What motivates a democratic, peace-time government to imprison innocent men, women and children? Former Liberal MP Judi Moylan looks at the divisive history of Australian border policy.
Few matters have been more fiercely debated in the Australian Parliament or more unsparingly ventilated in the media than the recent and ongoing treatment of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
To understand what motivates a democratic government in peace-time to implement policies that imprison indefinitely thousands of men, women and children who have not been charged with or convicted of any crime we must turn to historical, social and political attitudes.
Though countries around the world guard their sovereign powers jealously to determine who may enter, the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia has been particularly high profile and divisive. This article seeks to understand why.
The White Australia Policy
Immigration has been contentious in Australia since the early days of European settlement. It was an issue during the establishment of the Federal Parliament in 1901 when two early bills underpinned what became known as the White Australia Policy.
The Pacific Islanders Act prohibited islanders from entering Australia and the Immigration Restriction Act imposed an English language test, effectively barring entry for most non-English speaking people. One Member of Parliament said: “No matter what measures are necessary, Australia must be kept pure for the British race who have begun to inhabit it.”
Between 1945 and 1955 one million immigrants came to Australia. Even after the Menzies government signed up to the 1951 UN Convention, refugees continued to be selected according to the colour of their skin.
(You can read on clicking above link.)