Recently I copied a Facebook post from Liberal Member for Gilmore, Joanna Gash’s Facebook Wall. The post said this: “ Did you know that more illegal boat arrivals have come this year, 11,616, – than in the entire 11 and a half years of the Howard Government 11,584”.
There was a fair dialogue on the post and then I found out it turned up on Blog site that can only be described as a place where Haters huddle together in the creepy gutless cave of anonymity, waiting to strike in a feeding frenzy of hate filled vitriol. The blog was titled “Nowra City Church Preaches Against Asylum Seekers”
The interesting thing is that, I only made the original post and one other comment. In this other comment, I actually spoke of my struggle to come up with a humanitarian response due to the complexity of the issue:-
But there was a fair frenzy of hate on the blog toward me. Here is just one example:
Anyway, since then, I have researched, read and spoken to alot of people on the issue of Asylum Seekers. I have also taken part in a Discussion Panel in a Public Forum setting with the Shadow Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrisson, a member of the Greens Party, a local newsreader and adjudicated by the Editor of the South Coast Register. To that end, I now have a position on Asylum Seekers, so here it is
1) I think we should stop calling the people who arrive by boat into our Northern Waters, Asylum Seekers. The Term Asylum Seekers is a de-personifying term and I think we should simple call them People. This should remind us that, every person on a boat arriving into our waters, is indeed a person. A mum, a dad, a scared little child, two teenagers that maybe fell in love on the trip over.
2) The people of Australia elect the Government of the day to govern and to do that in a strategic well thought out way. I understand its not always that simple. However the Gillard Government’s policy on the people arriving by boat, seems to be a “make policy on the fly” type of deal. There seems to be no strategic thought, no commitment to bring about a humanitarian resolution and obviously little or no communication with our northern neighbours.
3) According to my research, there have been just over 600 people who have drowned making the ocean crossing into Australian waters. These are the ones we know of. People leaving Sri Lanka in particular are subjected to a treacherous span of ocean that may well have claimed more lives than we know. If you add to the 600 people statistic, the fact that 433 people would have drowned 6 years ago had it not been for the Tampa Freight carrier picking them up, you then have over 1000 people who have drowned or came very close to it. My issue is that most of these people are pre-Australians, and if 1000 Australians had of drowned in the last 6 years, there would be Royal Commissions, new laws, new anti drowning advocate groups, there would be national remembrance day etc. But because these people aren’t yet Australians, it like we throw our hands in the air and say “oh well I guess its an acceptable rate of death” It isn’t.
4) The Greens Policy is to have an open border in our North. The Shadow Immigration Minister summed up the Greens policy like this:- “The Greens Policy on Refugees is to fire a starting gun and whoever gets here can stay”. If we are going to do that, which obviously makes the boat trip attractive, then lets run Federally Funded Ferries from Indonesia to Christmas Island. At least if we do that, people will not be drowning.
5) My position is that we should close the Northern Borders of Australia completely so that the boat trip across is simply not worth the risk. At the same time, we should have a generous and sustainable Immigration Policy, understanding that we have a responsibility as a prosperous country within the Global Village, to shoulder some of the weight of caring for people fleeing persecution and war in their own country. The problem that currently exists, is that it’s often the poorer countries that carry most of the weight. Pakistan for instance took in 1.1 million refugees last year.
6) I also have a problem with the Bridging Visas that the Government has just bought in. As part of those Visas, a person waiting processing will receive an allowance from the Government of about 80% of the current Dole payment. This too me doesn’t seem too “humanitarian”. How is a person expected to live in Australia receiving less than the Dole and not allowed to work.
7) There are significant other challenges for people on these Bridging Visas. Real Estates don’t want to sign a lease with people on these Visas, DVD stores wont allow them to start an account to hire movies and they cant hold a drivers license. Whatever solution the Government of the day ultimately settles on: these issues must be dealt with. If we are going to welcome people into our country, then lets not welcome then and then make them live in the tool shed out the back.
I liked the quote from Scott Morrisson last week. He said “There is no decision in the Immigration debate that is free from moral burden.”
So that’s my input into the Immigration Debate.