Thousands of Australians and their families should have been out of Afghanistan years ago. They're only there because they've been waiting for this miserable, nasty government to process their visas: a government whose tardiness is matched only by its malice.
The Morrison government has been running a blatantly discriminatory visa program for years. If your husband or wife is from Afghanistan, it takes on average 43 months for them to get their visa; from America or Western Europe, seven to nine months. This is not due to national security. It's a result of deliberate, systemic, effectively racist discrimination in the visa program, which started when this Prime Minister was the immigration minister.
And the consequences are now clear. My community tells me that Australians and their loved ones will now pay with their lives. I hope it's not too late to save many thousands more, but there can be no doubt about this Prime Minister's culpability. He will never be able to look these Australians in the eye. He must go to his own grave bearing the shame and the stain of these deaths.
The negligence of this government in abandoning interpreters and others who helped us is also clear. Last week the PM said "despite our best efforts, I know that support won't reach all that it should. … We wish it were different".
Well, it could have been different and it should have been different. The government was warned for years about the risks of these delays, and no amount of prime ministerial spin and marketing and blame-shifting can cover up his government's moral failure to issue the visas and bring these people to safety.
Nor can it account for his own moral failure and his tone-deaf response to this crisis—his nonsensical position that refugees safe here won't be sent back to Afghanistan, but they can't stay permanently. When, exactly, does he think it will be safe for the Hazara people, or women, or anyone else to return to live under the Taliban? Afghan Australians have been in this country since 1860.
Now is the moment for urgent, national generosity, but, as always with this failed Prime Minister, it's too little, too late. From an abject lack of preparation for the worst bushfires to the failure to build a safe quarantine system, from being stingy and slow in securing enough vaccines to dragging his feet on economic support for his lockdowns, and now his lethal negligence in Afghanistan, this Prime Minister is always too little, too late, always refusing to take responsibility.
Afghanistan was this country's longest war, costing 41 Australian lives, 261 ADF casualties and billions of dollars. It's a debate for another time: What was it all for? What went right? What went wrong? What lessons must be learnt for the future? But it cannot just pass with a prime ministerial shrug of the shoulders: 'We wish it were different.'
The focus right now has to be, urgently, on cleaning up the government's mess as best we can. But I call on the government to commit to a full and transparent public inquiry, on the whole 20 years but particularly on the failure of the last few weeks and the failure of the visa program for years, risking the lives of Australians and their loved ones.