Big Tough Turnbull Is Securing Our Borders From An Invasion Of Babies


OPINION: Malcolm Turnbull is marking time while he makes stuff up. Liam McLoughlin weighs in the Prime Minister’s handling of all things asylum.

Thank God for our fearless leader who, over the weekend, exposed the secret Schlieffen Plan for refugee babies.

The Prime Minister has made the compelling point that letting 37 babies stay in Australia instead of sending them to Nauru to be sexually abused would send the wrong signal to foreign babies. It would inevitably lead to a baby blitzkrieg sweeping down through Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, flooding the country with breast milk and Napisan.


So in responding to the High Court decision to uphold Australia’s right to imprison innocent children, Turnbull has revealed his true colours. Turns out he wears the same “fascistic brown” sported proudly by Tony Abbott.

Where Abbott was more your bumbling inept criminal from Home Alone, Turnbull is more your smooth criminal, but the operative word is the same.

Turnbull’s disgraceful interview with Barry Cassidy on Insiders on Sunday is illustrative. If you can stomach hearing our Prime Minister perpetuate these lethal lies without being called on them, the relevant minutes are 12:07 to 16.18.

Asked about the morality of exposing children to considerable trauma by sending them to Nauru, Turnbull says, “Managing the security of Australia’s borders is one of the most challenging problems, issues, that the Australian government faces”.

Apart from being about as related to the morality question as an answer about his favourite kind of Ferrari, framing the question of protecting babies from sexual abuse as a matter of securing the borders is the same wilfully deceptive and destructive national discourse that was Abbott’s specialty.

We hoped Mr Turnbull would be better than this. He isn’t.

He then equates caring for babies with the abolition of offshore processing: “If we unpick that (offshore processing), and that results in the people smugglers exploiting it as a marketing opportunity, which they undoubtedly will, then we will see more people, more vulnerable people being exploited, getting onto leaky boats trying to come to Australia.”

Firstly, letting the 267 asylum seekers stay does not mean abolishing offshore processing and mandatory detention. Although I wish it did.

Secondly, he poses a false dilemma between torturing asylum seekers in remote prison camps and an explosion of people smuggling and boat arrivals. There are very good third, fourth and fifth policy alternatives which would stop deaths at sea and torture, and you can find some of them here. They include giving asylum seekers in Indonesia realistic prospects of efficient resettlement in Australia, closing the camps and using the spare billions of dollars to fast track resettlement, radically increasing our humanitarian intake and safely flying or shipping asylum seekers here for community processing.

Finally, this exercise in faux compassion really is sickening. Tell the UN Committee on Torture that Australia is being compassionate. Tell the over 100 nations who have condemned our human rights abuses. Tell the relatives of the more than 30 innocent people who have died in detention since 2000, tell the children who may be damaged forever by the trauma of detention and the women who have been raped on Nauru and Manus.

Malcolm Turnbull and Barrie Cassidy, on ABC's Insider program.
Malcolm Turnbull and Barrie Cassidy, on ABC’s Insider program.

Let’s see what they say about Malcom Turnbull’s concern for vulnerable people being exploited.

We hoped Mr Turnbull would be better than this. He isn’t.

Barrie Cassidy then asks the Prime Minister if Australia could be selective about who it lets stay. Perhaps it could protect the young child who was raped? Turnbull responds, “I will choose my words carefully because everything I say is being looked at in the finest, most detailed way possible by the people smugglers who will look at any opportunity to get back into business.”

Because we all know the people smugglers in Indonesia, often local community groups or refugees themselves, like nothing better than their traditional hot cup of tea, a croissant and watching Insiders on a Sunday morning or catching up with it on iView.

He continues with his very tough non-answer to the question about protecting raped children: “People who seek to come to Australia with people smugglers will not succeed, they will not settle in Australia. We are providing every incentive to the people on Nauru to go back to their country of origin.”

To clarify, you’re trying to incentivise people to return to the countries from which they fled because of life-threatening danger? And they won’t take the bait? Those bloody difficult asylum seekers.

“We’re providing them with incentives to settle in other countries.”

You mean like Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, countries with horrific human rights violations almost as bad as Australia? And they don’t want to go? What are those asylum seekers thinking?

Mr Empathy goes on to tenderly explain, “We are dealing with these issues, these very delicate, these anguished issues with compassion and we are dealing with them on a case-by-case basis. But what I’m not going to do is give one skerrick of encouragement to those criminals, those people smugglers who are preying on vulnerable people and seeking to take their money, put them on the high seas in boats where like as not, they will drown.”

new matilda, malcolm turnbull
A file image of Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time, 2015.

Sorry, I’m confused, which criminals preying on vulnerable people are you talking about now Malcolm?

Here we were thinking torture of children and rape of women were bad things but we’ve all been so blind to this broader humanitarian crusade! How short-sighted and silly of us!

He continues: “There are no policy options available in terms of border protection which are not tough, which cannot be described as harsh.”

First, stop calling it border protection as if refugees are invading, and second, yes there freaking are. You just refuse to talk about the many alternatives because you are so preoccupied with your own gargantuan ambition and so crippled by the thought of not living up to it, you are blind to the cruelty you inflict.

We hoped Mr Turnbull would be better than this. He isn’t.

He finishes with, “The critical thing is to maintain the security of the border”.

No, Mr Turnbull, the critical thing is for you to stop lying to the Australian people. The critical thing is for you to stop perpetuating the myths of the Abbott government and actually start the kind of mature, evidence-based national conversation you bang on about.

The critical thing is for you to stop the human rights abuses and show some decent moral leadership.

But you won’t do that Mr Turnbull, will you? You’ll continue preaching the same misinformation from the Abbott immigration policy bible until the refugee movement pressure becomes so great that you buckle.

That day is coming Mr Turnbull. #LetThemStay. #GetInTheWay.

Liam McLoughlin teaches English, politics, and media, and writes a bit. You can find his stuff at Situation Theatre or on Facebook and Twitter. He still can’t decide which quote is more profound: Karl Marx’s “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness” or Stewart Lee’s “David Cameron and Ed Milliband are about as different as two rats fighting over a courgette that has fallen into a urinal. The main difference being that the David Cameron rat is wearing chinos, in an attempt to win over the youth voter”.