s Commission of Audit, Jennifer Doggett, Ian McAuley and I contend that the problem is not that government expenditures or that the public sector is large in Australia compared with other countries. We contend that the problem is a short-fall of revenue and that on international comparison, our tax revenues are low.

In their summary to the Committee they say … “The Commission of Audit’s brief is based on assumptions that Australia is burdened with “big government” and that taxes are an impediment to business investment and workforce participation.

“There is no evidence for either assumption. The trend in Commonwealth expenditure has been downwards since the mid 1980s, falling from a peak of around 28 percent of GDP to a range of 24 to 26 percent of GDP in recent years. In comparison with similar prosperous countries Australia has one of the smallest public sectors.”

In May of last year The Australia Institute published a paper titled It’s the revenue stupid. It’s worth a read.

I could cite many others who are saying the same thing: Australia has a revenue problem. Thankfully, it seems that at last our treasurer has heard this strident oft-repeated message. His, and Malcolm Turnbull’s prime criticism of Labor’s policy on negative gearing is not that it generates revenue that we don’t need, but that it does not generate enough revenue fast enough! In launching Labor’s policy Bill Shorten said it was a long term measure which would start modestly but generate substantial revenue over the long term, but it seems the government is intent on raising revenue urgently! Perhaps we now have a ‘revenue emergency’. Await their policy with open-mouthed anticipation!

What this piece contends is that hog-tied with an ideological rope, our treasurer has been far too slow to concede what has been obvious for so long: Australia has a revenue problem. What is now needed is a serious debate, uncontaminated by ideological or political overtones, about how to raise this revenue now that the level and scope of the GST is not to be changed. Pegging back concessions that are enjoyed mostly by the well off in the areas of superannuation, negative gearing and capital gains tax, is an obvious place to start. But fairness must be at the heart of any revenue-raising moves.

It is encouraging to see this debate gathering the force of a flash flood. Hopefully it will sweep Turnbull and Morrison along, arms flailing, until they come up with some practical ways of addressing Australia’s revenue problem. Predictably, the property rent seekers are out there peddling their ‘wouldn’t it be awful’ scenarios, and Turnbull’s ideologically driven, top-end-of-town fawning backbenchers are out moaning that 'it will have negative consequences for the party'! For their own electoral safety, in the face of falling poll ratings, he and Morrison had better ignore them.

What do you think?
We are looking for your comments.

Do you believe Australia has a revenue problem as well as a spending problem?

What revenue sources do you believe the government should explore?

Do you believe that at last Morrison and Turnbull have got the message about the need for more revenue?

Ruddock's new job

Photo from Philip Ruddock's Twitter Feed

Philip Ruddock has been a Member of Parliament since he was 30.  He entered Federal Parliament in September 1973 representing the seat of Parramatta.  He retires from Parliament representing the seat of Berowra at the next Federal election; which according to the current prime minister, will happen towards the end of 2016.  At the time of writing, he is 72

During his career as a politician he has presided over the locking up of refugees behind razor wire in Australian deserts and the insertion in the Marriage Act of the ‘between a man and woman’ phrase that increasingly frustrates those Australians that believe in equality for all, regardless of race, colour, orientation or creed.

It was announced this week that Ruddock will become Australia’s Envoy on Human Rights.  According to the dictionary, there are two definitions to the word envoy: the first is a messenger or representative, especially one on a diplomatic mission; and the second is a minister plenipotentiary, ranking below ambassador and above chargé d'affaires.

While we will never know, did the actual conversation between Turnbull and Ruddock go something like this?

Turnbull – Thanks for dropping by Philip, we need to have a chat about you continuing on in parliament.  How do you like your tea?

Ruddock – Yes Malcom, white & one thanks.  I enjoy being the ‘father of the house’ and want to beat Billy Hughes record for years in parliament. 

Turnbull – There’s the problem Philip, I’m promoting to the public that I am a leader of change and reform.  The media are having a go that some of the long term MP’s in New South Wales have to go for me to demonstrate I’m serious — even Rupert’s Australian (paywalled) is tapping people on the shoulder  and you’re one of them.

Ruddock – Mal, mate, I still have a lot to contribute to parliament?

Turnbull – What? — trying to get better transport to the far northern suburbs of Sydney?  First, that’s a state problem, not ours; second, Abbott’s already used that line on the Northern Beaches.  Phil, it’s time to leave the island.

Ruddock – But what about my experience?

Turnbull – The cemetery is full of indispensable people.  Look Phil, when Rupert’s Oz is saying 

As one cabinet minister puts it to The Australian: “It’s not about age with Philip [Ruddock] and Bronwyn [Bishop], it’s about what they offer. Seriously, what do they offer any more? How can the public take our claims of renewal seriously if they become protected species?

