Our Prime Minister commented on the death of the poor little Syrian boy who was washed up on a beach in Turkey, like so much flotsam, certainly a very disturbing image. His comment was that if the local authorities, in Turkey and elsewhere, were stricter about turning back the boats, about preventing boats landing, then as has apparently happened here in the land of Oz, refugees, economic migrants and others would not set out in the first place, and hence not be at peril upon the sea.
I am reminded here of the ‘Wayne LaPierre Defence’, or WLD as I shall call it. Wayne LaPierre, for those of you who don’t know him, is the spokesman and executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, NRA, in the United States, who regularly appears after some gun massacre in a school, cinema, or elsewhere. One might expect him to say that the problem, sadly, is that there are too many guns around, and too many of these are automatics or shotguns, highly lethal military killing weapons. One might expect him to say that the NRA is in favour of controlling these weapons, of encouraging greater responsibility in gun ownership, of not allowing weapons to be carried concealed in public places, and so on. Far from it. The WLD has it that there are not enough weapons about, too few people have them, and that only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun, so all good guys should have guns and carry them around all the time. The WLD is what one would expect in a world gone mad, where up is down, black is white and wrong is right. It just does not compute for normal folks who believe that the whole problem is that there are too many guns and no gun control at all. The WLD is a recipe for more gun violence, not less.
I said that Abbott’s remarks reminded me of the WLD. I am not however suggesting that more boat stopping would give rise to more drownings of children, though it might – it might if it meant that desperate refugees were willing to climb into smaller boats that could more easily evade the boat stopping patrols, but which were at the same time less sea-worthy. This would be the literal equivalence of the WLD. However, stopping people leaving Syria, and elsewhere, would surely lead to more people dying from the fighting, more people being stranded for long years in camps in Jordan, Lebanonand other bordering states, and further misery. The upshot is thus the same: people dying.
The answer of course is not to stop the boats but help the people who get on the boats get safe passage to a place of refuge: they are after all refugees. Abbott has no interest in that. He is only interested in staying in power and pursuing his only reckless experiment at playing at leading the country, surely one that we can all see has failed miserably.