Malaysia’s no dumping ground for our refugees
I’ve always half-liked the Labor Government’s Malaysian solution on asylum seekers. I like the half that involves bringing an additional 4000 refugees from Malaysia to Australia. It’s a small additional burden that our rich little country is very capable of bearing.
It’s quite a clever strategy, too, in light of new research showing humanitarian arrivals are generally younger and more likely to live in regional areas, thereby helping to counter our rapidly ageing, urbanised population.
But I abhor the other half of the equation – the part that involves sending 800 asylum seekers to Kuala Lumpur, where 90,000 mostly Burmese are already rotting in a refugee quagmire in the hope of a better life they’ll never get.
This week’s SBS documentary Go Back to Where You Came From did nothing to change my views. In fact, I can’t believe a wealthy, proud country like ours is even considering Malaysia as a dumping ground for a tiny number of refugees deemed too politically icky to be cared for on our own shores.
If you didn’t watch the show about six Aussies retracing the journey of asylum seekers who arrive here, you can find it at www.sbs.com.au/shows/goback. It should be compulsory viewing for any Australian with an opinion on the issue (and let’s face it, that’s all of us).
It should be mandatory viewing in high schools, too, so that perhaps the ignorant bigotry many kids hear at home can be diluted by a few simple, compelling facts:
AUSTRALIA opened its doors to 140,610 migrants in 2009-2010. Only 1.5 per cent, or 2156, were refugees who arrived by boat. (Yet only those who come by boat are put in detention – those who arrive by plane can live in the community.)
ON CURRENT rates of resettlement from refugee camps, it would take 188 years for every one of the world’s 15.2 million refugees to be resettled. (Is it any wonder they’re too desperate to wait in line?)
MOST Asian countries, including India, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, are not signatories to the UN Convention on Refugees, so refugees live in poverty outside the law, facing violence and exploitation. It’s illegal to work and their children can’t get an education. (Yet many Aussies believe they should wait in these ‘safe’ countries to be resettled.)
Go Back to Where You Came From was upsetting, confronting viewing. But it was also encouraging, because it showed even the most closed-off, hate-filled Australians gaining compassion when they learned the reality of refugee life overseas.
That is the message we should now relay to politicians across Australia.
Years of political point-scoring have done little but breed intolerance and a misrepresentation of the facts on an incredibly complex issue that requires cool heads and cooperation.
All 23 SA Federal MPs (Liberal, Labor, Green and Independent) signed a pledge this week committing to a River Murray rescue plan that restores enough water to save the system. Why can’t we have the same level of bipartisanship on refugees? Why can’t Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott agree that this issue is too polarising to be played out in the headlines?
We might stop living in fear that our borders are besieged. In 2010, Australia received just 2.2 per cent of the 358,840 asylum applications received in 44 industrialised nations across the world. Yet we’re made to feel like we’re being swamped with every small leaky boat arrival.
We might stop believing refugees are somehow stealing from the public purse. After gaining permanent residency, refugees are entitled to exactly the same Centrelink benefits as Australian-born residents. Yet I wish I had a dollar for every vile hoax email I’ve received about refugees getting a better deal while ‘real Aussies’ miss out.
Go Back to Where You Came From showed that Australia is a lucky little country in a very scary world. Malaysia is not the solution to our problems. We just need politicians to agree that human dignity is more important than cheap votes.
With Zoos South Australia announcing a $24 million black hole this week, it’s time to make it more affordable to visit the Adelaide Zoo. It’s such a great place, but $85 for family admission means it’s a special occasion destination only.
Make it cheaper (Melbourne, for example, is only $56.80 for a family) and we’ll come more often. Better still – give locals a huge discount whenever they bring visiting friends and relatives along.
It’s been described as everything from an ill-fitting toga to a cut-off wedding dress to a weird pair of curtains. It most definitely is not a functional tennis outfit. I am of course talking about the self-styled “jumper” being worn by Venus Williams this year at Wimbledon. Stick to the tennis, girl.
Did you see Sampson the 85kg pooch this week – he’s believed to be Australia’s most obese pet and has been put on a strict diet to lose half his body weight. When we first got our black Labrador last year, the vet warned that he’d happily keep eating until he blew up. Now I know what she meant.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…