An American friend of mine has recently provided me with her feedback after watching Australia: “You [Australian] people need to work on your problem of racism”. The problem is she’s absolutely right.
Check out what the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, a guy representing roughly half of Australians, has to say about asylum seeker boats if/when he is in charge. Allow me to quote from The Age: “Asylum seekers travelling on boats to Australia could be turned around at sea by the navy or coastguard in the future, federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.” And if that’s not racism I don’t know what is, because otherwise I’m unable to explain what the agitation about those few thousands of boat people per year is all about.
And the scary thing? The scary thing is that Abbott is proud of what he’s saying and he’s saying it out loud, because he knows that this hidden (or not so hidden) ticket of racism can win him the elections. To him, these asylum seekers are a ticket with which he can draw more voted. He knows fully well that most Australians do not want these bloody foreign darkish people around.
The sad thing is that Australians fail to learn from their own recent history.
A few decades ago Australia was going through similar debates. That time it was to do with the influx of Vietnamese refugees knocking on Australia’s door following the end of that war.
The records show that public sentiments towards the Vietnamese were similar to what they currently are towards the boat people. Time went by, though, and Australia absorbed tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees. And did it make much of a difference to the fabric of society? As far as I can tell the only difference is that now we have a wider variety of good food to choose from.
So would taking in the boats of asylum seekers do much damage to the fabric of Australian society? I suspect the only damage their taking would do is save the Aussie tax payer the hundreds of millions of dollars currently spent each year to keep those boat people away and to keep them in detention (i.e., behind bars) when they do come close enough. That money could then be spent on better education and health. Say, building several new hospitals.
How horrible! We should definitely keep those boat people away!