A change of heart?

It would be nice to think that a single photo of a drowned toddler has washed away decades of brainwashing and scaremongering by successive Australian governments, that the majority of Australian people have finally realised that people don’t get on boats because they want jump a queue, but because they are generally desperate, that a unilateral “solution” capable of being summarised in three words, is nothing more than shifting the problem to another usually poorer country.

But I doubt it.

Inevitably, someone prominent enough to be noticed by the media will say what has been etched into the Australian consciousness: “If you don’t want to drown, don’t get on a boat.”

Oh wait, Andrew Bolt has already done it.

It’s too easy to blame Bolt by the way. He is one of the most popular columnists out there for a good reason – he accurately reflects the dark heart of the Australian mainstream right wing. Outside of the inner city echo-chambers, the rest of Australia is pretty much Bolt country. For that reason alone, he is worth reading.

Border Farce

The first dog on the moon as usual gets it right about our jack-booted papers-checking “migration” officials. To be honest, when I first heard about it last Friday, I thought it was a slander perpetuated by the fringe-lefty types you see hanging around outside Student Union buildings and various street-corners. Surely, I thought, there is a limit to how low the Federal Government can sink. Turns out I was wrong. Having no leadership on the top, they have no bottom.

I also thought that I’d reached the limit to the amount of loathing I have for this government. I thought that my current state of exhausted emotional flat-lining whenever our government committed yet another idiotic heartless action was here to stay. But again, I was wrong. Border farce actually made me for the first time, fear for my personal safety in this country. No, I don’t mean that I am afraid of migrants stealing jobs or terrorists blowing me up, I am actually for the first time afraid of our government and what it might do to me.

Because, you see, I don’t buy it for a second that the release was poorly worded. I actually do believe that if Abbott had his way, there would be Feds on city corners demanding to see the passports of the non-whites walking by.

A solution to the Australian asylum seeker conundrum

We all know the situation by now.

People will take huge risks to travel to Australia by sea in order to lodge a request for asylum. Yes, they are queue jumpers as this will give them a better chance than the other poor saps stuck in refugee camps or countries of transit overseas.

But can you blame them for trying? Seriously, if you place yourself in their situation, wouldn’t you do the same for your family?

So, the only possible humane and ethical medium-term solution is a regional multi-lateral solution with every destination and transit country working together to ensure there are enough places within the region for legitimate refugees, that refugee camps are well-funded and safe, that processing of refugees are quick, efficient and accurate.

How likely is that?

In the meantime, the boats keep coming and people keep drowning.

The Australian government has chosen the well-trodden path of deterrence. So far, not working but I don’t actually doubt that it will eventually work. But is it ethical or humane? To say that the actual torture of real people now will likely save the lives of countless others in the future is pretty much an “ends justify the means” argument.

Why not go for a win-win? Why not show some leadership?

In order to break the people smuggler model, Australia must become the region’s refugee processing centre. To that end, the Australian government should provide boats at countries of transit to processing camps within Australia. The Australian intake of refugee numbers should be adjusted to ensure the clearing of the camps within a reasonable time. In time, we must also ensure that other countries within the region (such as NZ, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China) have similar refugee placement programs. Coincidentally, each of the countries listed will soon be facing an ageing population problem.

Will it be expensive? No doubt. Can we afford it? Probably.

But the alternative is torture and discrimination. And how much of that can we afford?