Why does Australia imprison innocent women, children and men?


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.)

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9 Responses to “Why does Australia imprison innocent women, children and men?”

  1. 8 Degrees of Latitude Says:

    Judi Moylan is my sort of Liberal. Sometimes you have to speak from the heart, especially on policy matters that deal with events and circumstances that political dog-whistling has conjured into a “threat” where none exists. The formal policies of both major parties (Coalition and Labor) regarding unauthorized arrivals disgust me.


  2. 8 Degrees of Latitude Says:

    Reblogged this on 8degreesoflatitude and commented:
    A voice that deserves to be heard


  3. elizabeth2560 Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I had forgotten the l-o-o-ong history of Australia’s shame and it is interesting that the most empathetic of them all was Fraser who was always depicted as cold.
    (I note that he has come out as a critic on current policies).


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I think that is what Judy was pointing out in her article. Things are seldom done for no reason.


    • berlioz1935 Says:

      The question you are posing, Gerard can be answered by pointing out that we all came here as boat people and the first ones stole it from the Aborigines. So there is a certain degree of guilt in us.

      Now that we are here and have had possession of the land for over 200 years we behave like all other people in other countries. We are afraid of “the others”.

      Australia is a big country but people have no idea of the real size. . They think it is Malta. On a size A 4 piece of paper Australia does not look any larger than Malta.

      The reasons put up on why those people should not be admitted are all irrational and are being exploited to win elections.

      The inhumane treatment of asylum seekers comes as a huge financial cost too. The billions of Dollars could be spend developing housing and infrastructure for the new arrivals. We all get more work and the country will go ahead.

      But we don’t want to share “our piece of paradise” and instead show them what hell would look like.


  4. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    People have very poor judgement of real-life proportions and are easily frightened. Political extremists are never slow to use this to their advantage. I wish I could believe that we had developed at all since Roman times, but I guess that is only yesterday in geological times.


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