How can politicians weep and wail and then meekly head off on holiday?
Yesterday was the last sitting day of our Federal Parliament before a six-week recess. During this time 20 MPs will head overseas for study tours, with parliamentary delegations and to attend the Olympic games. In recent days we have seen the asylum seeker debate heat up as an increasing number of refugee boats head toward our shores. Some of these boats are unseaworthy, most are overcrowded, many are sinking and lives are being lost. A bill created by Independent Rob Oakeshott passed the Lower House but was rejected by the Liberal National Party Coalition and the Greens in the Senate. In the absence of a legislative solution, the Prime Minister has now announced an expert panel, led by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, to address the problem with ‘fresh eyes’. A multi-party parliamentary committee is also planned. Given the call for a bi-partisan approach to the issue of illegal immigrants by MPs from all parties, it is disappointing we have reached yet another impasse. Which raises the question whether our political leaders have failed us – and if our parliamentary system is now incapable of delivering solutions to our national problems.
So the Oakeshott bill to proceed with offshore processing of asylum seekers has failed to pass the Senate. No surprises there. Mr Abbott has said under no circumstances will his party support a Malaysian solution and the Greens will not support offshore processing, full stop. Putting party politics aside, let’s consider what is going on with our leaders. Over the past few days we have seen politician after politician stand in Federal Parliament and weep tears of frustration and distress over the loss of life occurring in Australian waters as leaky boats founder, causing men, women and children to drown. We have even seen a flutter of hope with a call for a bi-partisan solution from West Australian MP, Dr. Mal Washer. But this all seems to have come to nothing. The bill has failed. The boats will continue to set out and lives, sadly, will probably still be lost.
There are two things that stand out. And two questions we really must ask. Firstly, what kind of leaders have we got, who are prepared to go on a six-week break when this matter remains unresolved? How can they go home and pack their bags for a break in Europe or North America or China (call it a study tour if you wish) when there are genuine refugees dying on our doorstop? Has our party system finally broken down? What is the point of electing highly paid representatives who, when the going gets tough, respond by getting going - out the door? How can these people weep and wail and then meekly head off?
And before we go back to our own (relatively) comfortable lives, should we all not ask ourselves how much we care, personally, that scores of people have died in our coastal waters over the past few weeks? If a school group of 20 children died at Bondi because of a freak wave, the outpouring of grief and outrage would be relentless. But when the same number of people with different coloured skin, is lost at sea, we somehow seem to discount the tragedy. Surely a life cut short is a tragedy, regardless of age, nationality or circumstance. Where is our sense of humanity?
If you do care, have you told your local MP that you want a solution now?
Not sure how? Well, here’s the link.
Surely it’s time we all stopped making excuses and started coming up with solutions. Our leaders can only get away with a lack of resolution if we let them. So if you think our leaders have failed us, isn’t it up to us to force them to act?
What do you think? Have our leaders failed us? Have we failed ourselves?
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