This morning, the government announced long-awaited plans to relocate asylum seeker children and their families from detention centres on Nauru by the end of 2018.
“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,” former Attorney General, George Brandis said.
Indeed, since social pressure ramped up over recent weeks– including a formal petition signed by 6000+ healthcare professionals supporting the immediate resettlement of children– the government has made progress. There are now 40 children on the island– down from 52 the week prior.
But it’s also necessary, if they hope to win the next election.
Following the government’s loss at the Wentworth by-election, and resulting loss of its majority in the Lower House, there is a greater need than ever to act on key social issues like this.
A recent newspoll showed 80 per cent of Australians expected children to be relocated and disagreed with the government’s long-argued position this could destabilise border security.
“Children have been transferred off Nauru, that’s been happening for some time,” Morrison told radio station 2GB. “It’s being done in accordance with our policies, our existing policies.”
However, earlier in the week, former PM Tony Abbott told the same station that Nauru was a “very, very pleasant island”
“Nauru is no hell-hole by any means. I’ve been there,” he said “If you like living in the tropics, it’s a very, very pleasant island.”
“Kids off Nauru’ is a great slogan, but it’s a dreadful guide for policy,” he further added.
“If we aren’t allowed to have kids on Nauru, then [people smugglers will say] just bring some kids with you and you automatically get to Australia.”
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz agreed, reiterating to Fairfax the importance of keeping the country’s borders secure.
“The suggestions that have been made in recent days would likely trigger a recommencement of that disgusting trade, something I am hopeful nobody wants to see,” he said.
Former Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs welcomed the government’s news but made no bones about their perceived change of heart.
“Political events and community approaches have quite simply forced the Government’s hand,” she told The ABC.
“I don’t mean to be lacking in grace about this, it’s wonderful news and I’m sure the families and children and all of us are delighted for them, but the reality I suspect it is political.”
Liberal MP, Julia Banks called on Parliament to stop political “point-scoring” and focus on the crux of the issue.
“It is wrong to say these children and their families are not detained,” she said.
“Sure they are not behind bars and they can walk about freely. But the will, especially the will of a parent with a sick child wanting help, it’s a detention of their mind and their spirit.”
This decision is inarguably long overdue.