Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and shadow immigration minister Richard Marles are pandering to the politics of fear by supporting the forced turnbacks of asylum seeker boats.
The Australian Labor Party, which aspires to be a party of the centre, is being asked by its leader to abandon its principles of fairness, compassion and respect for international law and copy the Liberal-National Coalition’s policy of forcing back people seeking protection from persecution.
No mainstream political party in any country is prepared to support such an extreme policy and even a far right party like the UK Independence Party thinks Australian policy is too hard-line.
Around the world, fair-minded people are astounded that a country like Australia appears happy to undermine international law, snub its nose at its neighbours and jettison any notion of compassion towards vulnerable people.
If the policy being promoted by Mr Shorten and Mr Marles were copied around the world, the global system of asylum would collapse overnight and refugees would be left to face death at the hands of their persecutors.
As the world faces the challenge of 59.5 million displaced people, 19.5 million of them recognised refugees, Australia’s unilateral response is unsustainable.
Not only is Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, turning its back on persecuted people, it is actively encouraging other nations to do the same.
As refugees find fewer and fewer places of safety, the world will see more despair, more desperate people undertaking dangerous journeys and more deaths.
Across Asia, many refugees are struggling to find food, shelter and the most basic levels of freedom – while Australia is spending $636,000 per year to lock up each asylum seeker it sends to detention on Nauru.
At a time when the world needs constructive leadership, Mr Shorten and Mr Marles are pandering to the politics of fear offering nothing more than a unquestioning imitation of the appalling policies of their political opponents.
Paul Power, chief executive officer, Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)