The moral conundrum of casting a vote on 2 July

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According to the latest Newspoll, 15 per cent of voters are planning to vote for the minor parties or for an independent candidate. Support for the Greens is running at ten per cent. The leaders of the major parties are worried.

Raised hands with hearts on palmsMalcolm Turnbull is warning, 'A vote for the Greens, independents, risks the chaos and instability that we saw in the years of the Julia Gillard government. The only way to be sure that there will be a stable federal government commitment to a national economic plan that will deliver stronger economic growth and more and better jobs is to vote for the Coalition.'

The changes to the Senate voting system made just before the election and the double dissolution of the Parliament have been aimed at reducing the political influence of independents and the minor parties. Understandably, the government is arguing that the difficult economic times ahead will require government to make and implement difficult decisions, and this in turn will require the Senate not to be dysfunctional or unduly obstructionist.

But our government ministers are not just economic managers, and our parliament does not concern itself only with taxation and economic development.

Sadly, the major political parties have forfeited any claim to govern in their own right because they have caused such disillusionment among so many voters about other policy issues with strong moral overtones. Justifiably many voters think they could not trust the Coalition or the Labor Party to implement a fair and coherent asylum and refugee policy or to address the challenge of climate change with the required urgency.

Any voter impressed with Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si' or inspired by his visits to asylum seekers on the islands of Lampedusa and Lesbos could not blithely vote for either of the major parties, without first determining how to place some continuing political and moral pressure on them.

Consider the voter of good conscience who is committed to equity, jobs and growth for all Australians, but who is also concerned about the situation of the asylum seekers and proven refugees being held on Nauru and Manus Island.

Neither the Labor Party nor the Coalition during this election campaign is prepared to suggest any realistic solution. They are not prepared to welcome, accept or even discuss New Zealand's offer to take up to 150 refugees a year from these places. The major parties have made a judgment about the majority of voters. They think most voters are so indifferent to these voiceless and faceless victims of Australia's tough border protection policy that it is best to offer no solution whatever to their plight.

 

"Being misty eyed can be a problem for the clear sighted, but it's better than being willfully blind as both Turnbull and Bill Shorten are being on this issue."

 

The voter of good conscience could decide that no party deserves to govern in their own right if they are not prepared to offer any solution to this problem which Australia created and which remains in part our responsibility. Malcolm Turnbull says we can't afford to be misty-eyed about these people being held on Nauru and Manus Island. Being misty eyed can be a problem for the clear sighted, but it's better than being willfully blind as both Turnbull and Bill Shorten are being on this issue.

The Australian Catholic Bishops have urged voters to consider 'a vote for the voiceless'. They say they have issued their very modest election manifesto 'not in order to push an ideological line or simply to defend the Church's interests but to give a voice to the voiceless and make their faces seen'. The first of the voiceless and faceless groups commended for our attention by the bishops are 'refugees and asylum seekers who are often seen as a problem to be solved rather than as human beings in need of our help'.

Returning to work after his five-month absence due to illness, Archbishop Anthony Fisher was interviewed by Tess Livingstone, Cardinal Pell's erstwhile biographer. She reported in The Australian that Fisher 'was uncomfortable with aspects of the major parties' asylum seeker policies, especially offshore detention'. He did not endorse the approach of any particular party or politician. He did take 'aim at the Greens' support for the removal of religious "exemptions" to anti-discrimination laws'.

But Fisher did not go anywhere near as far as his predecessor Pell who urged voters in 2010 'to examine the policies of the Greens on their website and judge for themselves how thoroughly anti-Christian they are'. Some of the Greens' policies are far more Christian than those of the major parties. But then again, they can afford to be, because they are not seeking to form government in our increasingly secular pluralist democracy.

 

"Exposing legislation to open scrutiny in a parliament not controlled by the government and requiring the government to barter economic gains for the moral entitlements of the voiceless will be the only way to obtain morally sound laws and policies."

 

A voter wanting one of the major parties to form government while being mistrustful of their capacity to make a moral decision about the plight of asylum seekers would be very sensible to cast a vote in such a way as to ensure that the new government does not govern in its own right by being assured automatic passage of all its legislation through both houses of parliament once the legislation has been approved by the party room. The party rooms of the major parties are now prejudiced closed chambers when it comes to the interests of the voiceless.

