Last Saturday, the good ol' Telegraph reported that 800 Indonesians 'could' be arriving on our shores. The headline shrieked and blared 'Invasion'. In Abbott and Gillard's televised debate on Sunday night, the 'boats' (we're not talking dragon boats or Sydney to Hobart yachts here) were mentioned several times. Ah, the doctoring, fashioning and promotion of boat people phobia - how our media and governments love it!
I'd like to know how many people in Australia actually fear refugees/asylum seekers. How many of us really think people smugglers are 'evil' or 'scum of the earth', to quote a couple of Labor leaders? I'd like to meet an Indonesian refugee and a people smuggler just to see what sort of person they are, so I could form my own opinion, not be manipulated by the rhetoric of Suits fostering and selling paranoia.
Every Australian government from now to the end of the world will campaign on the 'here comes the gruesome OTHER, ready to take our homes, our jobs, our children' theme. There are WW2 echoes of 'the Hun' and 'the Jap' here. There needs to be sensible discussion about the processing and accommodation of asylum seekers from our leaders, not empty words about stopping boats from departing their destinations and turning boats back. This will never happen in a sustained, effective way. As long as there's war, neglect, tribalism, global warming leading to rising sea levels, genocide, hatred, xenophobia, religious persecution etc. overseas there will be hopeless people fleeing countries that are a mess. We need to learn how to embrace these escapees.
Vietnamese, Polish, Italian, Greek, Armenian, Lebanese, and many other races, have helped shape Australia. Many of these people were escapees. As Mick Jones, in the immortal Big Audio Dynamite, once sang, 'Don't anybody know that this city was made of immigrant blood and money?'
LJ, July 28 2010.