It's time to get fair with refugees


IT'S nearly five years since Kevin Rudd defeated John Howard while promising to end the Pacific Solution and start treating boat people like the traumatised refugees most of them turn out to be.

However, not only has that promise not been kept, the Pacific Solution is back and even harsher than the one developed under Mr Howard.

The path that took us here is clear. Federal Labor tried to hedge its bets with an offshore policy it was never going to be able to sell. Now the release of the report by Angus Houston and his expert panel has pushed Labor straight back to Nauru and Manus Island.

Improving the lot of boat people wasn't a vote winner in 2007 and it's certainly not now. How- ever, surely at some point the Government should draw a line and say "this is wrong, we won't do it".

So far, we know most people who have come here on boats have been genuine refugees and it's probably safe to assume it's likely to stay that way.

In that light, Prime Minister Julia Gillard's back-flip on the issue means she and the party that endorsed it is prepared to allow the suffering of people who have already suffered through unimaginable horrors - all for the sake of votes.

How does that fit with the Labor ideals of social justice?

If Ms Gillard wants to make a populist grab for votes, perhaps she should try talking up the death penalty instead. That's wrong too, but at least the people who would be dying under that policy would have done something worse than get on a boat to escape the Taliban.

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