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What Good Does It Do?

What good is it to survive a treacherous journey from Java to Christmas Island in a rickety old wooden boat on high seas if when you get there you are only going to be sent to a crowded rape gulag in Papua New Guinea?

helen-lovejoy.jpg You can interpret that question in 2 ways. You might say there is no point at all and that is exactly why the policy is a good idea. We are being cruel to be kind. On one hand you might argue that the Papuan rape gulags have to be nasty or else how will we discourage people from risking their lives being (people) smuggled on boats? It is indeed a good thing that there is no point risking your life on the open seas if you will certainly go to Papua New Guinea where you will wait an indeterminate length of time (probably years) in a rape camp before you get to leave and go somewhere else in Papua New Guinea. This is a humanitarian policy and the boats have to be stopped. For the sake of the babies. Oh won't somebody think of the children!?

Of course conversely you might argue what point is there in saving children from drowning if all we are doing is condemning them to the much greater terror of the places they come from? I mean what if we send every last refugee to Papua New Guinea and they keep coming! What if this is no deterrent at all? What then Mr Poindexter programmatic specificity, did you think of that? I mean it is not like we haven't tried this before. Reports from within the Christmas Island detention center seem to indicate that wasn't a very nice place to be either and people didn't stop coming. Try reading about it here and here. So let's be clear about the fact that there are no new ideas from Liberal or Labor on the matter of asylum seekers. Everything being proposed now is just a rehash of crap that has been tried before. Every policy position up until now has been some riff on the idea that if we treat people like crap they will stop getting in boats AND IT HASN'T WORKED. The idea that it is not enough to treat people like crap but that you need to treat them with unusual cruelty to boot, is not actually adding anything new to a policy debate that desperately needs new ideas.

Indonesian Boats

But let's not talk about the boats. Let's accept that there is a range of push and pull factors that cause people to get on boats and try to make it to Australia. Let's step away from the specific matter of stopping the boats and talk about something slightly different. Let's discuss what sort of Australia we want this to be and what it means when people from other countries come here to live. Yes it is true that we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances which they will come but that doesn't mean it is compulsory that we be racist arseholes. Let's ask ourselves why it seems to be that we don't want them to come on boats. Actually let's discuss why we don't want them to be Muslims or other darkies at all because that is quite clearly why Australians don't want refugees that arrive by boat. There. I've said it.

Young Muslims

A few weeks ago Tony Abbott was at a campaign launch for Liberal candidate Carmen Garcia, who's running for the seat of Adelaide. Tony talked up his tax cut and emphasized Ms Garcia's Filipino background. Carmen is one of many candidates who aren't part of that old Anglo establishment that used to so characterize our party, Mr Abbott said. I'm so proud of people who have come to this country not to change us but to join us he added. If you were a dog, your ears would be ringing for hours after Tony Abbott put down that whistle. Not to change us but to join us. If Tony Abbott felt like it was so important to reassure the public that Carmen Garcia, a Catholic just like 5.4 million Australians, is no threat to Australian values imagine how he would have fallen over himself to reassure the mildly racist majority if Carmen Garcia were not the exact same religion to Tony. A Muslim for example. If Ms Garcia wins she will be the first federal MP of Filipino descent. Although not the first Catholic MP. Carmen Garcia will be the billionth Catholic MP in Canberra. So congratulations Liberal Party, way to break that glass ceiling for Catholics.

When Tony Abbott says that he is proud of people who come to this country not to change us but to join us, what he doesn't say is more telling than what he says. What he means is that for ever Carmen Garcia that comes to this country to join the Liberal party there is somebody else who comes trying to change us rather than join us. Presumably by joining the Labor Party or the Greens. Which part of the 7 million people that have come to Australia as migrants in the last 60 something years does Tony Abbott believe have set out to change our country rather than join it? 44,156 refugees have arrived in the last 5 years and needless to say many of them have probably been Muslims. In 1981 Muslims made up 0.53% of the population of Australia or 76,792 people. According to the 2011 census, 2.2% of the total Australian population, or 476,291 people were adherents of the Islamic faith. That is a 438% increase in 30 years. Of course before that throughout the 20th century came the Greeks, Italians, Jews, Dutch and Irish and all of them, now second generation Australians, are now accepted as being as Aussie as anybody else that walks down the street. One gets the distinct impression that Tony Abbott is probably not pointing the finger at the Italians or the Irish when he complains that some migrants come here to change us although undoubtedly they did change us when they brought their Pizza, Pasta, Guinness and Catholicism half way across the world to Australia. It is more likely that he blames the newer migrants to Australia. The Muslims. But what exactly does join us rather than change us even mean? Did a gang of Muslims hold Tony to the ground and force hummus down his through while trying to cover up his big ears with a head scarf?

Before any of this came the poor of London, shipped out to Australia as convicts unwelcome any longer in their homeland. Aboriginal elders at the time of course complained that Admiral Arthur Phillip was not only a people smuggler trading in the suffering of others but that he came to change Australia rather than to join Australia first Refugeesbut their protestations landed on ears unfamiliar with the Aboriginal vernacular. If I had been there at Sydney Harbor when the locals watched Captain Phillip's ships sail by I might have tried to convince them that change is inevitable. They might have told me that nothing had changed for many tens of thousands of years and provided my proficiency in the Aboriginal tongue had not yet failed me in this time and space astral projection I might have consoled them that unfortunately the age of things staying the same in perpetuity has gone. I might have told the Aboriginal elders that we are entering into an age of rapid human evolution. Now (1788) begins a time where ideas and cultures will clash and only the best ideas from the different cultures will survive to form a new way of mankind. This they would have had no way of understanding and Tony Abbott, it would seem, struggles with the idea also.

