On Monday, Scott Morrison panned the Labor Party for stranding refugees on Manus. However, a series of emails from 2014 illustrates his thinking when he was the Minister of Immigration.
Our Prime Minister, a man who seems to want to fix the world exclusively with prayer and not much else, has recently taken aim at the Labor Party. He said that it was their fault that people were languishing on Manus and Nauru. That it was their policies which caused Australia’s hardline stance on refugees and asylum seekers.
This inference is not wrong. The Rudd government is the one who shamefully put into place the policies that have guided this country’s dealings with desperate people coming on boats for six years.
Mr Morrison and his PNG counterpart, James Marape, are currently making arrangements to find “closure” on the Manus refugees. Where they will go or what will happen to them remains to be seen.
“As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia,” Mr Rudd said in 2013. It was then considered the “hardest line” a Labor prime minister had taken against asylum seekers. However, it is absolutely worth noting that he was more or less echoing John Howard’s sentiments from twelve years prior, when he said to the press gallery in 2001, “those people will never set foot on Australian soil – never!”
Yes, our policies – the idea for which was championed by the second-longest serving Australian PM and put into place by a Labor PM – put people in danger. But that doesn’t mean that Scott Morrison is any less to blame on that front. He especially cannot throw the blame at Labor when he has done everything in his power to keep things as they are.
He can’t cast aspersions when he clearly agrees with the policy.
The refugees were given an “ultimatum”, that they would not be resettled in Australia or a third country, and that the department would work to “get them home safely”, back to a country in the midst of a brutal conflict that would surely see these people killed.
More than that, when ScoMo was our Immigration Minister, he went one step further in endangering the lives of Syrian refugees fleeing the bloody civil war in their nation. This is back in 2014 and Scott Morrison promised to resettle 4,400 of them. By then, the war had already claimed over 100,000 lives and 1,100 coming to Australia was seen as a “crisis”, compared to the 2.56 million people who were then fleeing.
Unclassified emails showed that the refugees were given an “ultimatum”, that they would not be resettled in Australia or a third country, and that the department would work to “get them home safely”, in the words of the then-immigration department lead on Manus Island, Katrina Neuss.
In the midst of a brutal conflict that would surely see these people killed if they returned, Australia wanted to do to them what the USA did to the MS St Louis – turn them back. This essentially constitutes a crime against humanity, denying people their basic human right of refuge.
Mr Morrison refused to answer questions about it at the time, saying that “the Australian government is dedicated to ensuring its humanitarian programme reaches those who need it most”, which is – simply put – untrue. Those who need it most were the people who arrived, desperate and scared, by boat.
The government tried to tell us that it was “protecting lives at sea” by refusing them entry. Stopping the boats meant fewer deaths in the ocean, but what was left unsaid was that those deaths were just moved back to these peoples’ war-torn homelands.
Morrison cannot dream of standing on moral high ground when the Immigration Department, under his guidance, wanted to send frightened families to their deaths, rather than even consider settling them in Australia.
If he wants to cast stones at the Labor party for these immigrations policies – stones which are rightfully thrown – then he must also accept that his policies are no better by comparison.