Children on Nauru.
Children on Nauru.

We will pay a price for our compassion

FINE, call it compassion. Praise the Morrison Government for bringing over the last boat children on Nauru, along with their families. But be clear: our will has been broken, our threats exposed as empty. And a price will be paid.

If the boats once more come, no illegal immigrant will believe our politicians when they'll again bluster that they'll never, ever let these gatecrashers stay.

See, both Labor and the Liberals said that before, and now look.



Take Labor's Kevin Rudd during his last desperate months as prime minister. To stop the boats he'd recklessly lured over, he reopened a detention centre in Papua New Guinea, announcing in an address to the nation: "People who come by boat now have no prospect of being resettled in Australia."

Malcolm Turnbull, as Liberal prime minister, said the same two years ago: "The door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler … Those passengers will never settle in this country."

Except now they have.

Some 250 children of illegal immigrants have already been taken off Nauru over the past few years, with their parents.

Malcolm Turnbull two years ago said the door to Australia was closed. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas
Malcolm Turnbull two years ago said the door to Australia was closed. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas


As did Labor’s Kevin Rudd.
As did Labor’s Kevin Rudd.


In the past fortnight, 47 children were brought to Australia, along with 90 adults. And the last 38 children still on the island will soon follow.

Curiously, it was former attorney-general George Brandis, now our High Commissioner in Britain, who in a radio interview in Britain revealed the plan, saying: "There are hardly any children in Nauru and (Papua) New Guinea and we expect that by the end of this year there will be none."

Asked about this the next morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not deny what his office privately confirmed was the truth: "Children have been transferred off Nauru … I haven't been showboating about it."

Now, you may think: at last! Compassion!

After all, the children had lived on Nauru for up to five years, so just let them in. Move on.

But let nobody think this doesn't carry a potentially lethal risk. Now the whole world knows that when our leaders say boat people will never be allowed to stay, they don't really mean it. In time, they will crack.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison when he was Immigration and Border Protection Minister in 2013.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison when he was Immigration and Border Protection Minister in 2013.

Indeed, many of the illegal immigrants on Nauru were already banking on it. Some were refusing to go home to Iran, which is not a war-torn country. Even more surprising, 71 had refused resettlement in the United States. They knew Australia, a prize welfare state, would buckle, and the next lot of boat people will know that even more.

There's one more thing they'll know. To bring their kids. To load them onto the boats, bring them into the detention camps - and then have them go on hunger strike.

Yes, because boys and girls as young as 11 have been starving themselves on Nauru to be sent to hospital in Australia with their families.

One 12-year-old Iranian who'd almost starved himself to death refused to go to Australia for treatment unless his stepfather could come with the rest of his family.

How many of these scores of suddenly sick children were deliberately put in harm's way?

How many other children will again be loaded onto boats by parents who see them as the keys to unlock Australia's gates?

We've already seen how deadly it can be when our "compassion" is marketed as "weakness" in poorer countries.

When Rudd dismantled our offshore processing centres, hoping to seem kinder, he inspired an invasion of boats that brought over 50,000 illegal immigrants. Worse, another 1200 men, women and children died trying to sail here.

Back then, most on the Left did not want to consider this terrible price of their "compassion".

In 2011, when 200 boat people on just one boat drowned off Indonesia, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young was asked whether our soft border policies were to blame.

She ducked any responsibility, saying: "Tragedies happen, accidents happen."

Today, the Left is again dodging debates about the consequences of compassion, even though Labor's "compassion" drowned people and filled the detention centres that the "mean" Liberals have emptied.

But it's strange that the Morrison Government also now acts as if ashamed, rushing now to bring over the last children on Nauru.

True, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has since sent a tougher message than his Prime Minister, insisting that those who are brought here would eventually be sent back to Nauru, or sent back home, or on to a third country.

" People are not going to settle here permanently," Dutton said.

But do you want to bet?