All morning I’ve been listening to the brouhaha coming out of Canberra about old boats, new boats, more boats, and border security. I have listened all sides of politics talking energetically about how important security is for Australia and how we must find a solution to stop the boats. Furthermore, I’ve heard that stopping the boats can only be achieved by everyone coming together and finding common ground, as Australians.
I’ve been bristling, mad and despairing. This is because the Commonwealth doesn’t have legislative authority over those refugees, or the boat owners, or the Indian Ocean. The simple facts of territoriality mean that the Parliament can’t regulate the behaviour of offshore non-citizens, and it can’t impose on others to do so either. Offshore processing is just a dungeon under the castle.
People aren’t rivers to be dammed or tuna to be caught. They are active agents pursuing their chosen course and if they chose to get into boats and come to Australia, risky in so many ways, then there is not a thing that the Commonwealth of Australia should do about it until the moment they arrive. To suppose that the Commonwealth can, or should, attempt to regulate offshore non-citizens is not only arrogant and vain, it’s hubris of the most pointless kind.
Suffering is always concrete suffering; it cannot be separated from its context.