BY MICHAEL MULLINS
AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard referred to arrangements for the proposed reopening of the Manus Island detention centre as a 'partnership' with Papua New Guinea.
It is wishful thinking to consider people smuggling a regional problem that bothers our neighbours as much as it does us.
The partnership consists of Australia funding the detention centre and PNG providing the location. In reality, PNG is not worried about people smugglers but supports the partnership because it sees the detention centre as a boost for the local economy.
Earlier this year, ABC correspondent Liam Fox visited Manus and discovered overwhelming support from locals for the mooted reopening of the detention centre.
Business owner Ken Kuso told him: “I think it's good news for me, when they established the asylum seeker centre in Manus last time, actually I benefited yes, the Australian government planted a lot of money to this small island community and we really benefited from it.”
Profiting from the misery of others is the odious principle underlying 'disaster capitalism'. Disaster capitalism was conceived by extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago who argued that profit rather than humanitarian concern should be the motive behind disaster management.
A background paper from the Edmund Rice Centre explains that disaster capitalism is “financing a new world economic order … Each new disaster can generate great excitement as reconstruction becomes a big business”.
The authors suggest the concept also applies to Australia's asylum seeker detention centres, which are run by multinationals such as the British firm Serco.
Manus locals enjoying an economic windfall from the detention centre is hardly a serious manifestation of disaster capitalism. But it does represent a small-scale example of the increasing global phenomenon of business profiting from human misery.
What is worse is that it is at the heart of the Australian government's pitch to the PNG government, at least implicitly.
The desire to stop people smuggling is not the reason that PNG has agreed to the facility. If there was no economic benefit, it would have declined to proceed.
The Australian government might argue that PNG's motivation is a matter for PNG. But in going ahead with the Manus solution, Australia is complicit in the exploitation of the suffering of asylum seekers for financial gain.
Not only is Australia providing the opportunity for this to occur, it is condoning it. If PNG looks to Australia for moral leadership in the treatment of asylum seekers, they are misguided.
Source: Michael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street http://www.eurekastreet.com.au