This has been an interesting couple of days for Australian politics. Both the LNP and Palmer’s United Australia party launched their campaigns (because nobody had been campaigning until then), which involved Tony Abbott’s really hot daughters saying some stuff about him and then I’m not really sure what else because I wasn’t interested after that.
I’m kidding, I didn’t even watch that much (I don’t have a TV, remember?). Also interesting was this article which might possibly be the most pathetic thing ever to be (dubiously) labelled as a piece of journalism.
Most worth targeting, however, was the announcement of the LNP’s brilliant new policy, which essentially involves the purchasing of boats which are in a dangerous condition, in order to discourage people smugglers.
Now, there are a few problems with this idea, not least the fact that Indonesia has over 17000 (say that out loud, it’ll sound bigger) islands. Other immediately noticeable issues include the fact that boats carrying asylum seekers come from other countries than just Indonesia, and the fact that it’s a racist load of horseshit to which even Clive Palmer was able to posit a more humanitarian alternative.
The real problem with this alleged solution, however, and indeed the real problem with the majority of asylum seeker-related debate in Australia, is that it’s not really looking at the actual issue. So, to quote a lecturer of mine, let’s unpack it a bit, and hopefully we’ll get a better look at both the issue, and the fact that the majority of Australian politicians are manipulating an extremely important humanitarian issue in an effort to appeal to the baser instincts of some people who don’t really know what the issue actually is.
Cool. So essentially, every year a large number of people flee various forms of international conflict, civil unrest and racial persecution in order to get to Australia, which has for some reason been universally labelled as the land of the ‘fair go.’ Unfortunately, because of various flaws in the system, a lot of these people are forced to use illegal means to get to Australia, many of which involve paying large amounts of money (I think it’s something around $10,000 per head) to travel here on rather unstable boats.
Now, whilst the illegality of this travel is in some ways a bit of a problem, I think it’d be quite ok to overlook it in the name of saving innocent people from the evil bastards who are trying to kill them. The real issue with this mode of transport isn’t its illegality, but the fact that it’s really really dangerous and a lot of people get killed (note: that bit wasn’t a joke and if you laughed you’re a callous bastard).
When you look at it this way, both the ALP and the LNP’s proposed plans for stopping asylum seekers from dying actually seem really quite stupid (because they are). Whilst it’s theoretically possible to discourage people from doing something by making it harder, doing so also makes it more dangerous, and given that the majority of people are fleeing some form of genocide or state-based oppression, they’re probably not going to worry too much about how dangerous the method of transport they use actually is. This is kind of like trying to discourage your child from playing in the kitchen by tipping a saucepan full of hot water on them, and then saying that it wasn’t your fault because they should have been following the rules.
Personally, I think it’s pretty obvious that if you really want to stop people from doing something really dangerous, you just have to make it easier for them to do something a bit safer. As has been pointed out, Australia is in some ways a pretty bad place for asylum seekers to come to – and yet people still sail here. Obviously we’re not going to put them off, so why not trying to make life easier for them by making our policy a bit more open?
Financially speaking, all of the current asylum seeker policies are fairly expensive, which the LNP, with all their talk about decreasing government spending really, should be looking to address (‘we will return the budget to surplus by adopting a humanitarian policy towards asylum seekers’ would be a killer line in a speech, although I have no idea whether or not it’s economically feasible). On the other hand, if we let more people in they’d also contribute to our economy (as I’m sure Gina Rinehart would be happy to testify), and it’s not like we’ve ever had a problem with letting people from other countries come to work in Australia before.
So really, the question is why Australia’s major political figures (and journalists) have spent the last decade competing over who can be a bigger prick to some of the most desperate people on the planet. The sad truth of this is that whenever governments want to make themselves look good, they turn to people who are in some way different to use as a scapegoat or a common enemy, and this sadly tends to work.
Basically, the major parties in Australian politics are abusing the deaths of thousands of people, and drastically mistreating thousands more, in order to make themselves look slightly better. It’s really sad, and it’s really pathetic, and it’s really not ‘fair dinkum’ for anybody.