Sunday, April 18, 2010

On refugees & asylum seekers

Rant warning ahead
[beginning of rant] When John Howard was in office, he saw that the best way to head off the political threat of the redneck policies of Pauline Hansen was to outdo her at her own game. Now that Labour has no balls to stand up to the nasty political games of Tony Abbott, whose party makes chess pieces out of other people's suffering, Rudd is trying outdo the Libs at their pernicious game. I can only hope that Rudd is a transitional leader and that in the not-too-distant future, a more visionary leader will assume the mantle and reveal the Liberals for what they are: blood-sucking sycophants, menaces to society who will screw anyone or anything for political advantage. [end of rant]

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Left-wingers are so full of hate for their own people but love everyone else.

Paul Martin said...

Anonymous, define "left-wingers".

If you're calling me left wing, unlike you at least I have the integrity to stand behind my comments.

The last big wave of acceptance of refugees in this country took place under a Liberal government, when Malcolm Fraser took in many thousands of Vietnamese boat people. Unlike the current Opposition, the then Labor Opposition did not seek to make a political football of these people, and the social disruption was minimalised. The current Opposition is deliberately brewing up social disharmony by making a football of the dispossessed, many of them seeking refuge from wars in which we, Australia, have actively participated. So, we had Howard doing his utmost to go to war, but then politicising those who sought refuge from it. Hypocrisy at its worst.

Anonymous said...

So what is Australia's involvement in Sri Lanka and Indonesia as many of the refugees were from Sri Lanka and economic refugees from Indonesia which is pretty safe, I;m sure, as my friend just arrived from there last week.

Jurguens said...

I have two points to make and I'll be brief because I suspect that you (Paul) will largely agree and that Mr. Anonymous will refuse to acknowledge.

1 - the numbers of refugees (boat people, asylum seekers, call them what you will) arriving is actually so ridiculously low in comparison to southern european countries and to nothern america, that it is not a real problem for Australia. It is perceived as a problem because certain people have a lot to gain from creating this scare campaigns.

2 - The Liberal party are opposing everything the government wants to do not because it is wrong or damaging (let's be honest, both parties actually share 99% of their political agenda), but because that disrupts the course of government. Opposition is not, saying no to everything and then crying foul because the government is not doing anything, that is simply irresponsible.

Paul Martin said...

There are compassionate rants about tolerance and acceptance and there are hateful rants about intolerance ("fuck off", "go back to where you came from", "we decide who comes here and the circumstances under which they do"). I don't see anything hateful in the "left-wing" rants, but I can't say the same for the others.

Paul Martin said...

Yup, Jurguens, I agree.

Anonymous said...

Should we wait until it gets to the level of illegal immigrants in the UK and France. Both of those countries have huge problems with illegal immigrants. We should nip it in the bid BEFORE it becomes a bigger problem.

Paul Martin said...

Given that the electorate made their feelings about Howard's failed policies at the last election, it seems strange to me that Rudd is being spooked by Abbott's raising the spectre of Howard. Which is really what this post is about, Anonymous. You're just raising the same rant that you always do when I bring up similar subjects. And you know that I know who you are, and that's OK - I still love you in spite of your extreme right-wing views. ;)

Jurguens said...

Of course we should be doing something.

You may not like to accept this but what you call 'nipping in the bud before it becomes a bigger problem' is not the solution because it doesn't treat the root of the problem. But of course, treating the root of the problem would be a lot more difficult, selfless, costly, and humane.

That's why you advocate 'nipping the bud', a more business minded, market driven, selfish, let them rot is not our business, let's protect our garden and iPods, police state, militaristic, inhumane approach.

And since you hide yourself Mr. Anonymous, I will not waste my time anymore.

Anonymous said...

Jurguens, you are so compassionate. A true saint. How dare I ever question you? You will surely go to heaven. Better yet, what about housing some asylum seekers yourself for you are the true humanitarian that disgraces the rest of us, your Holy Worship!

Anonymous said...

Yet, we are the ones who are being labelled negligent and inhumane:

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/refugee-children-removed-20100418-smn6.html

Jurguens said...

Your choice of words (compassionate, saint, heaven, holy worship) is quite unfortunate. Religion is something that doesn't compute with me.

