Always torn two ways with successive waves of migrants, Australia has absorbed millions of new arrivals.
A decade and a half ago a change appeared in the Australian psyche.
Opposition and a genuine hatred appeared, directed towards one group of potential immigrants.
Refugees fleeing war, murder and torture.
Demonised, they became the symbol for all that was evil. Australia was being over-run by hordes of foreigners. To read the press it seemed that millions were swamping our northern coast. The panic was such that the Howard Government excised parts of Australia so that these new arrivals could be held and “processed” away from the precious land of Australia. Just about all the northern offshore islands which are a part of Australia were placed in some sort of legal limbo so that concentration camps could be built out of sight and out of mind.
The subsequent Rudd Government and it’s Tony Abbott-led Opposition began a race to the ethical bottom by taking it in turns to announce tougher and tougher measures against boating refugees.
To be honest, they are jumping the queue. Australia takes around 14,000 refugees under several UN sponsored schemes. The 2-3000 boat people reduce that figure to 11,000. Just as a bye-the-bye, Australia is the only country accepting refugees which applies this condition. And the person at the end of the “legitimate” queue may not be chosen by Australia to become a potential refugee. There is no real queue!
Potential refugee is the correct term. Some 80% to 90% of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are granted refugee status because they are genuinely fleeing persecution. The figure for those arriving by plane is 40%.
The cost for all this boating xenophobia is set to be around a billion dollars over the next twelve months. Because we are terrified of the fact that 10% of those arrivals may not be genuine refugees. Around 1 billion dollars of taxpayer’s money to keep out three to four hundred people.
As you sit in your car next slow-moving rush hour, bumping over the potholes left from insufficient road-repair funding and listening to the racist rantings of your favourite shock-jock just consider that one billion dollars and the 400 dangerous people it is being spent on. Be honest. Wouldn’t you prefer a road in better condition? In a country where most employable workers are off making their fortune in the mines, those boat people could be the ones to work on it.
The Roman poet, Publius Terentius Afer better known in English as Terence, (195/185 – 159BC) wrote “Nihil humanum a me alienum puto.”: ‘Nothing human is alien to me.’
The modern Australian seems to think the opposite. “
“No alien is human to me!”