Rants and raves 1
I here put up a number of pages on “political correctness” as a more “permanent” record than the daily posts. I am beginning, in the context of the 2007 Australian elections, to track back to the earlier years of the Howard government whose real politics has been a politics of division, often called “dog-whistle politics”, rather than what it would have you believe, a politics of inclusion. So on this page I take you back to Tampa and all that, transferring here for the first item in this set of pages my Angelfire page “Massaging the Asylum Seekers”. Much in these pages is being addressed now by the Rudd government elected in November 2007.
I believe that the reaction against “political correctness” in the past decade or so has borne bad fruit:
1. It has licensed prejudice and ignorance in the name of freedom of speech.
2. It has muted compassion and tolerance.
3. It encourages mental laziness and discourages critique of our own assumptions.
4. It fosters arrogance and uniformity rather than understanding of and acceptance of diversity.
5. Paradoxically, it creates disharmony in the name of harmony.
6. It is unjust and from a Christian perspective it is sub-Christian, breaking the golden rule.
OTHER PAGES IN THIS SET
1. Massaging the Asylum Seekers
UPDATE: Go to What’s a billion dollars, mate? (26 August 2007)
Between 2001 and 2004 I maintained the rage on Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policy on Angelfire, but took the page down after a while.
I was prompted to restore some of it in 2005 by the latest stories to emerge from Immigration, such as Cornelia Rau. Cornelia Rau proved to be the tip of the iceberg, with hundreds of cases of immigration injustice emerging since.
In July 2004 I wrote:
Sometimes one can only welcome policy backflips, especially when the policy concerned has been as draconian, as heartless, as unnecessary, as dishonest, and as big a waste of tax-payers’ dollars as the immigration and refugee policy has been since Tampa sailed over our horizon. Well, partly of course because “the temporary protection issue has become a sticky one for the Government in marginal electorates in Victoria, where the Coalition is polling poorly,” but also because there actually are people even in the Liberal Party who like to think of themselves as compassionate, given half a chance, ” the Government will announce as early as today that most of the 9000 temporary protection visa holders, many of whom have been living in the community for more than three years, will be able to apply for permanent residency.” The temporary protection visa was a disgrace anyway, a kind of limbo.
The decision follows a number of other immigration policy backflips by the Government, including its release of all but one child of boat people from mainland detention centres, and permitting 146 Afghans who have been held on Nauru for more than two years to come to Australia, as it winds back the “Pacific Solution”.
Government MPs say there are indications that the Prime Minister, John Howard, has softened his line on the issue of asylum seekers since he won the 2001 election on the back of his tough border protection policies.
I suspect Rural Australians for Refugees especially should take a bow- ordinary decent Australians with a better idea of what that means than Mister Ruddock apparently had. Well done.
The cost and the idiocy of it all may be summed up in the story of Aladdin Sisalem and his cat: “Mr Sisalem fled Kuwait in 2000, eventually arriving at an island in Torres Strait by boat from Papua New Guinea 18 months ago. He immediately sought asylum, saying he would face persecution if sent back to Kuwait. He was sent to Manus Island, where for the past 10 months he was the sole occupant, apart from a small staff of guards and cleaners hired to look after him at a cost to the Australian Government of $250,000 a month.” For more see Axis of Logic: World Refugees.
In October 2003 I wrote:
The latest edition of Face the Facts spells out current policy clearly at least.
There are clear differences, however, between the 1997 and 2003 editions of Face the Facts. My comparisons between the two are here.
There are some interesting statistics in the 2003 edition, though of late our attention has been drawn to their being a touch rubbery at times. It appears we have fewer immigrants than we thought as people on certain visas have been counted again each time they enter Australia.
In May 2003 I wrote:
ABC TV here in Australia (Four Corners) last night raised some very interesting issues about what went on in Woomera Detention Camp (now mothballed.) That Dickensian bad guy Phillip Ruddock (Minister for Immigration) promises to investigate, but I am sure he will give it his usual snooty, legalistic whitewash.
Read the transcript of Four Corners: “Debbie Whitmont penetrates the secrecy that has shrouded the Woomera detention centre, revealing its traumatic impact on both staff and detainees.”
At that time I revised this page thus:
This page replaces one I made over a year ago. That page collected various rants from my Diary Pages dating from before and during the last Australian election — see August to November 2001.
That election made much of the then “flood” of asylum seekers proceeding mostly from the Middle East and Afghanistan via Indonesia. Although subsequent investigation, reported in the Sun-Herald quite inconspicuously in December 2002, found that (whatever else the “boat people” may have been) none of them had terrorist links, September 11 2001 exacerbated the xenophobia that was not far below the surface in public and government discourse on the subject, and the government knew it was on a winner and played it for all it was worth (hence the title of this page), while the Labor Party floundered. The other winners were the Greens who attracted a much larger vote than usual from those disgusted with the major parties, particularly on this issue. The Greens tend to favour open borders.
While I found myself voting Green as a protest against the poisoning of our discourse on refugees and asylum seekers, I do not in fact support open borders. What I do support is a humane regime of processing, with “detention” only for those “illegal” arrivals initially being processed (and preferably not in deserts or foreign countries) for whatever quarantine and security reasons are necessary, with that detention being operated transparently, not by secretive multinational corrective services corporations (see Update above), as has been the case in Australia. I would like to see the investigatory process streamlined, and people whose applications are deemed worth pursuing allowed to live in the community, a system which would cost the government less than the current system. I would also like to see such “detention” of new (“illegal”) arrivals to be totally separate from whatever arrangements are in place for those who await deportation, whether through failed applications or through criminal and security concerns. The assumption should be that the asylum seeker is genuine (or “innocent”) until proven otherwise.
That is consistent with our laws and traditions.
Most of all I would like to see a healthy compassion restored in the Australian community, together with a willingness by the media to highlight the humanity of the asylum seeker, the fact that the majority of them (whether they appear in this country by “legitimate” or “illegitimate” channels, a distinction not easily maintained from a refugee perspective) are genuine and end up contributing to rather than detracting from the country as a whole.
As a first step, I would like to see everyone take time to see Tales from a Suitcase, the excellent but unexciting SBS series that puts a human face on refugees and highlights the history of Australian policy and the contribution refugees have made since World War II. The Third Series particularly focuses Afghan refugees and has also been published in book form.
Second, I would urge readers to explore the following sites which inform you with an authority that I cannot aspire to; I defy anyone with an ounce of humanity to come back from reading the information here and still be prepared to back our current way of doing things.
NEW — Villawood Refugees Blog.True stories and pictures of people who have been locked up indefinitely in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (Sydney, Australia).
For a thorough general background on refugee issues, go to New Internationalist No. 150
UNHCR — The United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
Human Rights Watch.
Racism No Way — the Library section in this Australian educational site leads to many relevant documents.
Migration Heritage Centre of NSW has much relevant information.
Study the Australian Government’s own fact sheet on refugee policy here.
Refugees and asylum seekers: Oxfam/Community Aid Abroad.
Human Rights Commission, Australia
Asylum seekers in Australia: some fallacies.
Seeking Asylum — Seeking Asylum looks at the differing styles of Australians who devote their personal time to supporting and assisting asylum seekers to cope with the demands of detention or temporary transit visas.
Refugee Council of Australia.
Rural Australians for Refugees
Gay and lesbian immigration task force — Given that in some parts of the world gays and lesbians face real persecution, even execution, this is a very relevant issue.