An interesting aspect of the Coalition’s suggestion that the ALP had committed to restoring $19 billion to the Australian Aid budget is that pro-Aid campaigners themselves had previously only mentioned $11 billion of cuts. That is, they intentionally inflate the level of cuts to more powerfully demonstrate their commitment to balancing the budget on the backs of the world’s poor. While politicians and Australia’s humanitarians war over the dollar figures in the forward estimates there’s another battle that’s less about our national budget and more about our national character – a war on generosity.
The commentary has covered the state of our material generosity – we’re now at the lowest levels of Australian Aid at any time in our history – but the fact that this is a point of pride for our Government, something they’d intentionally exaggerate to make a political point, says even more about our spiritual generosity. We are not only being financially mean, we are mean-spirited.
In the same vein, Immigration Minister Dutton’s logic-denying comments about illiterate and innumerate refugees who would “take Australian jobs” – while at the same time languishing on welfare for years – were depressing not only for their calculated fear-mongering but also because they announced that even the illusion of generosity towards refugees no longer has a place in the Coalition’s narrative.
The good refugee / bad asylum seeker dichotomy once employed to maintain some claim to compassion has been abandoned. No longer are dehumanising deterrence measures an ugly necessity that allows Australia to generously welcome more (carefully-vetted, individually selected) refugees but EVEN THESE refugees are here to rob Australians of work, drain our resources and undermine our living standards. When it comes to refugees, compassion is a weakness rather than a virtue.