If you look at that post I wasn't talking about me, I was talking about two general views and approaches to this that contrast each other. Personally, I would always put the human being first, whereas others put money and quality of living. However, you're wrong, I have never claimed to have the answers to everything, nor have I ever claimed to be a 'saint', or a role model for anything.

Finally, of course you can question me. I enjoy discussing issues and being challenged by people who have different beliefs and values, because it is through these discussion and challenge that new understandings and knowledge can be achieved. But I refuse to do so with a nameless invisible individual. So on my part, this is the end, say what you will, call me what you may.

Paul Martin said...

Anonymous (FN), you're off-topic.

Paul Martin said...

Wasn't the wave of post-WW2 immigrants an example of economic refugees? Europe was devastated and hundreds of thousands came here for 'a better life' (ie, economically).

FWIW, I've always felt an affinity for refugees. I'm fourth-generation Australian, but my great-great-great-grandfather was a Russian Jew who (I believe) escaped the pogroms by emigrating to the then Palestine. His three sons emigrated to Melbourne in the late 1800s and were part of what might today be considered a Russian ghetto in Carlton. I clearly remember my elderly great-grandmother in that house on Swanston St, which is now long gone. I've always felt myself to be an outsider and relate to the sense of dislocation that refugees experience. It's not a whimsical decision to uproot oneself from everything that one knows to go to a strange country with a different culture and language.

The current wave of refugees would be of no less value to our society than what the post-WW2 Europeans have become. In fact, those generations often could not understand why we were so laid back while their cultures were based on damn hard work (which is what most of them continued here).

The Rudd government's position is deplorable, but I understand why that have taken it. The Liberals under Howard and Abbott have been stirring the racist pot, making a political issue of something that need not be politicised. The Liberals are such scum that they are happy to gain political benefit from the suffering of others. As I commented earlier, I don't think it's necessary, because the electorate has already shown at the last election that they're tired of the Opposition's racist scare-mongering.

Anonymous said...

Paul, just because one is against illegal refugees does not mean they are against refugees or immigration but people seem to put the two together. Australia has a great history of taking in refugees and there are plenty of refugees who come from Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka legally. Why should they be put at a disadvantage? Australia took in plenty of Muslims fleeing their countries at the time of the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s and early 1980s. You cannot compare the 1950s to now. It is a totally different world and our resources are already at breaking point. Australia has twice the level of immigration of any other western country in the world so you can't say we are not doing our bit.

Paul Martin said...

Still off topic, I'm not responding to that.

Luke Buckmaster said...

I think the saddest thing about this debate is not the government's stance - which is pretty sad - but the fact that the majority of Australians overwhelming agree with harsh, Draconian treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. I've spent many discussion arguing for both the statistical facts (that very few people come to Australia by boat) and the moral elements (that's it's almost always wrong to turn away desperate impoverished people). But the sad fact remains that most people don't agreee with me (or us). To complicate this, I believe in democracy, and I believe that by and large government should represent the will of the people. It's just such a shame when the will of the people is so...mean.

Nicholas Gruen said...

I recently attended a talk by Petro Georgiou at Cranlana in which he attacked the current Government and Opposition for their pusillanimity. Fair enough too. Especially for one who has put his own self-interest at risk for his principles.

But I kept thinking that the kind of equivalence between the parties that was being proposed was ill judged, and indeed self-serving. As contemptible as it is, the ALP is doing what it's doing in an essentially defensive posture. It was Petro's leader, John Howard who seized the issue to win an election on, and then continued to try to use it for his own divisive ends. I think the ALP has the electoral position to do what Malcolm Fraser did and lead the community on this, but it hasn't done it - on this, or on global warming.

But we know what motivates it and it's not any great comfort for the agenda. They're doing it because the Libs spend all their time trying to outflank them on the xenophobic vote (something that Malcolm Turnbull did as well!).

Not good. Not good at all.

Paul Martin said...

Nicholas, to say any more than I agree with you would be repetitive.

Paul Martin said...

Luke, I hear you and I understand what you're saying, but I can't quite agree. I think that what you call the overwhelming majority stand behind one or another political leader. Emotionally, people invest so much in their leaders, whether they realise it or not. If John Howard had advocated moderation, people would have fallen behind him and supported that stance. When he advocated xenophobic policies, he was being really smart politically. He knew it would tap into people's fears, and completely for political purposes, he took a nasty stance which was so successful that his successors have sought to emulate it.

