Sentiment Swamps Sound Policy

orient expressHaving stopped the boats as promised, Tony Abbott, of all people, should know that the humane way to treat economic migrants isn’t to incentivise their perilous seafaring to the West. Economic migrants, not refugees, is exactly what the tragically famous Kurdi family were before their father’s quest to enjoy the benefits of Germany’s state-funded dentistry saw his wife and two children drown. As Cory Bernardi said in the Senate:

That boy and his family had lived in Turkey for three years. The money for that boy’s father to pay the people smugglers was sent from Canada. The father sent them on that boat so the father could get dental treatment. They were in no fear, they were in no persecution and they were in no danger in Turkey.

And he’s right. Politicians shouldn’t be making immigration policy decisions based on how bad a photograph made them feel, heartbreaking as that harrowing image is. When the popular narrative is as grossly inaccurate as that surrounding the tragic death of little Aylan Kurdi, our political class is obliged to take a deep breath, let the hype die down and remember its core principles of consistency and fairness.

Predictably, Bernardi was immediately scorned for attempting to douse the media’s frenzy with a jet of cold reality. That’s fine: Cory’s used to it. The sad thing is that he is also going to take flak from some elements within his own party for invoking one of the key elements behind Operation Sovereign Borders and its success — the moral imperative to help those who most need it. It is a very long list and economic migrants who abandon safety, if not comfort, in pursuit of a better life are near the bottom. Those of Bernardi’s colleagues who now beg to differ, both in private or to the press, will be taking issue with their own party’s truly humane, truly effective approach to migrants. Quite incredible, really.

selfie asylum

To be fair, the Left’s Kumbayah campfire must seem to some very comforting and enticing when viewed from the chilling darkness of the latest poll numbers. Why not make an exception this time, enjoy the warm glow of compassionista approval? No politician ever lost votes by saving a drowning child. Of course the legions now flooding into Europe are not compromised of three-year-olds. Even though news editors seem to favour shots of women and children, much of the raw footage shows a hugely disproportionate number of young and often angry men.

None of this is to say that taking more refugees is wrong. On the contrary, many conservatives sympathetic to the PM have long called on the government to favour Christians and other minorities, whose lot has never been easy but who now face unspeakable persecution at the hands of ISIS. Bashar al-Assad, for all his other faults, took a remarkably liberal attitude toward Syrian Christians. Driven from their homes, they are unlikely to find such tolerance in other parts of the Middle East. Kudos to those in government who understand that even among the huddled masses, some are more miserable than others.

The Australian people deserve to know that, regardless of the wisdom and compassion of this particular decision, the Coalition won’t make a habit of re-orienting policy on the basis of social-media hype. They really are obliged to lay out their thinking this time, to explain why former priorities in accepting refugees were empirically wrong and needed an overhaul. And they absolutely can’t take the cane to those who, like Bernardi, feel the new direction is ill-advised and refuse to join the Twitterati in rending their garments. When policy is being re-written in the ink of emotion, Bernardi’s honesty needs to be seconded, not assailed.

Michael Warren Davis is a Quadrant assistant editor

  • Jody

    I saw Bernardi yesterday at Parliament House and wanted to go over and congratulate him, but I lost my nerve. A Syrian doctor was interviewed on ABC Radio this morning saying she and her Dentist husband left Syria one year ago to come here. She also said many ‘refugees’ arriving in Europe are posting their images of Facebook and that these people are actually IS and that Australia should be ‘very careful’ who is invited here. For IS, the compassion crowd is the gift that keeps on giving.

    Let’s hope our government makes a rational, considered decision; their re-election changes might also depend upon it as they will throw into sharp relief the hand-wringing compassionistas of the Labor and the Greens machine and their inability to protect public safety.

  • Jack Richards

    Abbott’s foolish decision to get swept away with the keening and ululating from the neo-Marxists will do nothing other than fragment the conservative side of politics. There is a heavy swell of resentment at the “most favoured” category of victims in this country i.e. the Muslims who can regularly breach s18C with impunity (ask any Jew about that)and he’ll now be forced to match every Christian Syrian with a Muslim one. Make no mistake, the Neo-Marxists will be looking through the passenger list on Abbott’s Ark to make sure it’s “balanced”.

    It is strange how he caved on this matter and tried to appease the twitterati by offering 12,000 extra places – abandoning the 4,000 places reserved from the normal intake – but even that didn’t save him from accusations of racism, religionism, favouritism and doing exactly the wrong thing.

  • en passant

    The Lebanese Muslim Association of Australia has strongly condemned this preference for the oppressed as discrimination – and had lots of air time on the ABC in Canberra this week.

    Also, the Grand Mufti of Australia has condemned the acceptance of 12,000 non-muslim refugees (fleeing islam) as ‘provocative’.

    There were 300 noisy protestors outside my hotel on Tuesday night. One 1960’s geriatric pensioner with a stupid fixed smile on his face was holding a placard saying “50,000 is not Enough. Australia is Mean not to share its Bounty”
    I said to him “I agree with you.” He positively glowed. “Yes, we should bring in 50,000 Copts and 50,000 Ameraic Christians.”
    He appeared to be dumbstruck, but for unfathomable reasons the smile left his face. I presume he did not know what a Copt or Ameraic Christian is, though there are other possibilities … Anyway, I never found out why he did not support my generosity towards the displaced.

    I have to say that I did not enjoy taunting him as much as I should have, but apparently my preferred approach of poking him in the eye with a burnt stick is not allowed. The nanny government is taking away all of life’s simple pleasures.

    Finally, I noted the ABC could still not unequivocally support the government’s gross over-generosity and caving in to ‘populism’. So, Tony ‘Thought Bubble’ Abbott had to add that there would be muslims in the mix, with preference given to ‘families’. Well, how did that work out at West Ryde Hospital where two parts of a M.E. family went to visit a relative and all it took was the Riot Police to calm things down with only one nurse, one security guard and one policeman injured?

    Yet there appears to be one curious anomaly in all of this: a charity coordinator briefly appeared on the ABC to lament that there are 100,000 homeless people in Oz (which I thought sounded to be an exceptionally high number) and then Tim Costello appeared to lament that there are starving displaced people in the M.E. requiring resettlement. Now pure logic tells me that if we bring in 12,000 people they will all be homeless and if we have 12,000 homes they will go to homeless people already here. Something tells me this is not so, but I cannot find the flaw in my logic, so someone out there: please explain the answer of this puzzle to me in comprehensible terms.

    So, did T’TB’A cave in to populism? Well, No, actually, because a poll I voted in asking how many traumatised troublemakers and Centrelink clients should we let in. It had 66% voting for zero. That is true populism as we know ‘activists’ and anarchists are far more active in these sort of polls.
    With responses of some 55,000 as of this morning:
    No Refugees – 66%
    50,000 – 11%
    20,000 – 9%
    10,000 – 14%
    Just wait until the populist minority get their way – ‘democracy’ in action

    The new Liberal ‘vote for us’ slogan must be: “No principles, no policies, no promises, no hope and no vision for Australia” and if sad with a compassionate look I think this is a winner … Well, it is better than Labor and the Greens, but will the voters recognise that?

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