Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Australian Solution

Enough. This has gone on far too long, and it's time to say ENOUGH.

Australia's handling of refugees, of asylum seekers, of boat people, is a shameful chapter in our history that is still being written on a daily basis. Labelled "illegals" by our politicians, dehumanised and demonised, the tiny fraction of our world's displaced that try to reach our shores have been treated not as people, not as human beings, but as a problem that needs to go away.

How have we, as a nation, fallen so low?

Australia, the land of mateship. The lucky country. Home of the "fair go" for all. And above everything else, a country populated almost exclusively by immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. We are a disgrace.

Sadly, I guess the writing was on the wall years ago... when you look at how we've treated our indigenous population. For decades they, too, were a problem to be swept away, and in the eyes of many, still are. "Dehumanised and demonised" are words that certainly apply here as well.

Make no mistake, this is nothing more than the politics of fear and desperation. Governments desperate to find a new enemy, latching on to the vulnerable in a post-9/11 world and howling about the peril at our doorstep. And we, the Australian public, have been swept along.

It's not enough to say you don't support it. I don't support it. Yet it's here, and it's my shame as much as it is yours.

The Pacific solution. The PNG solution. The Malaysia solution. Christmas Island. Manus Island. Tampa. Children overboard. Multinational security firms. Tent cities. Deaths at sea. And now deaths in custody and security breaches endangering thousands of lives.


It's time we stopped being afraid. Time we stopped screaming at the monsters beyond our borders, who are no more monsters than you or I. Time we stopped listening to the politicians who have built their careers on fear and hatred and pain.

It's time to grow up.

Nothing our government is doing right now will stop the boats coming. Nothing. The same goes for the government before them, and the government before them. The focus is, and has always been, on stopping the boats FROM REACHING OUR SHORES... not on stopping them leaving in the first place.

And we spend billions, BILLIONS of dollars maintaining this horrendous state of affairs. Detention centres, security firms, logistics companies, naval involvement... it's a massive cost. This from a government that can't find the money to keep jobs alive.

If we truly want to stop the boats, forget about the Pacific solution, or the PNG solution, or the Malaysia solution. Forget Nauru. Forget Manus Island.

We need an Australian solution.

We must walk away from offshore processing, from detention centres and tent cities. Operation Sovereign Borders must be shut down, immediately.

In its place, we must double our humanitarian intake of refugees.

We must embark on a massive funding program for UNHCR assessment of refugees in countries that are gateways to Australia, countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Get them moving, make it happen. Make the boats redundant.

And we must build the infrastructure HERE, in THIS country, to receive, process and integrate refugees into our society. I say "integrate", not "assimilate" because it needs to be done right. Much of the racist short-sighted fear prevalent in our society is driven by poor integration and support structures... that must not be allowed to continue. We all deserve to hang on to our culture, our beliefs and our way of life; and despite hysterical claims to the contrary, we can do all of that and more as a society.

The money is there. Shutting down our current xenophobic practices will free up more than enough funding to make this a reality, with change left over.

What is lacking is the political will.

So tell them. Tell our politicians what the reality really is. Tell them you won't stand for it any more. Tell them the deaths of the innocent are on their hands, not ours. And tell them it's time to change.

It's time Australia became once more a beacon of hope in the Pacific.

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