Exposing legislation to open scrutiny in a parliament not controlled by the government and requiring the government to barter economic gains for the moral entitlements of the voiceless will be the only way to obtain morally sound laws and policies. Parliamentary pressure needs to be placed on any new government wanting to provide equity, jobs and growth, so that it will also do more to resolve the plight of asylum seekers and to be more attentive to the urgent requirements of the environment subject to the depredations of climate change.

None of the parties likely to form government after the election has an asylum policy which is acceptable. I urge people of goodwill when casting their vote to consider the desirability of a parliament which is not readily controlled by the government of the day, and which therefore might make the new government enact a more humane policy. I encourage people to cast a vote for a member or senators (whether members of the major parties or not) who have a commitment to reviewing the existing government policy, providing a more humane outcome both for those presently being held on Nauru and Manus Island as well as for those waiting in the Australian community without adequate work and welfare rights.

I would hope that we could all then start the long term cooperative work needed to increase our humanitarian migration quota and to develop a regional solution with neighbouring countries assisted by the good offices of UNHCR, while accepting even with a heavy heart and conscientious reservation that the boats will be stopped. We need to negotiate the ethical dividend for stopping the boats. I am not opposed to equity, jobs and growth for all Australians. But I think that is only part the story, and I want my vote to count in relation to the whole story of Australia's place in the world.

For starters, I want any new Australian government to empty the camps on Nauru and Manus Island in a timely and dignified manner. And I know a vote straight down the ticket for Turnbull or Shorten won't do that.

 


Frank BrennanFrank Brennan SJ is professor of law at Australian Catholic University and adjunct professor at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. He was recently interviewed, alongside Amanda Vanstone, on the question of whether 'Australia's asylum seeker policy too harsh too soft or have we got it right', by the ABC's Emma Alberici. Watch video

Main image: Shutterstock

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, Election 2016, Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, The Greens, Independents, asylum seekers


 

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Existing comments

Thank you Frank. You have stated clearly my problems with the major parties in this election. I realise I must do a lot of research and exercise much considered judgement in order to be able to vote conscientiously.
Colin Apelt | 08 June 2016


Di Natale nailed it when he called them the Coles and Wollies of politics, I just call them the cartel. Neither major party will ever get a vote from me, they are immoral, amoral racist cowards who should be dragged off to the Hague for crimes against humanity and our illegal attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to appease the US. But I am sick to death of the whining about asylum seeker policy, there is no such thing. There are the 35 legally binding articles of the refugee convention and the protocol that set our the rules and obligations which we agreed to without reservations and that is what we must abide by whether we like it or not. That no-one ever wants to hear that without calling me silly names like ''purist' is what drives me insane as does the whinge about 'stopping people getting on boats'' as if that is legal or rational. It's a legal for anyone to travel on the sea under innocent passage and be allowed freedom from interference. These laws apply to all people, and one day we will need them and must hope we meet better people than us.
Marilyn | 08 June 2016


While it might be true that none of the parties likely to form government has an acceptable asylum policy, given the influence still wielded by the Abbott faction it is most unlikely that a bloc with sufficient clout to force a more humane policy could be formed in the event of a hung parliament. We are told that some thirty labor members or candidates have, at some time, expressed misgivings about the cruel treatment handed out to the Manus and Nauru detainees and want to see an end to it; if true, it is inconceivable that a similar number of Liberals don’t share this sentiment. Here, then, is the bloc that will force a change of heart but only if the Liberals win with a resounding majority, a majority sufficient to give Malcolm Turnbull the authority and confidence to shun Abbott and his supporters and dump minister Dutton. A hung parliament or narrow Labor victory would be a disaster for the detained refugees. As bitter a pill as it is to swallow, the reality is that they will never come to Australia, the best they can hope for is Turnbull as prime minister with the authority to do a deal with New Zealand and Canada both of whom have offered to take them. I would urge people of goodwill to put aside their concerns over cuts to education and medicare, negative gearing and coral bleaching, lobby their candidates making it clear to them that this is the make or break issue then carefully consider if a majority Liberal government might not be the only way to a humane resolution of this question.
Paul | 08 June 2016


I think the majority of Australian voters, whilst being sympathetic to the detainees on Nauru and Manus, do not want a completely open borders policy. The Pope would, I am sure, be very wary of what appears to be the Greens anti-religious policy. I shall be casting my vote for what I consider the 'least worst alternative' which is one of the major parties. This is in full knowledge that they have a massive amount of internal sorting out to do. I am fully conscious that politics is 'the realm of Caesar', which deals with things of this world, many of which have a serious moral dimension. This moral dimension needs to be commented on by the traditional Church authorities, who, sadly, appear rather timorous in this regard. This may well be due to the disgust many Australians hold them in for their part in doing nothing in the vile paedophilia scandals which have engulfed all denominations. I am hoping that Anthony Fisher, who appears to be a clean 'new broom' may do some relevant 'sweeping up' in the moral sphere. My other hope in this regard is the new Archbishop of Melbourne will not be just another tired ecclesiastical bureaucrat but someone with real fire and dedication. God help us if he is not.
Edward Fido | 08 June 2016


