The battle between the Australian government and the Tony Abbott led conservative coalition as to who can be the biggest bastard towards asylum seekers has reached new heights in disgracing the nation.
Renewing its attempt to stem the flow of brown people coming to our fluffy white shores in rickety boats, the government has all but embraced the disreputable but highly effective asylum policies of the previous Howard conservative government. It was John Howard who made good on his promise: We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come, by introducing offshore processing of refugees in barb wired detention centres.
The current Labor government filled with magnanimous humanitarian compassion has upped the ante, utilising the services of among other places, Manus Island, a territory of Australia's old colony, Papua New Guinea; and Nauru, a barren 8-square-mile pacific island made of bird droppings. Amnesty International officials having recently inspected Nauru have lodged a scathing report on conditons at the island's detention centre, which in fact is just a bunch of leaky tents whose walls are dripping with sweat from the overcrowding.
The aim of this policy is to deter the "flood" of arrivals by threatening them with offshore or even onshore processing in prison-like conditions with the added disincentive of denying them permanent protection visas for anything up to five years, even if they are found to be genuine refugees and regardless of where their claims are processed. The asylum seekers who are allowed into the community on bridging visas will have no work rights and only limited accommodation and financial support.
The fears being expressed over these new measures are that a new underclass in society may develop. Of course I'm not referring to criminals in boats, these are displaced families with children from failed, war torn countries or dictatorships. Recent data shows 95% of arrivals by boat are genuine refugees while 55% who arrive via the normal avenues are deemed genuine with most of the rest deemed to be economic refugees.
It's hard to fathom why border protection is such a vote winner until you face the fact that pollies are playing to a deeply ingrained racist streak that we like to pretend doesn't exist; and that in large parts of the community there is an underlying fear of good ol Australia being overrun by inscrutable orientals and brown people with funny habits. Is there a redeeming reason for such fierce oppostion to a fair and humane refugee policy? Well, frankly I doubt they want to keep asylum seekers out because they choke on their morning Vegemite on toast at the thought of "reffos" drowning on their way to the promised land. No, it seems some folk of the hinterlands, the croc infested waters of the North or the bogans of the Melbourne & Sydney burbs are in truth terrified of meat pies and Holden cars being replaced by Hyundais and hummus.
As a consequence the piece of paper that is the UN Refugee Convention to which Australia is a signatory may as well be nailed to the wall of the State outhouse. So to all those Aussies who rejoice in carrying "Full Up" signs, a reminder: modern Australia exists thanks to the ultimate in displaced persons, the original convicts, and we've lived and prospered as an immigrant nation ever since. Trying to hold back time will fail - the nation must evolve. Until you accept that you will never grow up, nor are you entitled to be called civilised.