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The laugh till you cry election

By Lyn Bender - posted Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The rate of boat arrivals and sinking vessels, may have slowed for a while, but as a nation we are sinking deeper into the morally dank waters of a cruel policy. Perhaps we all need to ask, how many votes the lives and souls of persecuted people are worth? How many men women and children can be sacrificed on the altar of our quest for a sense of security, or, in election speak: certainty?

Kevin Rudd has revealed that they are worth a lot to him on the market of sacrificed ideals, and that he would do almost anything to get re-elected. He has bartered their well -being and human rights for the hope of regaining his own tenure. However Tony Abbott is now demonstrating that no matter how low the ALP go in their asylum seeker policy, he can go further into the mire

Abbott is prepared to do 'what ever it takes'. Not only will he stop the boats and turn them back, he will get tougher upon the 30,000 asylum seekers currently in Australia on bridging Visas. In the first debate Abbott has claimed on behalf of the coalition. " We invented offshore processing" Which is rather like claiming to be the master of diabolical methods.


The implication is. Don't try to outdo us, in 'the tough on refugees game'.

When I first came as a psychologist to Woomera Reception and Detention Centre and observed the situation, I found myself laughing hysterically in disbelief. I was struggling to describe what I had experienced to pro bono lawyers, in my first days in the detention, and as I called it the deception centre. I was in a Kafka novel; as though it wasn't happening in reality.

Some of the world's most vulnerable people are now hearing that they will be placed on three year protection Visas at best, if they are found to be genuine refugees. They are to be assessed by a single immigration department bureaucrat. There is to be no right of appeal. In three years time the countries they have fled can be 'deemed' to be safe for return. There has been evidence that many sent back in the past, to supposedly safe countries of origin, have been returned damaged and to dubious safety.

But this latest aberration in refugee policy, only exposes the absence of moral platforms in this current bid for the prize of government. There has been an outcry from human rights advocates, but these have probably been factored in as 'increasing cut through' and spreading the message. But as Tim Costello chief executive of World Vision reminds us. Our own humanity is a casualty of repugnant asylum politics.

Electioneering is seldom pretty. The tradition of identifying marginal electorates, the ones your party can't afford to lose, and the ones you need to regain, then throwing shameless bribes flattery and incentives, in their direction, is old hat. A hospital refurbishment here, a tax cut there, money for an industry that employs a lot of crucial voters, paid parental/mummy leave.

And for the last decade and longer we have witnessed that old standby strategy of demonising or putting down a group such as the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, migrants and refugees, and others supposedly living off the hard work and good nature of true Australians. Ah yes it has all been done before.


Anglican Agencies have taken an unusual step, of commenting on the latest Coalition announcement on refugee policy. They have declared "It is not our habit to comment in the middle of election campaigns, but today's announcement is so appalling in its lack of compassion that we cannot remain silent."

But the ALP and LCP electioneering protagonists seems unmoved by such protest. Scott Morrison has retorted that he won't be put off by threats of High Court Action that will challenge the new processing regimen he defends so vigorously.

But should we be crying or laughing ? This week's summary of political gaffes, show that we can laugh at, if not with, our Politicians. The coverage in week two ranged from malapropisms such as Abbott's "suppository of wisdom", to inappropriate and ludicrous comments that reached a world wide audience. Perhaps the electorate is not listening, just laughing.

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About the Author

Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.

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