I welcome Frank's carefully worded article and the comments to date, but I think we are missing one important issue. At this election we are electing a parliament, not a government. The parliament will decide who has the opportunity to form the government and the leader and her/his parliamentary party will decide who are the ministers. We have some say (more in the Senate than in the Reps) over who our parliamentarians are, but absolutely no say over who will be the prime minister or the ministers and therefore the policy makers and implementers (the events of the past 5 years or so demonstrate that). When casting my vote, I'll be focusing on the character of the candidates, not on their party or religious affiliations. The individuals who will get my votes will be those who seem to me to be true, honest, just, and of good report. That's the best that I can do. Then it's up to them.
Ginger Meggs | 09 June 2016


Well said Frank
Bernard Collaery | 10 June 2016


Thanks Father Frank. This article and the one listed No1 on your list of recent articles above are great, as was your TV discussion with Amanda Vanstone. Keep up the good work. Tim
Tim McKenna | 10 June 2016


"They are not prepared to welcome, accept or even discuss New Zealand's offer to take up to 150 refugees a year from these places." That's because they perceive the move to be a potential opening for boat smuggling to re-commence, with all the attendant tragedies. Are they right on the facts, here? I don't know. Neither does anyone else. Let's face it: history shows that many of us have made confident but nevertheless badly off predictions surrounding this issue over the years. Remember those who, citing "push factors" as the dominant determinant in boat arrivals to Australia, scoffed at Tony Abbott saying he would "stop the boats"? How wrong they were. This refusal to take up the NZ offer is thus open to a Christian to endorse, for the sake of preventing drownings. Similarly it's open to a Catholic to consider Pope Francis' media-hugging gesture at Lampedusa, etc, etc, to be the very height of imprudence, contributing to the deaths of thousands in the Mediterranean over the past few years.
HH | 10 June 2016


And the Greens voted against the proposed Emission Trading Scheme a couple of times meaning that Australia has no serious policy on climate change! That is the major issue for the planet!
Angela | 10 June 2016


I totally agree with your summation about the two major parties but I'm at a loss as to where else to vote. In my electorate the independents are dippy and the Greens manifesto is totally uncosted and calls for the focus to be only on state education. I like religious schools and choice. I think the refugee issue needs community action and to forget the parties. I liked the idea of churches giving sanctuary and would encourage community disobedience wherever possible. I call for a peoples' revolution!
Carol | 10 June 2016


Thank you, Father Brennan, for explaining so well the moral dilemma faced by voters in this election although I think the dilemma is far more complicated. Yes, the Greens have a strong social justice platform, but to read the "fine print" regarding their policies on abortion, euthanasia and "marriage equality" would concern anyone who is seeking to vote for a party with traditional moral principles. My primary vote will not be directed to any Party as such but to the individual candidate who will use their conscience vote in defence of the most vulnerable, including the refugees . I will certainly not be voting for anyone in the "Curate's Egg" Party, the Greens!
Jennifer Guinane | 10 June 2016


HH, let's carry the decision to incarcerate asylum seekers in order to prevent deaths at sea to its logical conclusion. There are accidents on our roads which lead to people being killed. Therefore, we must ban all vehicular traffic. We must also ban anyone entering the surf at our beaches because people drown or are killed by sharks. We must ban air travel: (planes crash), train travel (trains crash), sea travel (boats sink and not just refugees' boats). And it's obvious that plane and car and train makers make money out of these deaths and accidents. After all, even if a car crashes and no one is killed, the car has to be replaced. More profits to the car makers (people killers? Why don't they make cars that can't crash?). Your argument is ridiculous.
ErikH | 10 June 2016


"how to place some continuing political and moral pressure on them." The most immediate and effective way to put pressure on the major parties is to vote for candidates other than those committed to the repugnant 'Party-line' pursued by those two parties. A long-term remedy might be to promote the formation of a 'Decency' Body, something like the ABC's Media Watch, made up of eminent people who would comment publically on the ethical and moral issues involved in policies put forward by political parties. It is amazing how ex-politicians (not all), become statesman-like once they are freed from the restraints of toeing the 'party line'. Such a body would make politicians think twice before disregarding decency in their agendas.
Robert Liddy | 10 June 2016