People fell in line behind Hitler also. Why did they do that? Because what he said appealed to their baser instincts. There's no point arguing with those that support draconian measures, no point at all. Governments should represent the will of the people, but that doesn't mean that they provide free alcohol and prostitutes. They also have a moral obligation to uphold values that may not be popular, a principle that Howard often advocated in a manipulative manner when it suited him.

Nicholas Gruen said...

Well put Paul. It's a matter of leadership. I tried to outline that in a speech I gave on this stuff here..

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for that, Nicholas - I'll read it later.

Another thing about Howard is that he may have been Prime Minister but he's no natural leader. Certainly not a visionary or charismatic leader - he was a shrewd (and that's putting it politely) politician. He rarely led on anything but, rather, would take a stance only when overwhelming public opinion made it the only viable option.

Nicholas Gruen said...

Not quite right. Howard's only passion was the passion that led him to be the only Minister in the Fraser Govt to oppose the boat people then. He led the country on cultural warfare against the soft left. If you don't like it, neither did I, but it was leadership.

Paul Martin said...

Fair comment, Nicholas. I did say "he rarely led on anything". So, he led on GST and he led on refugees. I still stand by my comment that he's not a natural leader. In fact, his own body language betrayed his disbelief that he had the top job. It wasn't until he was voted in the third time that he started looking comfortable in the job.

Paul Martin said...

I didn't like Jeff Kennett's politics, but he was a leader. He stood for something, and he led on the basis of those policies or principles - it's just a pity that those policies sucked. Still that was leadership.

Howard has only been passionate in his principles on a very limited range of policies. And even on some of those, he was always careful to be able to hide behind the claim of "I knew nothing about it", like children overboard or the AWB scandal. He was always a coward - that's not the quality of a natural leader.

I accept that he was the leader, and that he showed leadership on some accounts, but that he was never a natural leader.

Paul Martin said...

That's a good read, Nicholas. I'm not really too clear about my family history, but I believe I have a refugee background also. I believe my great-great-grandfather was a Russian Jew who escaped the pogroms of the mid-late 19th century and emigrated to then-Palestine. He had three sons who migrated to Melbourne and became part of the Russian/Jewish community of Carlton of which the Smorgon family were contemporaries.

Australia is a country built on migration, some refugees, some migrants. Immigration is nearly always stressful. It involves uprooting oneself from all that one is familiar with: friends, family, work, routine, culture and often, language. A common experience is that new migrants are hard-working and keen to establish themselves, contributing to the new host country. They are also keen to instill a strong work and education ethic in their children. There is no doubt that newcomers to this country have been of overwhelming net positive value.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the government does, Australia will always have "illegal" refugees. There will never be a zero annual illegal refugee intake. The issue here is not whether Australia chooses to take in illegal refugees but whether it is encouraging them to do so. It is well known and advertised in overseas locations that Australia is more welcoming of refugees now than under Howard government. On noticeboards, people smugglers advertise the benefits including welfare payments, housing etc. The government should not be seen to be encouraging refugees to come to AUstralia illegally and risking their lives and their children's lives. You guys talk about the humanitarian issue but fail to mention the many people who have died trying to get here. Doesn't that matter? Also, if one can afford $10,000 to pay the people smuggler then they are hardly impoverished. Also, many refugees come form safe nations such as Indonesia and not from any war-torn country. Australia has been accepting illegal refugees for decades but it can;t be seen to be encouraging them to risk their lives to get here. WHo is to blame for nay deaths? No-one?

Paul Martin said...

Not only I, but I think the majority of Australians shudder to think that we would go back down the path of John Howard's policies on refugees.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as a compromise, refugees could be allowed to settle in certain regions of Australia with skills shortages, and be required to remain in those areas for a certain number of years.

After all, it's not like refugees are only interested in Sydney and Melbourne. (If they are, then it would be rather suspicious.) What about Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Hobart? These areas are in more need of skilled labour. Didn't Hobart once offer a few thousand bucks for anyone willing to come over?

That way, both sides can be moderately satisfied (you can't make everyone happy). And to be honest, both sides are wrong because their arguments are based on ideology rather than common sense.

If there's one benefit to authoritarianism, it's that they don't need to pander to voters. Although the corruption and powermongering can be a problem.