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.

About rustichello

A rather too quiet fellow of little reknown.
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1 Response to overreach

  1. Djurbekka says:

    It’s even worse. The Commonwealth can’t do anything and the politicians either don’t know or won’t say that they do. All these claims of policy being able to affect desperate people willing to risk a lot for what Australians take for granted at the same time as whining for ‘more’. It isn’t that politicians ‘lack a narrative’ as many commentators suggest; it’s that they stir up false expectations through false narratives of power. It makes me wish for more politicians like Malcolm Fraser who could see that Australian policy and action had contributed to the situations from which Vietnamese refugees fled and so had a responsibility to help.

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