Let's be very clear. I have not advocated a vote for the Greens. In fact, I have not suggested a vote for anyone in particular or for any particular party. But there is no way I would want to see either major party with control of both houses of parliament. They need to be called to moral account on the floor of the parliament.
Frank Brennan SJ | 10 June 2016


This is a great imput , Frank. I would not take the job of Leader just now, and I hope we thinking caring Australians have a thoughtful read of your article and follow their true humanity.
Patricia Adams | 10 June 2016


Thanks, Frank, for yet another excellent piece. The asylum seeker policies of both major parties and their practices when in government constitute crimes against humanity. It would be gravely immoral for me to vote for either, directly or indirectly. Under the federal voting system, preferences are not optional and so, for almost all voters, a vote for a minor party or candidate ends up to be an indirect vote for one or other of these criminal parties. Therefore I have cast an informal vote at every election at every level of government since 2012 and I will do so again this year.
Chris Sidoti | 10 June 2016


Bring on a goodly number of crossbenchers! And as the greater of two evils, put Liberals last. Even (pace Carol) a dippy independent or a Green is better than a Big Two candidate - if only because with enough independents/small party reps then discussion will have to take place with hopefully a modification, if not an outright rejection, of the worst the Big Two have to offer.
MargaretC | 10 June 2016


Father Frank makes some good comments about the elections and the treatment of asylum seekers. However, there are other policies that need questioning as we decide on how we vote on 2 July this year. Some other important issues are: * combatting climate change and pollution that is poisoning our soil, water, food and air * the genocide occurring in the neighbourhood nation of West Papua * Israel's treatment of the Palestinians * refusal to agree to a maritime border with Timor-Leste that means that Australia takes billions of badly needed resources from the poorest nation in the region after what it suffered at the hands of the TNI. * support for the US military Industrial complex that is profiting out of the exploitation of the Palestinians and the West Papuans and which instigates so many of the wars in which Australia has participated since World War 2. To me, there is no moral conundrum. The Greens and other progressive parties and candidates have clear moral positions on the above issues. They should receive top priority from voters who give a priority to peace, human rights, social justice, fairness between nations and care for the environment.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 10 June 2016


HH: 'a potential opening for boat smuggling to re-commence'.... No one wants simply open borders. But it doesn't take rocket science to devise a method of denying so-called 'queue-jumpers' entry without resorting to the inhumane tactics being employed at present. Simply organise a regulated queue to accept the genuine refugees we have the ample capacity to help, remembering that many of them really want to return to their homes once the persecution and violence is over. We are blessed with plenty, and the refugees are an opportunity to make us aware just where our values lie.
Robert Liddy | 10 June 2016


Erik, the ratio of boat deaths to arrivals in the time of the Rudd Gillard era was overall about 1 to 50. If one in every fifty Australians setting out for a car trip every day were to perish, then Australia would lose most of its population in a few years to car accidents. In that case, then yes, a law banning the driving of cars might well seem not so ridiculous.
HH | 10 June 2016


Thanks Frank for this lucid critique, well grounded in the evidence of the past 40 years concerning Australia's dealings with refugees and asylum seekers. It baffles me that plenty of our fellow citizens seem to neither know nor care about the major national achievements of the Indo China Orderly Departure Program. When early boat arrivals were being noticed, the Fraser government sought and obtained major bipartisan agreement to do the just and humane thing - to enter into the necessary multilateral commitments which established relevant countries of first asylum and the arrival of over 65,000 refugees by air, across the next 6-7 years. That government also initiated the Community Refugee Support Scheme - working in productive partnership with many churches and like organizations - an outstanding success. We are now in a different, darker and malnutritioned moral place. Yet plenty of us are making the case to any pollie who will listen ....to work intentionally and resourcefully for fresh multilaterals, both within and beyond the Bali process; to provide safe (temporary) refuge to those who flee persecution; to give confidence to first asylum countries that secure destinations will be available for valid claimants. Little by little ....
Wayne Sanderson | 10 June 2016


A few weeks ago I decided to not vote at this election, on the grounds that I couldn't in conscience vote for any of the parties that had any chance of winning. Then, lately, I thought no, the things I've got against the Greens are state matters and would certainly stop me voting for them in a state election, but on national or international matters (such as those listed by Andy Alcock) they are incomparably better than the other two. /so I'll put them first.
Gavan Breen | 10 June 2016


