Ethicist warns of risk to Australia's reputation
An ethicist is warning that the Australian Government's immigration policy and treatment of asylum seekers is putting the country's global reputation at risk.
An ethicist is warning that Australia's global reputation is at risk due to the Government's immigration policy and treatment of asylum seekers.
Matthew Beard, from the Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame Australia, told Alex Perrottet refugees are at risk, as well as Australia's standing in the world.
MATTHEW BEARD: Prime Minister Abott's response to suggest that any self-harm that is going on is a product of moral blackmail and is not something that the government will be subjected to and victimised by. The callousness of that and the insensitivity of that holds true even if the reports proves to be false. The fact that the seriousness that the environment might be, or is reported to be causing people to acts of self-harm, and the response is to say "shame on them" for committing acts of self harm is really problematic from the government considering the whole motivation of this policy was looking out for people so that they don't drown at sea. If we are genuinely concerned for the well-being of these people then nothing should trouble us more than reports that people are committing acts of self-harm because of the environment that they are in.
ALEX PERROTTET: It's these sorts of policies that get these sorts of governments voted into power, and the government would not be so confident in its approach of stonewalling the media if a good deal of the Australian public didn't support it. Why do you think so much of the Australian public opinion is probably a little bit quiet at the moment because they quietly support the government's actions?
MB: I think the language in which we conduct these conversations immediately paints a picture of corrupt people, smugglers, selfish, impatient people who don't want to wait their turn. And for an egalitarian community like Australia, the idea of queue-jumping is particularly offensive because we do believe that everyone should be given a fair go in turn. So the language of queue-jumping and the language of people smuggling seems to provoke particular responses.
AP: The supporters of the government will look at this in its cold detail and say well look, there's far less boats, there are lives being saved because leaky boats aren't being sunk and this is just one of the small, minor incidents that the government really just has to see through. Do you think that is what's going to happen?
MB: I think if we are going to look purely through the lense of outcomes in evaluating this policy, I think we need to treat seriously the cost to Australia's reputation in the global community that this policy is causing. There's a lot of interest in this from news outlets all over the world, finding this immigration policy particularly troubling, and that doesn't bode well for Australia as a tourist destination, as a potential trade partner, and the soft power that Australia will hope to have, especially when it is a temporary member of the security council. Soft power and influence is going to be really, really important and I think we are undermining our moral authority as a global player at the moment.
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