A little girl and her family, traumatised by events in their own country and with a real threat to life and limb, got into a boat searching for security and safety. She was not to know that she had not simply embarked on a leaky dangerous vessel, but that it was actually a tardis.
For this boat was not going to land her safely on a secure shore where the opportunity for a new life might begin, but it was going to take her into a time warp, an experience of never-never land where she would no longer be in the place of mortal danger she had previously known, but nor would she arrive at a destination which she and her family had imagined. Somehow, she was being taken into another world, a world in which time and laws do not operate with the harsh unpredictability of the place from which she had come, but nor do they reflect the world of order and goodwill towards which she thought she was travelling, despite the fact that the world to which was travelling appears to have control over this in-between world.
A tardis is an imaginary time capsule of the Dr Who series that takes you from a known world of shared human assumptions to an entirely different world of conflicts and agendas which at best one might struggle to understand and at worst might leave you permanently as an alien.
In the known world of civility, rules are not made retrospectively. In the known world even bad people are given a finite time for their punishment or incarceration. In the known world it is not acceptable for good people to be held hostage to the agendas of strangers. In the known world reasonable attempts are made to enable the stranger in our midst to be a friend at table.
The Nauru, Manus catastrophe continues to blight the conscience of Australians of good will. It simply should not be possible for this shameful situation to continue a day longer. It appears that both major parties are competing with each other on a strong boundary policy because they believe this to be what the Australian population wants. In this respect I believe they are correct. I believe the majority of Australians want secure borders.
However, where we are being seriously let down, is in terms of those caught in the time warp. It is clear that boats are being turned back and that this will continue no matter which party is in power. Dealing with those who arrived before this policy was fully implemented is a different matter and should be dealt with as a connected, but quite separate issue. Those on both islands who have been processed and declared refugees must immediately be transferred safely to a country that has the capacity to rehabilitate them; and to treat the additional traumatising that is now unfortunately the reality of their lives. Cambodia, or even Papua New Guinea, are not such countries.
Most can and should come to Australia without weakening our border policy. It is utterly shameful that the Government is now contemplating a new law prohibiting those trapped on Nauru and Manus from ever coming to Australia under any circumstance. Apart from anything else we have just had a debate about retrospectivity in relation to superannuation. Apparently it is totally unacceptable to enact a law which, under certain interpretations, retrospectively curbs an overly generous superannuation provision, but it is quite acceptable to pass a law which retrospectively keeps human being in permanent limbo. If there is a pressing, politically populist, reason to make it certain that no one comes to Australia by boat, do it for those who have not yet left, this should clarify any doubt in their mind as to the destiny that awaits them should they venture out on a leaky boat. We are a nation which prides itself on a ‘fair go’. Do not do this retrospectively for those whose lives are already despairing enough.
If both sides of politics agree to passing this proposed legislation – shame on both your houses.