Asylum seekers: We are a racist country

The uproar over the asylum seekers shows how racist Australia is. Not just Australia, but our media, and those it appeals to. A handful of asylum seekers doesn’t threaten anything about Australia – not demographically, not economically, not culturally, not militarily: there is no threat. There is simply the same old fear of being “swamped by Asians”, or Middle Easterners, or whoever. We should be clear: Kevin Rudd has returned to the same racist attacks on refugees that Howard specialiased in. But Malcolm Turnbull is unsatisfied, and escalates the issue with his revolting and racist rhetoric. In this interview, he actually brings up the topic, completely unrelated to anything asked, to attack refugees and their rights.

Can I make one other comment on another topic. We have seen another boat intercepted today, the people smuggling boat with illegal immigrants, unauthorised immigrants. Now Mr Rudd has to now admit that his border protection policies are failing. He has lost control of our borders. Since he started softening our border protection policy we’ve had 41 boats and just under 2,000 arrivals. His policies have failed.

The measure of the success of the policies is the extent to which people smuggling occurs or does not occur. It’s occurring now at an increasing pace. Mr Rudd has to recognise that failure in policy and what we need urgently is an independent inquiry to examine why his policy is failing, what can be done to address it. We’ve got to address this problem otherwise the pace of unauthorised arrivals will just gather more and more momentum.

This is the Labor party’s racist contribution to Australian politics, which the Liberals are picking up on. Instead of referring to refugees or asylum seekers, they refer to “people smugglers”, and “people smuggling boats”. That latter term refers to… a boat full of refugees. Of course, Turnbull goes on to refer to them as illegal immigrants. Uh, Mr Turnbull, someone who applies for asylum is not an illegal immigrant. People are allowed to apply for asylum in Australia. Turnbull goes on to insist that Rudd’s changes have made Australia a “soft target”. Imagine that – some people think Australian should be a country which doesn’t treat refugees punitively. This is ideological belief that we should be cruel to refugees.

Malcolm Fraser has spoken out against this. Meanwhile, Andrew Bolt shows his expertise on the plight facing Tamils in Sri Lanka: “Let’s presume (on little proof) that these educated and monied Tamils could not stay in Sri Lanka”. Yes, oh Bolt, surely wealthy Tamils couldn’t face any danger in Sri Lanka. He also wonders why they can’t go to any other country in the world. It’s a wonder he doesn’t suggest they go to Bangladesh (or perhaps, Somalia). Bolt is right about one thing: Rudd is no different from Howard. Bolt’s message from the Tampa issue is almost hilarious: “The message was: We pick our refugees from among the most deserving.” Yes, that’s why we turned back a boat of desperate refugees. That’s why we cherry pick among refugees we do let into the country.

Take Bolt quoting this:

Even the 255 Sri Lankans now held by Indonesia cite Rudd. Said their spokesman, Alex: “First of all I would like to say thank you to Mr Kevin Rudd because he has accepted many refugees in the past. We came until the last point believing that Australia will accept us into their country.”

Bolt thinks of that as a shameful proof of Rudd’s iniquity: not something to be proud of (however skeptically it should be taken) – that a refugee spokesperson praised Australia as a decent country for refugees. Bolt goes on: “The question is whether we should let as many people come who have the money to pay people smugglers, and how best to stop them.” As it stands, we take in very few refugees (see Peter Singer’s book on how ethical Australia is for discussion).

As it turns out, Bolt reveals Rudd’s ugly face better than many leftists might:

It’s not clear to me that Rudd’s much-praised way is more moral than Howard’s, if we judge not by the seeming but by the results.

How moral is a softer policy when we’ve since seen 25 people drown or die in explosions in trying to get here?

Yes, Rudd ended Howard’s “Pacific Solution”, but will these Sri Lankans be grateful? They now face detention in Sumatra rather than Nauru.

And how more kind is Rudd really, when our annual humanitarian intake has been cut from Howard’s 14,144 three years ago, to 13,500 today?

You didn’t know? You fell for the “bad Howard” spin?

I think I’ll start reading Bolt daily. A good conservative voice can be more informative than soft progressives who lie in service of the party. Or take Sheehan, who in some ways is worse than Bolt. He thinks Rudd is too soft on refugees. But he usefully exposes the hypocrisy of Labor, particularly that pompous fraud, Michael Danby.

