Media release: Toxic debate 'damaged Australia's soul'

World Vision's Tim Costello, Archbishop Freier and ABC Radio's John Cleary on the asylum seeker issue

John Cleary from ABC Radio, Archbishop Philip Freier and World Vision's Tim Costello at Deakin Edge.

October 12 2016The toxic asylum seeker debate has “damaged Australia’s soul”, World Vision CEO Tim Costello told a public meeting in Melbourne today.

Mr Costello said it would not have been possible for the Abbott Government to have cut Australia’s overseas aid to its lowest level ever “without this toxic debate”.

In the third of Melbourne Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier’s public conversations for the year, Mr Costello said the world was “retribalising”, driven by questions of identity.

Archbishop Freier questioned the national political leadership, which took a much harsher approach on both sides than former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke. He said when people normalised such misleading language as “illegals” about asylum seekers, it was not surprising that the next step was harsh punishment.

He said the most fundamental value was that of human life, even though border security was properly an important responsibility for governments.

Mr Costello said Government policy was built on three pillars of stopping the boats, indefinite detention and temporary protection visas. Because the first pillar had been successful, the second could be detached, and refugees in offshore detention centres could be resettled without risking a rise in people-smuggling and deaths at sea.

The conversation, at Deakin Edge Theatre in Federation Square, was moderated by ABC Radio’s John Cleary. Watch the public conversation here.