Reference the spurious comments from Andy. The Greens are the reason Australia does not have a serious climate change policy. They rejected the ETS which would have meant Australia would have had the best climate change policy operating for the last 6 six years
Angela | 10 June 2016


I note some are out again claiming it's the Greens fault we don't have a climate change policy, but the ETS Rudd and Turnbull set was so bad we would have ended up browner than we are now and in any case Abbott would have cancelled the same as he did the carbon tax. I do wonder if partisans know how ridiculous they are when they refuse to apply logic to anything but their own stated positions.
Marilyn | 10 June 2016


And whether or not to vote for gross human rights violators should never be a conundrum, just don't do it.
Marilyn | 10 June 2016


I am ashamed of our National Policy regarding boat people; I suspect that many Australians are ambivalent about accepting them due to years of demonization of them as dangerous, illiterate, que jumpers drownings et cetera. All parties are fearful of the voters and the promises they have made on border protection. Surely three years of no boats must provide security that with good relationswith Indonesia and other the country we can deal with the problem
Pat Howley | 10 June 2016


Thanks for a great article,
John Magee | 10 June 2016


Thanks Frank for another very well expressed opinion. For me the choice is simple; vote Green who senators have spoken with passion and compassion on the asylum seekers issue and the off shore detention centres for many a year now. As for the Greens other issues which seem to frighten some correspondents maybe a check of the Green's website or meeting with a Green candidate about these issues would help. Climate change aside, for which the Greens have been the only party really pushing this agenda, the treatment of those seeking refuge in our country by the two major parties is enough for me to vote Green.
Tom K | 10 June 2016


The Catholic bishops are quite correct to point to the plight of faceless and voiceless people. But I sense hypocrisy in their statement because Catholic laity, the largest by far group of voiceless and faceless in Australia, indeed in the world, we're not mentioned
John Casey | 12 June 2016


All this self-righteous talk about morality and compassion without ever a mention of “The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself.” (Benedict XVI) This truly is indifference to the most voiceless and faceless of all victims.
Ross Howard | 12 June 2016


The article states that neither party is prepared to suggest any realistic solution, in other words one which agrees with their views. The Australian people are anything but indifferent to the breakdown of our border protection and loss of freedom of speech that many of us lifted a rifle to defend. I drew attention in a letter to the fact that none of the drug lords or gangsters had names like Smith, Jones or MacDonald. It was not published on the grounds it was racist! All laws to protect law and order have to tough to protect citizens from criminal behaviour. If you are going to bemoan the "plight" of the inmates of Manus and Nauru, why don't they complain about the plight of the inmates of our prisons, they are criminals like the illegal immigrants. They talk about an asylum policy which is acceptable, acceptable to whom? What about the victims in Germany where one thousand women were raped in one night or the victims who had their homes invaded and taken over by twenty immigrant people? Did these victims have a voice? Is this what you want to see here?They want to empty the camps, to where?
David Cunningham | 12 June 2016


Don't worry David, I imagine there were plenty of 'Smiths, Jones and MacDonalds' in the melee at the football in Spain. And some of those would be 'criminals' too. Seeking asylum is not a criminal act. Those on Manus and Nauru have never been charged and never been convicted. They are not criminals.
Ginger Meggs | 13 June 2016


I am not talking about a football match in Spain, I am talking about the welfare of the Australian nation. They are in detention for attempting to commit a criminal act.
David Cunningham | 13 June 2016


Seeking asylum is not a criminal act. If it were, they would have been charged, brought before a court, tried, and if found guilty they may have been imprisoned. The people on Nauru and Manus I have never been charged, never brought before a court, never tried, never convicted, yet they have been detained and removed to a foreign country, all by executive fiat. So where is the rule of law that is so important to Australians?
Ginger Meggs | 14 June 2016


Thank you for this article David. As always it provides for an excellent read. Whilst the reference to asylum seekers and our environment are very much along the lines of what I believe, I would certainly hope people are not voting a certain way simply because the Catholic hierarchy tells us so. These same Bishops are also the ones telling us that it is wrong to support marriage equality when it comes to the LGBTI community. They even went as far as to try to get the community to boycott Telstra for having opposing views. The Church hierarchy has been wrong on so many fronts (think of the cover-ups relating to child sexual abuse and their outdated views on women and the priesthood) that it seems to me to be a bit hypocritical for those same people to be proclaiming the moral high ground. I hope and pray that when it comes to all these issues Catholics and indeed the whole community will have the foresight and good conscience to do what is morally correct.
Emmy | 16 June 2016


