For those not in the know, Scott Morrison is one of the head-kickers in the increasingly hated Liberal-National government of Tony Abbott (in Australia). Morrison has made a name for himself as former immigration minister, actively victimising asylum seekers for his own political gain. In the process, he has moved Australia further and further away from internationally agreed conventions concerning asylum seekers, refugees, human rights and so on. The crunch came when he asserted that some people can forego their human rights and be treated accordingly – as in the case of a man who had been convicted of womanslaughter for killing his wife, served his prison term and was now to be freed. Not so, said Morrison, since he had abrogated his human rights.
How can this be? Said many. Did not Morrison, the pentecostal Christian from Shorelive Church, once quote the words of Jeremiah, in his inaugural speech in parliament:
I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.
Morrison went on to explain:
From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others.
And then, quoting Desmond Tutu:
we expect Christians … to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.
My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous … generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice.
Hypocrite, opportunist, betrayal … all these and more are levelled at Morrison. How can one who espouses such beliefs, who claims to be a true liberal, be so cruel to asylum seekers and refugees?
It is actually perfectly consistent with a liberal position. Morrison does not offer compassion, kindness and justice to everyone. The ‘poor’ in question are not all the poor, for liberals consistent limit the definition of the ‘all’ to whom their principles apply. The majority are actually excluded. For Morrison and his ilk, the excluded can be treated like dirt, since God doesn’t care for them.
Morrison is very much in the mould of John C. Calhoun, vice-president of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century and champion of liberalism. Calhoun was an impassioned champion of liberty, which should be defended at all costs. His favourite targets were concentrations of power, ‘fanaticism’ and the spirit of ‘crusade’, against which he upheld the rights of minorities. Which minorities? They clearly did not include slaves. For Calhoun, slavery was a ‘positive good’ and the opponents of slavery were ‘blind fanatics’. In other words, tolerance, justice, compassion are for a select few, for those who count as human. The rest need not apply.
So there is no inconsistency in Morrison’s position. He is a good liberal, with Christian principles. In fact, he would make an excellent slave owner.