Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Let them come to New Zealand

John Key is off to Australia this week for regular talks with Malcolm Turnbull. And while its been unreported in New Zealand, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, he's offering to take Australia's latest refugee PR disaster off its hands:

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has opened the door to accepting 37 asylum seeker children destined for Nauru, offering a solution to the current immigration standoff through a deal he struck with former prime minister Julia Gillard.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week, Mr Key said it was "potentially possible" for New Zealand to accept any genuine refugees from Australia under the agreement.

Mr Key said it had originally been made because it was "sensible and compassionate".

The context: two weeks ago, Australia's High Court found that offshore detention was lawful, clearing the way for 267 refugees - including 72 children, 37 of whom were born in Australia - to be deported to Nauru. The decision has led to protests across Australia, to State Premiers announcing that the refugees are welcome in their state, to hospitals refusing to discharge refugees to prevent their deportation, and to churches and other groups openly declaring that they will provide sanctuary to refugees. This is a tipping point in Australia's attitude to refugees (Australians apparently being willing to tolerate offshore gulags only if they are illegal), and it threatens to destroy the Australian governments vicious policies. So naturally, John Key is stepping up to help out. Its the humanitarian thing to do, but there's a nasty feeling he's doing it to help keep Australia's racist and inhumane policy in place.

Of course, Key is merely repeating the same offer he made to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. And there's a reason why both refused it: because they view New Zealand not as a place where people might want to live, but merely as a stepping stone to Australia. Those 37 Australian-born kids could live here, become New Zealand citizens, then move to Australia! And when your whole policy is founded on a promise that no refugees will ever pollute Australia's fair white shores, and a view that having a well-founded fear of persecution and thus being entitled to protection is somehow cheating, the trans-Tasman travel arrangement seems like a backdoor (of course, this would require people to choose a country which had rejected them over one which had welcomed them - but like Americans, Australians believe their filthy, racist shithole is the greatest, and can't believe that anyone might not want to live there). So, while I hope Turnbull will accept Key's offer, and let us save those 37 kids from Nauru, I don't think its likely.