I’ve got to do something.  I can’t get rid of Abbott, I’m racking my brain working out how to get rid of ‘biggles’ Bishop — her expenses claims as Speaker were a step too far — but I have worked out what you can do.  I’ve noticed that you wear an Amnesty International badge Phil.  How would you like a roving commission to discuss human rights?

Ruddock – Keep talking — this could be interesting.

Turnbull – So what you do is occasionally go overseas to investigate some place there is claimed to be some human rights abuse, be seen talking to the powers overseas about it and come back home to tell everyone how you have brokered a solution.  You could be Australia’s Jimmy Carter.

Ruddock – Sounds good.  I’ll talk to the family about it.  My only concern is what do you want me to do about claims Australia has a pitiful human rights record?  Don’t forget that I locked kids up behind razor wire in the desert, John and I had a ball inserting genders into the Marriage Act and there is condemnation within Australia and from overseas about how we treat refugees.  Even the United Nations is getting stroppy.

Turnbull – Don’t worry about any of that, it’ll blow over.

Ruddock – Even the kids we’re going to send back to Nauru?

Turnbull ‒ Storm in a teacup.  Faux outrage wound up by the usual do-gooders.  You know GetUp, Amnesty International, The Greens — the usual rabble.

Ruddock – Yeh, complete tossers.

Turnbull – So thanks again for dropping by Phil.  You’ll let me know when you’ve told your family so I can do the media release for this exciting challenge.

Ruddock – Yeh, no worries [leaves half a cup of tea, gets up and walks out].

Turnbull (5 minutes later) – Someone find me the number of the Liberal preselection committee chairman for Berowra.

Voice from outer office – The number is [redacted]

Turnbull – Thanks. [Dials number] Hello, chairman, the fix is in.  Ruddock is out of the running.

At the risk of being called ‘ageist’, let’s look at Ruddock’s new appointment on a logical and rational level.  The Australian government is appointing a person who is clearly of retirement age, complete with access to a very generous superannuation scheme, to a position where he can probably claim to have to go anywhere in the world to promote the Australian government’s human rights record and credentials on our behalf, regardless of the lack of empathy shown to others’ human rights by the governments where he was a senior member or departments he led as a minister.  Without trying to be too flippant – it’s like putting Dracula in charge at the Blood Bank!  To add insult to injury, what’s the bet there is a ‘generous’ salary and benefits package that ‘represents’ the ‘seniority and gravitas’ of the position.  


What do you think?

Australia's diabolical dilemma

There are no prizes for guessing what the dilemma is. It has featured prominently in the news in recent days, and promises to remain so for a long while as momentum gathers in the community to force changes in Australia’s immigration policies and to demand that asylum seekers be treated in a manner more consistent with this nation’s character.

To pretend that there are easy solutions is to deny the complexities of the dilemma and the wide range of opinions that exist in the community.

I thought it might be instructive then to dissect the dilemma into bite-sized segments, and ask questions about each of them, acknowledging from the outset though that each element interacts with every other in what is a multifaceted system. Systems theory applies.

2353NM has opened the batting with a fine exposure of the nub of the dilemma following the High Court decision in his piece: Inhumanity is apparently legal. The judges summarised their decision thus: "The Court held, by majority, that the plaintiff was not entitled to the declaration sought. The conduct of the Commonwealth in signing the second MOU [memorandum of understanding] with Nauru was authorised by s 61 of the Constitution. The Court further held that the conduct of the Commonwealth in giving effect to the second MOU (including by entry into the Administrative Arrangements and the Transfield Contract) was authorised by s 198AHA of the Act, which is a valid law of the Commonwealth."

In plain words, the High Court has determined that the arrangements to detain asylum seekers on Nauru are constitutionally valid.

Let’s ask the following questions of our politicians and of ourselves.

We’ll begin with an easy one.

Do we want to see more men, women and children drown at sea while attempting to reach our shores?

Only a sadist would answer ‘Yes’.

As a corollary, measures that would avoid the risky sea journey are laudable.

Do we want to eliminate the people smuggling trade?

The political parties would answer ‘Yes’, as well as most voters, except perhaps a few who might see people smugglers as the only way some seeking asylum have of escaping their present desperate situation. These folk would regard people smugglers more benignly. .

How could asylum seekers be persuaded to not undertake the journey?

