Antony Loewenstein writes today in the Guardian calling for UN sanctions of the Australian government in relation to asylum seeker policies. As a progressive, this makes me distraught and another signal the broad Australian ‘left’ is unsure about what comes next and where to from here on asylum seekers.
To see how completely ridiculous this idea is, here is the DFAT list of current sanctions by the UN Security Council:
Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
Terrorism (UNSC Resolution 1373 (2001)
Regardless if you think Australia belongs with these regimes in terms of human rights and other abuses, it is simple to see that a successful call for sanctions against Australia is inconceivable. This wouldn’t happen once from a thousand votes at the UNSC. This is an idea rooted in a world disconnected from what occurs in New York.
I don’t believe Australia belongs with these regimes. These organisations and individuals are systematically murdering millions of people. A good case can be made the Australian government has mistreated asylum seekers, causing widespread mental health damage. A good case cannot be made as to why this belongs with groups such as the Taliban and the Sudanese government, where genocide is the norm.
Talk is no longer enough. The UN has had more than 20 years to convince Australia to abandon mandatory detention and its associated ills. Frankly, it hasn’t tried hard enough.
Instead of the UN as a useful scapegoat, forever thus for both conservatives and progressives, it is time opponents of asylum seeker policies in Australia, as voters and citizens, try harder. Many would take this as an insult, given the campaigns which are run and the undoubted hours propelling them. However a simple survey of the existing policy landscape shows this effort is for very little. The rules keep shifting right. There are no boundaries to this debate.
I don’t know what the answer is. I do believe current policy towards asylum seekers will be looked back on with distain by future Australians, an unimaginable head scratcher for school children of tomorrow. But this should not diminish the challenge of change. It’s the hardest public policy challenge in this country given the last two decades of policy have super charged opinion. Political perceptions are so firmly embedded, Operation Sovereign Borders is widely accepted, perhaps even seen as too soft. This is the failure, one which I and Antony Loewenstein have played our small parts in. It is the failure of the left in Australia on behalf of asylum seekers.
Calling for UN sanctions is nothing more than a chimera, another in the long list of ideas which will not eventuate and will not help those sitting in mandatory detention or offshore camps. Reassessment, hard truths, a renewed commitment. These are the foundation stones to a new framework for asylum seeker policies in Australia.