I believe a vote for the voiceless is very important but I am disappointed that the Abortion Issue has never been mentioned. I would like to vote for all christian minded politicians standing for Senate in Queensland. How do I find out the names of twelve to vote for?
Ellen Lund | 16 June 2016


I think putting the Greens first on the ballot paper and putting Labor ahead of the Coalition is the best option this election. A Green/Labor/Independent or minor party power sharing government would give Australia a chance to stop keeping desperate asylum seekers on off-shore hell-holes, a chance to do our part to save the Reef and the Environment and a chance to counter the strong wealth divide that is wreaking havoc in this country and throughout the world.
Grant Allen | 20 June 2016


I'm surprised and disappointed that the editor allows comments from anonymous entities like HH and suggest the editor's policies need to be reviewed so that only people who are ethical enough to put their names to their comments will have their comments published. In the meantime, I suggest people ignore comments from HH.
Grant Allen | 20 June 2016


Ah Grant, the question of real names or pen names. It's an old question, think George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Captain Swing, or Ned Ludd. Real people assume pen names for different reasons, some to deceive, others to protect. The former would be wrong, but the latter? If the latter is not wrong, can it still be unethical? Surely it is what is said or done, or perhaps why and with what purpose it is done, or with what consideration for others is taken, shown, expressed, that matters. I often cross swords with HH, a lot of what he writes I find crude, distasteful and pathetic. Sometimes, when I think that something positive might come out of it, I engage with him. At other times I ignore him. Occasionally he challenges and leads me to rethink my position. But his anonymity doesn't bother me. (Incidentally, my real name isn't Ginger and I don't even have red hair. :) )
Ginger Meggs | 20 June 2016


Thanks Frank for this thoughtful and timely article
Kathleen Gilbert | 21 June 2016


A very sensible post-election suggestion from John Menadue: http://johnmenadue.com/blog/?p=6872
Frank Brennan SJ | 22 June 2016


Thank you for a very thoughtful and insightful article Father Frank. Unfortunately, I think you're right. A vote that enables either major party to govern in its own right will not augur well for the poor people on Manus and Nauru. I would like to know how those in government, and running for re-election, can call themselves Catholics and Christians while allowing this travesty to continue. It is my understanding that more than 90 per cent of asylum seekers are genuine refugees according to the UNHCR. Let us pray that neither party is elected in its own right and that the Independents and Greens who might hold the balance of power in the Senate have the heart to do what is right for the refugees. LM Oliver
LM Oliver | 22 June 2016


My address for Refugee Week 2016: Towards Forging a National Consensus on Stopping the Boats Decently after the Election: listen at https://soundcloud.com/frank-brennan-6/all-saints-address-for-refugee-week-2016
Frank Brennan SJ | 22 June 2016


My interview with Wendy Harmer on ABC 702 discussing this piece is at https://soundcloud.com/frank-brennan-6/wendy-harmer-702
Frank Brennan SJ | 25 June 2016


The full text of my address for Refugee Week 2016 is available at http://www.allsaintsainslie.org.au/images/stories/content_files/all_saints_refugee_week.pdf
Frank Brennan SJ | 25 June 2016


The election is done and dusted. My quandary remains: if John Howard was able to keep the boats stopped while closing Nauru and Manus Island, why can't Malcolm Turnbull? If John Howard was able to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle some of the caseload why can't Malcolm Turnbull? I just don't buy the line that the people smugglers have become more clever than our intelligence services and that the Indonesians have become less co-operative with our military. If Operation Sovereign Borders depends on protracted, ongoing indecent treatment of proven refugees on Manus Island and Nauru then it doesn't pass the test of basic Australian decency. It's time Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and Richard Di Natale got together and agreed on the best way forward. It's time our military and intelligence services did their work spared the indecent pall of the ongoing appalling treatment of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru. It's absurd to suggest that these people have to be kept on Nauru and Manus Island in order to send a message. Remember, the ALP claims that it was all to be done and dusted on Nauru and Manus within a year. If that had occurred, there'd have been no people left there awaiting processing to send a message. And here we are, more than three years on with nothing happening, just waiting for the inevitable powder keg in those two places to explode. The election is over. It's time for the three key parties to come to the table and fix the issue promptly, agreeing that the boats will stay stopped, but that they will be stopped without ongoing punishment of others, the majority of whom are now proven refugees.
Frank Brennan SJ | 05 August 2016


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