The government’s answer seems to be: “Threaten potential boat arrivées with almost indefinite detention while awaiting assessment, which is virtual imprisonment, on Nauru or Manus Island, swearing that they will never be settled in Australia. Labor’s answer to all intents and purposes is the same. The Greens would prefer to assess people before they embark, and should they arrive, to process them in Australia. To me that seems the most humane approach. But it would require establishing assessment centres in many places overseas and rapid assessment processes there, and likewise in Australian facilities should they arrive on our shores. Many voters do not agree with this approach, as they are trenchantly opposed to anyone arriving uninvited. But as the 'LetThemStay' movement gathers momentum, more and more seem to agree.

Should the assessment process filter out so-called ‘economic refugees’ (those principally seeking a more prosperous life but not suffering persecution) from those genuinely escaping persecution?

Both major parties, and I suspect the Greens too, and most voters would answer ‘Yes’, if for no other reason that preference ought to be given to the vast numbers who are genuinely escaping persecution.

Should the process filter out potential terrorists?

The leaked discussion paper on this subject suggests this is the government’s intention. Although details are not available, I suspect most would agree with this approach.

So far it is possible to see that there is some consensus among the stakeholders on several aspects of the dilemma.

A more difficult question:
Should the prime deterrent to those trying to reach Australia by boat be virtual indefinite imprisonment of families and children on a tropical island?

Some may object to the term ‘imprisonment’, preferring ‘detention’. Peter Dutton insists that it is not imprisonment. He asserts that detainees can leave the detention centre and freely walk the streets of Nauru. But what does that mean? Nauru, a phosphate rock of 21 square kilometres, is the third smallest country in the world after the Vatican and Monaco. It is smaller than the size of Melbourne airport. It comprises a fringe of fertile land, a jagged uninhabitable mining wasteland in the centre, scattered houses for its 13,000 population, tents for its detainees, and a few shops. There is no formal capital. How being free to walk Nauru’s streets is a privilege, when there is nothing at all to do, defies understanding. Moreover the temperature is 24 to 33°C all year round, and the relative humidity is also constant at about 80%, oppressive conditions for most people. There are serious health problems among the native Nauruan population. Obesity, alcoholism, vitamin deficiencies, and a residue of scourges of a past era – tuberculosis and leprosy – result in poor life expectancy, 16 years fewer than average. You can read all about Nauru here.

The rate of processing detainees is painfully slow. In his excellent article in The Age: Nauru: How long can we keep lying to ourselves?, Waleed Ali reports that last year we were told that the 600 remaining detainees on Nauru would be processed within a week. Many weeks on, 537 remain.

At this rate the remaining face many years of imprisonment.

So what is the answer to the question?

To the government, and seemingly to Labor too, the answer seems to be: let them rot on Nauru – men, women and children – as a deterrent to other would-be boat arrivals. Let’s make an example of them; let’s punish them to frighten off any others. The Greens are appalled. So am I, and I sense that a swelling number of decent Australians feel the same.

The answers to this question separate those whose hearts have hardened against asylum seekers, even those with a genuine case, from those who hearts are with those who have suffered so much at the hands of the oppressive regimes from which they are escaping, only to be further persecuted by our own government, all in the name of ‘stopping the boats’ which it chooses to frame as ‘protecting our borders’, as if we were being invaded, but wrapped in a pseudo-humanitarian framing of avoiding drowning at sea. We know that’s political claptrap. We see the misery of those escaping war-torn countries every day on our TV, but many voters choose to embrace the government’s framing and thereby protect themselves from the pangs of their consciences.

The way the Nauru and Manus Island solutions, Howard’s ‘Pacific Solution’, and Labor’s too, have turned out is repugnant to much of the electorate. There are signs that this revulsion is heightening. A prudent government would watch this carefully lest it get out of control.

This leads to the next issue that is acutely exacerbating the cry for better treatment of asylum seekers: what is to happen to the 267 adults and 72 children now in Australian on ‘humanitarian’ grounds, now that the High Court has determined that detention on Nauru is constitutionally sound? Should they be sent back? Will they be?

Answers to this question might be the ones that drive a wedge between the government hard-liners and their constituencies. The #letThemStay hashtag is trending in social media, (so far over 17,000 tweets) and there have been street demonstrations that began in Bendigo, followed by a lunchtime demonstration in Sydney, which drew thousands of people, and rallies in Newcastle, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, and a 6.30pm protest in Perth. These were followed by protests in Brisbane, Hobart, Launceston and again in Adelaide, all reinforcing this sentiment. Churches have offered refuge in defiance of the government. Renowned authors have expressed their support. Premier Daniel Andrews has offered to take care of the refugees in Victoria, and has been joined by the premiers of NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the first minister of the ACT. How long can the government afford to wait for this civil and political unrest to settle before taking some preventive action to stem the damage being done to its reputation, such as it is?