Ken Robertson was the Labor candidate for Kennedy, but he has resigned after reportedly calling Tony Abbott a bigot. I hope Australia never has to suffer his Catholicism and the things that he's doing personally, because I think he's a very, very kenRobertson.jpgbigoted person, Robertson reportedly said. He'd have the White Australia policy back in a flash, if he could. I am not sure why Ken Robertson had to resign but since I am just a guy with a blog and not an election candidate let me offer my support to Ken Robertson and the things he said about Tony Abbott. The Opposition Leader is a bigot and would certainly have a White Australia policy back in a flash if he could do it. Why don't we observe a spade on the ground in front of us and pronounce it to be indeed a spade? The reason why we give preference to plane arrivals over boat arrivals is because plane arrivals tend to be Poms and Kiwis and boat arrivals tend to be Sri Lankans and Afghanis. That is not the same as the White Australia policy but let's at least acknowledge that it exists in the same ball park.

The problem is fundamentally about values. Tony Abbott and men and women of his ilk, believe that Australia is a great country because we are English speaking, Christian white people. This is why they want to turn back the boats and it wouldn't be so bad if it didn't completely misunderstand what makes Australia one of the best countries in the world to live in. Australia is a great country because in Australia you can do whatever you want so long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of other people to do whatever they want. People can say what they want and profess to follow any religion they please. Importantly also, Australians enjoy equality of opportunity because this is something we believe in. We believe that in Australia anybody can make a happy fulfilling life for themselves if they study and work hard. No Australian need suffer in poverty and disadvantage because they were born into the wrong family or the wrong skin color. This is part of the social contract that all Australians understand implicitly because it informs everything we do. It is in our hospitals and in our schools. In our public service and in our private sector. They are more important than religious values and are therefore have to be independent of them. Islam does not threaten our Australian values, Tony Abbott does.

Why would it matter if there was a Mosque on every street corner if we adhered to the principal that you may do as you please provided what you do doesn't prevent others from enjoying the same right? The volume on the call to prayer is just going to need to be turned down a few decibels. What does it matter if your grandchildren go to school with kids named Ali, Ahmed, Bashir and Bilal? Your kids are still going to be taught secular sciences and history at High School. Kids in Afghanistan don't get to go to school at all. 

Street Children in the third world

Ironically it is the newest arrivals to Australia who understand better than anyone what makes Australia so great. They have a perspective not possible if you have lived in Australia all your life. They come from countries that are not so blessed with the freedoms we enjoy in Australia.

The world is now a battle of ideas. Mankind no longer evolves to his environment he now changes his environment to suit himself but it requires a vibrant atmosphere of social innovation. Society is now a marketplace of ideas. Different cultures and religions are increasingly coming into contact into the new globalized world and previously foreign ideas sit beside each other in clear contrast. Bad ideas go by the wayside and good ideas propagate to be adopted by more and more people. That women should not be educated is an example of a demonstrably bad idea and one that cannot survive in societies where we believe that both sexes have a right to education. That sitting around a hookah smoking Shisha is a good way to socialize with friends is the kind of idea that has a real chance of prospering in a society where proving your budding manhood over a carton of beer is the norm. Good ideas beat bad ideas when good ideas are given the chance to prove themselves more useful.

That Tony Abbott and the One Nation candidate who said Islam was a country, are afraid of a few thousand Muslims coming to Australia shows that not only do they misunderstand what makes Australia so great, it shows that they don't even trust in our values enough to believe that in the marketplace of ideas that our ideas can win. Unlike Tony Abbott, I am confident that if a refugee from Afghanistan comes to Australia believing that young girls should not be educated that we can stamp that backwards way of thinking out of him. Tony Abbott's way of thinking is, in so many ways, mired in the 1960's, so it would be natural that he cannot imagine how others could change or develop as thinking human beings. He thinks that Afghanistani refugees make poor Australians because they are Muslims and because just as Tony Abbott would refuse to convert to Islam, they will refuse to convert to Christianity and as far as Tony is concerned that is the end of the story. Good Christian equals good Australian in the mind of Tony Abbott land and since religious belief is inherently inflexible and uncompromising there is no pathway to these people becoming good Australians.

The problem with this is that Christian beliefs are not what make Australia so great. The things that make Australia great are so much more viral than belief in Jesus Christ and ultimately they will chip away at the ignorance of all new comers. Prophets, bigots, sexists, misogynists and bastards are no match for Australian values and this is the really sad thing about the asylum seeker debate. By misunderstanding what it is that makes Australia great, they necessarily underestimate the power of Australian values. It is like they don't believe sincerely enough in our Australian values to believe that our modern Australian values can prove to be better and stronger and ultimately victorious over any of the backwards beliefs that asylum seekers might bring them with from other countries. Because truth be told Tony Abbott doesn't fully share those modern Australian values with the rest of Australia.

There is a myth that refugees come to Australia to sit on Centrelink and enjoy the largess of the tax payer, but nothing could be further from the truth. They are a boon to our economy doing many of the jobs that Australians refuse to do and they bring new ideas and ways of thinking. Just as we hope that the best of our way of living will be adopted by them so too should we be open to the possibility that they might bring ideas useful to us.

Cute Muslim kid

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ryan Albrey published on September 4, 2013 12:25 PM.

Anything But Labor, Anything But Liberal was the previous entry in this blog.

The Trouble With Whiny Bitch Musicians is the next entry in this blog.

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