“We need to see the world clear eyed as it is, not as we would like it to be, or as we fondly imagine it once was. Secure borders are essential. Porous borders drain away public support for multiculturalism, for immigration, for aid to refugees.”

This is how Malcolm Turnbull tried to defend Australia’s persecution of refugees at the United Nations General Assembly.

He placed the blame for anti-refugee sentiment not on his government’s policy of locking up on Nauru and Manus Island thousands of people seeking asylum, or on the vicious demonisation whipped up by the media, nor on the Department of Immigration and Border Security’s notorious “No Way: You Will Not Make Australia Home” advertising campaign.

Instead, he said that the problem was Australia’s borders have been too open.

This is the twisted logic that started under the Rudd/Gillard Labor governments and was taken up with gusto by Tony Abbott. You have to be cruel to be kind, you have to stop the “illegal” or “irregular” refugees from entering Australia in order to be able to take in more the “right way”.

And yet for all the self-congratulatory pats on the back for offering to accommodate 12,000 Syrian refugees, as of March this year fewer than 30 had been brought here. Fewer than 30. And for those on Nauru and Manus Island, there is no end in sight to their intolerable situation.

On the same day that Turnbull spoke at the UN, Queensland’s anti-discrimination officer handed down a report about the self-immolation of Hodan Yasin, a Somali refugee. It said that the case was a “test of whether we are a civil society”, and revealed allegations that, while she was in hospital with burns covering 70 percent of her body, the government denied her access to community support, welfare organisations and her family.

This is the sort of regime Turnbull says should be emulated around the world.