Refugees pawns in cruel political game

THE Prime Minister may not want a wimp running Immigration but the public has a right to expect whoever is doing the job to be truthful.

It is now clear that Scott Morrison knew a week ago that his initial statements about what happened on Manus Island were incorrect.

Regardless of individual views on asylum seeker policy, once Australia takes away people's liberty and takes control of every aspect of their lives and future, it takes on a tremendous responsibility.

Shifting asylum seekers to remote islands ultimately controlled by other governments does not discharge that responsibility. Mr Morrison's statements immediately after the incidents in which Reza Berati was bashed to death indicate a desire to suggest that those who were injured got what they deserved.

"I can guarantee their safety when they remain in the centre and act co-operatively with those who are trying to provide them with support and accommodation,'' Mr Morrison told reporters.

"When people engage in violent acts and in disorderly behaviour and breach fences and get involved in that sort of behaviour and go to the other side of the fence, well they will be subject to law enforcement as applies in Papua New Guinea."

Mr Berati was killed inside the detention centre. It now appears that many who hid under beds to try to escape the turmoil were dragged from those hiding places when PNG security forces and others were allowed in.

Refugees on Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island are pawns in the game of Australian politics. According to international conventions this country has signed they are not illegal arrivals.

Stopping the boats is less about saving lives than it is about dealing with domestic perceptions created by intemperate political statements dating back to the spurious "Children Overboard" claims of October, 2001.

The demonisation of refugees is a political strategy that dehumanises real people to then justify their treatment. Labor and the Coalition have been in a race to the bottom that may win votes in marginal seats but in no shape or form represents the values to which many Australians aspire.

On the Sunshine Coast a number of volunteer groups are now displaying, by helping refugees fortunate enough to hold Temporary Protection Visas, the real compassion that exists in the community.

Their efforts are a reminder that behind the mealy words of politicians there still exists a sense of decency in this country which takes courage, generosity of spirit, commitment and a willingness to act on what is believed to be right.

There is nothing wimpish about that.