EDITORIAL MONDAY 05.07.10.
Here we go again. It must be election time because apparently we have a border protection crisis. That’s a phrase that would seem to imply that villains are crossing our borders at will, raiding and pilfering our goods, assaulting and raping our citizens, and disappearing back into the dark with their ill gotten booty. Either that or the rampaging armies of a foreign power are engaging in hostile raids upon our soil, firebombing our factories and blasting our bridges. Or maybe that clandestine secret agents are infiltrating our society and subverting it from with in through sabotage and sedition. Any of those things would amount to a crisis in border security, but none of them are actually happening. So what’s the fuss?
The fact is that the only crisis which exists is the political crisis confronting a party which is terrified of not getting enough votes to win an election. That was the case in 2001 when the Tampa incident was shamelessly transformed into a manufactured crisis, pandering to and promoting irrational fears in order to secure votes. It is still the case today with the Federal Opposition in particular banging the very same drum for the very same reason whenever they talk about border protection, deliberately implying that there is a threat from which our borders must be protected. But it’s just not true.
Our borders are very well protected. Boats arrive, they are intercepted, and the system is working well. When more boats arrive, more demands are placed upon the system, but it still works well. They talk about the floodgates and the idea of our country being swamped with asylum seekers, but that’s not true either. The fact is that there is a quota for the number of refugees that Australia will accept, which is 13750 per year. That quota does not change no matter how many boats arrive at Christmas Island or anywhere else in Australia. But most insidious is the demonization of people who almost always turn out to be genuine refugees.
None of them will actually say it straight out, but all the talk of illegal entry, border security, and people smuggling, is loaded with the implication that the asylum seekers are in some way undesirable or evil. The rhetoric is dripping with prejudice in a way that can only promote and propagate unfounded fears which are then exploited for political advantage. But the truth is that genuine asylum seekers are usually good people who have the courage and initiative to do whatever they can to escape a bad situation, the kind of people who will be more likely to make a positive contribution to our community than to cause it harm.
The truth is that Australians have been lied to, first by the Howard Government, and now by the Abbott Opposition, for purposes of political expediency. They have swept aside the fact that our nation has signed the United Nations Convention on Refugees, and as such has promised to defend the principles of liberty and human rights by offering genuine asylums seekers a place of safe haven. They seem to be acting as if the principles of democracy, freedom and human rights should only apply to us and not to all human beings. And the really sad thing is that it looks as if the Gillard Government, like the Rudd Government before it, might be contemplating pandering to those same irrational fears, rather than exposing them for the lies that they really are.