The Problem for Today is this:
What is wrong with refugee policy? Well, here is the thing: a lot of debate circulates these days about whether the government's refugee policy has "failed". Fair enough? Of course. But when you're discussing whether something's failed, you must decide what exactly success would mean. And the thing about the refugee "debate" is this:
It has been entirely based on the premise that the purpose of refugee policy should be to stop people coming to Australia on boats.
This is why the debate goes like this:
"Has the government stopped boats coming? If not it has failed!"
"Wait, no! The boats come for other reasons! Therefore, it has not failed!"
You see? Government and Opposition argue over whether the policy has failed, but on both sides exists the tacit understanding that the reason we have a policy is to prevent boatpeople arriving.
But WHAT IF this was a false premise?
WHAT IF refugee policy, ideally, was not aimed at simply stopping boats?
WHAT IF refugee policy's success or failure could not be judged purely by numbers of boats coming to our country?
WHAT IF refugee policy, in fact, should have as its primary concern the protection and welfare of refugees?
WHAT IF the Australian government decided that it would calibrate its policy toward the end, not of stopping the boats, but of achieving the best outcome possible for the greatest number of desperate, dispossessed, and fearful people of the world?
WHAT IF every time the Opposition screamed, "THEY DIDN'T STOP THE BOATS! WE WILL STOP THE BOATS!" the government calmly replied:
"We are not primarily concerned with stopping the boats. Perhaps someday, when the number of boat arrivals comes anywhere near even remotely posing any kind of threat to sustainable population levels or our way of life, we might have to adjust this approach, but for now, we consider it far more important to bend all our efforts towards helping people who have suffered hardships and terror far beyond what most of us here in Australia could fathom. For now, we will do our utmost to ensure that genuine asylum seekers are identified, protected, and assisted with settling in the country that so many Australians have worked so hard to make attractive enough for people to give up all they have and risk their lives to reach. For now, we will work on educating the Australian population on actual facts, such as the tiny number of boatpeople who actually come here, the circumstances in which refugees find themselves overseas, and the total and indisputable legality of anyone claiming asylum on foreign shores. Should you, in Opposition, wish to pursue electoral success by appealing to the worst instincts of people, by spreading fear, racism and xenophobia via the propagation of lies and distortions of reality, go ahead. We believe most people are intelligent, decent and capable of rational thought, and we choose to appeal to these qualities in our attempts to remain in power. Do your worst; we will do our best."
What if that?
Haha, only kidding! As if!