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The real question raised by the #SaveHakeem campaign

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16.02.2019

With apologies to Charles Dickens . . . it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The best of times saw the nation come together under the leadership of Craig Foster to save a Shia Muslim refugee to our shores from a Thai prison and the clutches of the rulers of Bahrain. In the realms of the never before seen, the #SaveHakeem campaign saw Australian opinion mobilised on the side of justice and decency to save – can you believe it? – a . . . Muslim . . . refugee. In emphatic defiance of those who would demonise the religion. Can anyone think of a precedent? I cannot. It really was Australia at its best. As a people, we made a difference.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster with refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi at Melbourne International Airport on Tuesday,Credit:AAP

And yet the worst of times – happening concurrently – has seen the government and the usual slab of the commentariat combine in hysteria over a simple proposal to provide medical care to refugees under our care who have been on Manus and Nauru for up to seven years. The proposal is no more than base-level decency. And yet, as feared, conservative spin has moved into overdrive to portray Labor, the Greens and independents as combining to willfully unleash hordes of the great unwashed our way even as rapists, murderers and paedophiles are given the green light to come from here from the camps.

It is nonsense, and they know it. (And Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes wonderfully demonstrated exactly that on Sky, of all places, when they grilled the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Wednesday morning.)

The real question is this: can the same nation that embraced #SaveHakeem also embrace such transparent nonsense, at the same time? I frankly........

© The Sydney Morning Herald