Add to this question the ugly facts that have emerged of gross maltreatment of detainees: rape, even of young children, and violence against them by guards and others in the crowded camps. There have been many instances of self-harm and some deaths. Paediatricians say that they have never ever in their careers seen such psychologically traumatised children as those coming from Nauru. Quoting these doctors, Human Rights Commissioner, Professor Gillian Triggs condemns outright the return of these children to Nauru. The mistreatment suffered by them takes place in the overcrowded campsites where families are jammed together, with running water and toilet facilities often remote from the tents, and where security is lacking.

Increasingly, the answer from more and more people is that those already in Australia must NOT be sent back. Even Labor, which out of fear of electoral disapproval has lamely endorsed the government’s Nauru policy, is saying: ‘We never envisaged that the situation we see before us would have eventuated’. Pity Labor hadn’t the foresight to see this, and the courage to take steps to avoid it. The Greens remain as adamant as ever that the asylum seekers here in our country must NOT be returned to Nauru; indeed they should never have been sent there in the first place.

To return to the question: Should the deterrent to trying to reach Australia by boat be virtual indefinite imprisonment of families and children on a tropical island?, what will be the government’s answer?

The government seems to have an obsessive fear that returning these people to Nauru will encourage people smugglers to enlist even more boat people, especially children. Will that fear persuade the government that sending them back is the lesser evil? Dutton, and even PM Turnbull in a less insistent way, are making such noises. If it decides to return them, what will be the electoral consequences? With so much opposition to such a move gathering momentum every day, will Dutton and Turnbull and his government have the courage to persist their ‘stop the boats at all costs’ policy and risk a severe backlash from increasingly angry voters and swelling protests? Time will tell!

Where does all this leave us?

I trust that dissecting out the elements and examining them piecemeal will have clarified somewhat this diabolical dilemma for Australia, its people, and those who govern us. But I do not pretend that an obvious solution emerges from this or any of the many articles that have been penned, or from any of the comments that have made on current affairs programmes. The choices are diabolical for most.

The hard-nosed put ‘border protection’ and ‘stopping the boats’ and even just keeping asylum seekers out, ahead of any humanitarian concerns. The soft-hearted believe in an open-door policy where all are welcome, where those arriving will be quickly assessed and integrated into Australian society, and where offshore detention becomes a regrettable relic of our tragic past.

While I am firmly inclined to the latter approach, I recognize that there are many who are fearful of an influx of asylum seekers, fearful of them taking our jobs, of bringing their religious beliefs, their customs and their modes of worship and dress into a country unused to them, and of course afraid that the risk of terrorism might be heightened.

Some would ask such advocates: What is the limit of people we could accommodate under an open-door policy? Who knows; I don’t. Only expert demographers could estimate how many Australia could feed, house, and employ.

It is counterproductive to cast aspersions on those on either side of the debate. Understanding the other’s viewpoint is the only way to reconciliation.

Sadly, Australians seem not quite ready for a sensible debate about this diabolical dilemma. The debate has been heavily politicised since John Howard declared:”We will decide who comes to this country and the manner of their arrival.” Tony Abbott opportunistically seized Howard’s framing, perspicaciously seeing it as a powerful wedge to force between the Labor government and the people. He succeeded. His ‘Stop the boats’ slogan will go down in history as a most divisive yet powerful political weapon, one amongst several other slogans that won him office.

We now suffer from his opportunism; we are debilitated by the asylum seeker dilemma, a disease that if not addressed and resolved amicably among the citizens of this lucky country, will continue to consume us like tuberculosis once did.

We can only hope that the rising anger of the ordinary people that we now see will overwhelm our policy makers and persuade them there is another way, a better way, and that they had better drop the political rhetoric and begin a compassionate discussion about how we can do better; how we can feel more comfortable with ourselves as a people that values ‘the fair go for all’; how we can sleep more easily at night knowing that we are doing the right thing by these displaced men, women and children.

What do you think?
Longtime TPS visitors will know that this is not the first time we have addressed the asylum seeker issue. As far back as October 2009 there was: Which journalists do you trust on asylum seekers?

Then in July 2012 there was: Applying facts and logic in the asylum seeker issue, and in July 2013 there was another quiz: Have a go at these questions about asylum seekers.

In June 2013 in a piece What is the role of political blogsites, the issue of asylum seekers was discussed comprehensively towards the end. There were 386 comments. Several included comprehensive statements about asylum seekers. The comments are worth reading if for no other reason than they demonstrate that the asylum seeker issue was as vexed then as it is now.

Reading these past offerings will take time. I found them sobering. They beg the awkward question: ‘Have we advanced at all in the last few years?’

This time the circumstances are different and the public indignation greater. Will it bring about a better outcome?

Do engage in this question and answer exercise and do let us have your opinion.

Are you ready to expose our politicians?