Federal politics: full coverageFresh breakout at Manus Island
The apparent delivery of the first of Tony Abbott’s three-word promises as Prime Minister is being undermined by a lack of accountability that is unsustainable.
It is one thing to hold back information that might be useful to people smugglers. It is another to dismiss serious allegations as unworthy of investigation, and to besmirch those who consider it in the public interest to report them.
And it is another to continually demonise those already in indefinite detention in punishing conditions on Nauru and Manus Island, and to obfuscate on their fate.
Abbott’s ”stop the boats” promise clearly resonated with the electorate, but voters are entitled to know how that promise is being implemented and even Coalition supporters – or a majority of them – believe the claims of ”torture at sea” should be subjected to scrutiny.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison rejects calls for an inquiry because he has been assured that nothing untoward happened when a group of asylum seekers was turned back to Indonesia.
He says the claims that asylum seekers were deliberately burned are being ”endlessly repeated” in a bid by ”smugglers and others” to undermine the government’s policy, yet surely a short, sharp and independent probe could have quickly put them to bed.
The Prime Minister says he is ”thrilled” Indonesia and the US can have candid talks, but his joy will be tempered if our largest, nearest neighbour expresses its displeasure at how its opposition to his turn-back-the-boats policy has been so flagrantly disregarded.
Moreover, the lack of clarity about what awaits those already on Nauru and Manus Island is an invitation for tensions to erupt, as they did in a minor way at Manus Island at the weekend.
Telling them, as Abbott did on Monday, that ”if you don’t want to be in detention, don’t come illegally” might deter others from coming but only worsens an already fraught situation in the camps.
So does prejudging their claims by casting them as people who ”are living in a horrible country” and want a better life.
Follow us on Twitter