Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Hitchen on asylum seekers

mike hitchen unleashed asylum seekers gillardExplaining Australian democracy to those overseas is relatively easy. It can best be summed up by explaining that in Australia we don't have elections - we have mass media inspired, populist bandwagon jumping competitions. Voting is compulsory, which is probably just as well as elections are held on Saturdays and that's when the footie is on. Enforcing democracy at the point of a letter and fine from the electoral commission is the best way of ensuring that we all turn out to vote for who jumped on the populist bandwagon the fastest and highest.

Athletes use performance enhancing drugs to boost success but Australian politicians rely on more obvious means to achieve their goal. One of the most successful is immigration, a subject that thanks to the tabloids and radio shock-jocks, is largely misunderstood by voters who turn to the red tops and loud mouths to form largely uninformed opinions. Every election you can be sure that asylum seekers will be high on the list of shock-horror stories pushed by those media outlets that believe you can fool all of the people all of time - and have the ratings to prove it. Politicians of course, then have to address such concerns. They say that the first casualty of war is truth, in Australian politics the first casualty of elections are asylum seekers as opposing leaders compete to see who can come up with the most simplistic, jingoistic slogan.

On the one hand we have Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition party. A man who if elected, would stride the international political stage giving the perception that he represents us as "Australia's National Nutter" (he is referred to within his own party circles as "our resident nutter")

Turn the boats back" he says of the asylum seekers from countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan - countries who the Howard government helped turn into areas of mass destruction.

Then we have Julia Gillard, whose career I have followed and admired since her first parliamentary speech. Her solution is a regional solution, which is basically the same as the old and ineffective Howard government's Pacific Solution, but wrapped in prettier paper and delivered with rather more style and aplomb.

Much of the hysteria about "boat people" or "asylum seekers" is based on misinformation and gross exaggeration of numbers and facts behind the trashy headlines. It is not a problem confined to Australia, it is a global problem. Which ever government is elected, and whatever solution they choose - the problem will still exist because there are millions of people all over the world with ever shifting homes - thanks mainly to the actions, agendas and greed of others.

It is fair to say too, that the public and media anger is directed towards certain demographics - Sri Lankans, Iraqis, Afghans. White Europeans - no problem mate, which is just as well as without them we wouldn't have a national soccer league.

Asylum seekers who have lost their homes, livelihoods and families, are branded "economic refugees" without of course any valid data to back up such theories - apart from "well, they can afford to pay them people smugglers can't they - so they must be well off - stands to reason like dunnit." The fact that many have families working in bondage (who radio 2GB listeners think is just south of Bondi) escapes them - because the man on the radio hasn't told them such important bits of information.

No one worried too much about the "Ten Pound Poms" who came over as economic refugees and who have done very well for themselves - heck, one is even our new Prime Minister! Without immigration we would not have had the Snowy Mountains scheme, some of our most successful business leaders were for various reasons, refugees or asylum seekers.

We are a huge country with a population about the same as Greater London. We can afford not only to fulfill our international obligations, but to embrace newcomers and help develop the interior, instead of crowding everyone into the bits around the edges. Yes, we will need new infrastructure, but as half of us spend half our time complaining about lack of infrastructure - what exactly is the problem?

Oh yes of course, the answer to that question is there - in black and white.

Wherever you may be - be safe
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