The guardianship of unaccompanied asylum-seeker children is a contentious aspect of Australian asylum-seeker law and policy. The current legislative framework for guardianship is curtailed by migration legislation and policy and is ineffective for realizing the rights of these children under international law. This paper contributes to existing scholarship on guardianship by critically examining political discourse on child asylum seekers. It combines the discourse-historical approach with doctrinal analysis to uncover the historical and political context and outcomes of the legislation. Critical discourse analysis examines statements made by politicians from both major Australian political parties and the parliamentary report rejecting the most recent attempt at reform. This paper reveals that, to reject reform and justify maintaining the status quo, the government has rationalized the detention of child asylum-seekers as essential to the success of deterrence measures, and moralized these measures by framing them as necessary to protect the lives of those attempting to reach Australia by boat.