A simple way to end Australia’s human rights abuses on Nauru and Manus Island

Steve Hind
Apr 29, 2016 · 2 min read

When they’re not treating the plight of the asylum seekers Australia locks in island gulags as an input into the horse race, the commentariat ask despairingly what we can do to solve this intractable problem. The parties, the cry, are in lock step on this issue, deviating only to blame the other and reassert their ‘toughness’.

I have a modest proposal that I think would solve this problem remarkably quickly. It is tangible. And it is something every Australian can do in the coming months.

My proposal is this: at the election, vote only for parties that commit to closing the gulags. The Greens are the most obvious example. If enough people do this, Labor will lose a raft of inner city seats to the Greens. That will make it clear to Labor that there is political downside to supporting the gulags. (There is also a damning moral downside, but they have amply demonstrated they don’t care).

Absent a bipartisan consensus, the plan is more likely to fall apart. At a minimum, it will mean that when Labor retakes office, they are more likely to dismantle the camps. (I only say more likely because the party have shown themselves repeatedly to be capable of cruel political cowardice on this issue.)

It is a particular feature of this plan that the Labor politicians most likely to lose their seats to the Greens include many stalwarts of Labor Left, like Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese. For those who say we want to keep those leading lights of the left in the party, fighting for what’s right, I simply ask ‘how’s that working out for ya?’. If a plan has failed repeatedly, it may be *just about to work*… or it may just be a stupid plan. (See also: marriage equality)

If you oppose the gulags but support one of the major parties, you actually support the gulags. You support a mode of politics that has no uncrossable lines. Drastic, unprecedented abuses of the human rights of profoundly vulnerable people are not a ‘con’ in a list of pros and cons. Just how much negative gearing reform justifies torture? What is the nature of the infrastructure plan that outweighs ignoring suffering? Just how much funding for our children’s schools forgives locking other people’s children away in tropical prison camps?

If we refuse to oppose what is wrong, we may as well commit the wrong.

Many of the world’s worst problems are also it’s most intractable. This is not one of them. Every single person in Australia can take action at the ballot box in July. Do it.

Steve Hind

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I love bringing people together to solve difficult problems and implement great solutions - across investing, media, tech, and Effective Altruism.

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