Scott Morrison may believe compassion is some kind of affliction, but I believe it is important; just as I believe its absence is a character flaw. And like anyone with any compassion, I was obviously happy to see the Phelps Amendment passed yesterday.
But having said that, it is quite a limited and conservative amendment really. My happiness was certainly tempered by the fact that there is still much more that needs to be done; and even more so by the government response in the following 24 hours.
Still, it is at least a start. I must say I had little faith in them, but I have to give some credit to Shorten and the ALP for not buckling in the face of sustained and deceitful public pressure from the government cheerleaders in the Murdoch Press.
No surprise that in the aftermath of its embarrassing loss, the government has doubled down on its dishonest scare campaign about the poor victims of its abuse. Enthusiastically abetted by a media who seems wholly uninterested in the fact that the boats never stopped and record numbers of asylum seekers have entered the country under the current Liberal Government, ScumMo et al took their lies and rhetoric to a whole new level.
Of course that probably would have happened anyway (I actually said a few months ago I was waiting for the scare campaigns and partisan headlines to start properly). Much like a real life version of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, Scott Morrison will always seek to capitalise on fear and hatred to draw us towards evil. If Shorten had backed down over this bill, he would still have copped the same ‘soft on people smugglers’ garbage he is getting now. He just would have also been exposed on the left by people disgusted at his capitulation.
The government’s weaponisation of people’s suffering should shock us, but it has become such standard behaviour for the Coalition since the Howard years that it is barely questioned. The constant scare tactics have had their effect on the national psyche and diminished us as a people.
And that is probably what I find the most disheartening. In truth, the outpouring of joy at this decision shows just how low we have set the bar for compassion in this country. Legislation that allows critically ill or at risk people being held in unjust detention in our name to be evacuated to where they can receive appropriate medical attention is a baby step on the way to an immigration system we can take pride in.