|Issue No 41||26 November 1999|
John Passant - Let Them Stay
There are two types of xenophobia. Pauline Hanson's is of the heart. John Howard's is of the head.
The Howard Government has taken a calculated decision for electoral reasons to play to our darkest fears and create the myth of a boat people crisis. Taking their lead from the Government's beat-up, others now talk of an invasion.
There is no crisis. There is no invasion. So far this year only a couple of thousand boat people have arrived in Australia. Even if the inflammatory comment of Immigration Minister Ruddock that up to ten thousand are preparing to come turns out to be true, so what?
The boat people are human beings. We should be welcoming them, not sending them to concentration camps in places like Port Hedland or detaining them in inhospitable conditions.
Minister Ruddock argues: "If we're seen to be a soft target in relation to the entry of people clandestinely, more and more people will try to ply this very, very gruesome trade in human beings."
However for the would-be boat people an orderly immigration program set up by Australia at or near their places of departure would end the trade in human beings. This would involve expanding our immigration program, not cutting it back.
The Howard Government has used its regulation making power to only allow refugees into Australia for three years, denying them the ability to gain permanent status. This is the programme Pauline Hanson announced in July 1998. Pauline Hanson now seems to be setting the Howard Government's immigration policy.
Ruddock's tough line on refugees is designed to appeal to those sections of Australian society which fear the new and the different. The Government knows that the backlash against the GST will see voters swing to Labor. It wants to counterbalance that by a crude appeal to the xenophobes.
It looks as if sections of the ALP support the Government's attacks on refugees and the boat people. The fact that no major Labor Party figure has condemned the Government for its inhuman approach means that the ideas of Hanson now dominate the debate.
Many of the boat people are from the Middle East. One of the reasons for the increase in desperate people fleeing that region is the Western blockade of Iraq. This is a blockade Australia supports and has participated in. The West's criminal action has killed hundreds of thousands of children and impoverished the Iraqi people.
It's no wonder people in Iraq want to flee to a better life. Wouldn't you in those circumstances?
Our hysterical and irrational reaction to a couple of thousand Asian and Middle Eastern people attempting to enter Australia comes out of our past.
Racism has been the handmaiden of our history. Our rulers developed concepts of white superiority to weld the lower orders to the capitalist system. We working people might be rubbish, but at least we were white rubbish.
British leaders used these ideas of superiority to justify driving the original inhabitants of Australia off their land. White capital and white labour later used the same arguments to exclude Asians.
Yet what have the boat people done that is wrong? Nothing.
These people are fleeing repressive regimes, only to end up being repressed in Australia. They are fleeing poverty, only to end up in a country replete with moral emptiness.
Nothing draconian happens to the thousands of white visa overstayers who arrive by plane. Jet people good, boat people bad. What hypocrisy!
Some might argue that allowing the boat people into Australia will take Australian jobs. Yet study after study shows that immigration creates jobs.
Then there are the environmental arguments. Won't the boat people only worsen our environment?
The fact is Australia has the lowest population density in the world. Even in our most populated areas, it is only one seventh that of Holland. Adding a few thousand boat people a year to our vast continent is not going to destroy it.
Unfortunately the environmental arguments seem driven more by a fear of foreigners than an internationalist approach to humanity.
Then there is the argument that the boat people are jumping the queue. Why do we have a queue in the first place? Successive cutbacks to immigration have forced desperate people to risk their lives coming to Australia. Increasing immigration, accepting the boat people and setting up an orderly immigration programme would abolish the queue.
Can we not show some humanity? Let the boat people stay.
Interview: A Bob Each Way
ALP tactician Bob McMullan is responsible for charting Labor industry policy into the next millennium. He tells us where he’s heading.
Unions: Organiser of the Year
Just ten days to go before entries close for our $2000 air ticket. Here’s another nomination.
History: Labour Daze
A report from the 6th National Biennial Conference of the Australian Society For The Study Of Labour and Community.
Politics: Tomorrow’s Questions
While the turn of the century sees Sydney play host to the Olympic games, the International Youth Parliament 2000 will bring world focus to contemporary issues facing young people.
Health: Red Ribbons
December 1, World AIDS Day has a special place in the history of the AIDS pandemic.
International: Organised Chaos
Persistent rumours are floating around Jakarta that the former boss of the official pro-Soeharto Indonesian trade union movement is about to be charged with corruption.
Economics: Seattle Numbers Grow for WTO Protest
News of the agreement to smooth China’s entry to the World Trade Organisation has created its own "China Syndrome" for organisers of the Seattle WTO event.
Satire: Too Many Media Players!
The Productivity Commission has issued a report calling for the abolition of existing cross-media ownership laws.
John Birmingham has lifted the lid on Sydney’s shady past - and found trade unions to be at the centre of the sordid tales.
Deface a Face: Reith Loses His Shine
With his Second Wave looking more like a splash in the bath-tub, Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith still reigns as the union movement’s favourite bogeyman.
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