John Menadue, a CPD Director and formerly Secretary of the Department of Immigration in the Fraser Government (1980 – 1983), offers a roadmap for those seeking the facts amidst the the heated debate about refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. He wades through the misinformation, lies and unfounded opinions to get to what we need to know to start a useful conversation. Read on if you’d like to join in.
The “race to the bottom” in our treatment of asylum seekers is littered with misinformation and untruth. It seems that the greater the untruth, the more traction it has in the community. The media has largely gone missing.
As described by the columnist David Roberts in climateprogress.org in the US, we are moving into an age of “post-truth politics” where there is little close examination of claim and counter-claim. We seem to have only players and no referees in public discussion. Facts have become a hindrance.
As the late Senator Daniel Moynihan, of New York, said “everyone is entitled to their own opinions but no one is entitled to their own facts”.
The politics of refugees is becoming a policy and fact-free zone.
Let’s look at some of the “facts” doing the rounds:
We need an independent and professional commission with a small secretariat and budget to pull us back from the misinformation and the cynical politicisation of asylum seekers and refugees. If that is done, I am confident that, based on the facts and with leadership that appeals to our better instincts, the Australian community would have a clear understanding of the importance of protecting our borders and human rights.
With Malcolm Fraser’s leadership and the support of the ALP, we showed that we could do both when there were much larger outflows of refugees after the Vietnam War.
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