Total heartlessness, for purely electoral reasons. Despicable political behaviour, really.
This behaviour is however understandable, when we know that, on this issue, Australian politicians have painted themselves in a corner: they have heaped so much political capital on the idea that treating migrants badly in Nauru and PNG was the reason why “we have stopped the boats” that they cannot find a graceful way to back off without losing face … and the next elections.
This is why Australia absolutely needs a constitutional Bill of Rights: judges would then be able to tell politicians when they are wrong, despite the backing a majority of MPs. Democracies have learned in the Thirties that majorities can be wrong and this is why the international human rights regime was created, and why it has been incorporated in so many constitutions. Many Australian politicians would be grateful if a court had the institutional legitimacy to declare the offshore processing system unconstitutional, without them having to bear the responsibility of this decision in the next election campaign.
Contemporary democracies rest on three pillars: political representation, human rights and the Rule of Law (defined as the effective capability of anyone to go to court to fight for one’s rights): without express justification, majority rule finds its limit when the rights of one person are trampled and judges are empowered to say so and stop the implementation of any law or government act that unjustifiably affects the rights and freedoms of at least one person.
An Australian Bill of Rights would benefit all persons within Australian jurisdiction, Australians first and foremost, but also foreigners.
“Australia’s bipartisan refusal to resettle any refugees held on Manus Island and Nauru continues to cause physical and psychological harm, and will deliberately and permanently split vulnerable families, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees has said.”
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