The Government’s sanctimonious hubris was encapsulated by the federal Labor MP Michael Danby, who, after a tour of the 800-bed, $400 million detention centre on Christmas Island last July likened the facility, a legacy of the Howard government, to a ”stalag”, a ”German prisoner-of-war camp” and an “enormous white elephant”.

That would now make Danby party to a policy of cruel military detention, because the Christmas Island detention centre is overflowing. For more than a year, the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, maintained the pretence that softening policies on asylum seekers would have little material effect. To support this fiction, boat people were transferred to Christmas Island but housed in a construction camp, private accommodation and an obsolete detention facility at Phosphate Hill. Anywhere but the detention centre.

Reality eventually prevailed, so much so that the Government is shipping 200 bunk beds to Christmas Island. It is readying another 500-bed detention centre in Darwin. It is funding another detention centre in Sumatra on behalf of the Indonesian Government. It will send demountable homes, meant for Aborigines, from Alice Springs to Christmas Island to increase the detention centre’s capacity.

Turns out, the crimes of Howard have been continued by Labor: the very government Danby is part of. Oh well, at least he can pontificate about Tibet.

It is nice that Sheehan understands the view of the “refugee lobby”

1. Australia is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which confers rights and obligations about the treatment of asylum seekers.

2. Australia is a signatory of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which requires that asylum seekers be treated humanely, not as law-breakers.

3. Indonesia is not a signatory to the convention and therefore not an option for asylum seekers.

4. There are thus no queue-jumpers because there is no queue to jump.

5. The number arriving by boat is relatively tiny.

6. Most would risk grave danger if they were returned to their country or origin.

7. Australia, a wealthy nation, is morally obliged to help the desperate poor.

8. Detention of boat people is racially discriminatory.

9. Criticism of humane asylum policies reflects xenophobia.

10. Criticism also encourages or reflects Islamophobia.

Zhi Yan in the SMH/National Times.

But consider that unauthorised boat arrivals to Australia continued to increase after the introduction of temporary protection visas in 1999 (48 per cent more asylum seekers arrived by boat in 2001 than in 1999). Boat arrivals only started decreasing in 2003 when global asylum seeker numbers started dropping. The evidence suggests temporary protection visas have no value as a deterrent to unauthorised boat arrivals. [the facts are important for demagogues, but I don’t like this argument. If it were showed that these measures reduced the amount of asylum seekers, this would not make cruelty to asylum seekers just. Shooting asylum seekers would presumably also reduce the amount of asylum seekers coming to Australia, but that would not make it a just policy for Austrlaia to pursue.]

Most asylum seekers come to Australia by plane, not by boat. Last year, more than 96 per cent of asylum seekers arrived by plane, hardly the kind of statistic to justify the punitive hardliners’ histrionic focus on boat arrivals. All of the recent reforms to asylum policy – such as the abolition of detention debts and temporary protection visas, the reform of work rights for asylum seekers and the introduction of a bill on complementary protection – are reforms that have been recommended in the past by bipartisan Senate Committees. They have also been recommended by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights Committee.

So when Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal MP Sharman Stone or Western Australia’s Premier, Colin Barnett, call for an independent inquiry or re-examination of Australia’s refugee policies, shouldn’t they look first to the independent inquiries and reports that already exist, and look to implementing the reports’ recommendations?

Bob Ellis wants us to take in Tamil refugees.

It is hard to see why we won’t take these Tamils. They are fugitives from a lost civil war, recent massacres and the threat of genocide. They are beautiful, intelligent and English-speaking. There are no Tamil triads menacing western Sydney. There are few Tamils in our gaols.

Note how Ellis tacitly accepts the same sort of argument Andrew Bolt or Paul Sheehan would make. We should take in Tamils because they are not like other ethnic groups who don’t speak English, who have higher rates of being gaol, who cause trouble in Sydney’s West. This is from the supposed expert on “racists” who think there might be some reason Obama doesn’t deserve a peace prize.

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Comments
One Response to “Asylum seekers: We are a racist country”
  1. Andrew says:

    What you describe as racisim is simply an observation that a load of white South Africans in Perth have caused the police and our society less problem than a handfull of Sudanese or other assorted third world types. Check the crime statistics if you want to see I am right. By simply repudiating all these UN agreements (the UN largely a collection of undemocratic countries anyway) we ca get rid of the problem. Refugees are supposed to apply at the nearest safe country. These are asylum shoppers and de facto queue jumping econmic migrants who need to be shown the door. Most opinion polls indicate Rudd is out of touch with his ellectorate on this issue. As you are.

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