I read two articles relating to asylum seekers today. The first by Jonathan Green on ABC’s The Drum, titled Australia’s political heartland: hate, fear, prejudice. The other article was the complete opposite: Violent asylum seekers out on the streets, says insider, published in The Age. The truth is probably somewhere in between. I have no doubt the whistleblower is on song when he says:
… he was speaking out because the department has created a ”toxic environment” where people blamed each other and outsiders such as staff from Serco and there was no real leadership.
”Just because you have run a passport office . . . doesn’t mean you can run a high security detention centre,” he said.
It reminds me of a conversation I had earlier today about people in this day and age being reluctant to accept responsibility. Let’s all just blame someone else, shall we? It is a social disease and I have no doubt it also infects our government departments, especially one under such pressure. There is no denying DIAC is under an immense amount of pressure. Why? Because the problem the department faces is a political football and true leadership and solutions are not forthcoming.
The bottom line is, the current situation IS NOT working. When I say that, I am often asked, “What solution do you suggest then?” In some respects, this is a fair enough question, given I am saying the current situation isn’t working. In other respects it is not a fair question of me, as I am not an expert in the field, such as those who formed the expert panel. I am merely the wife of someone who was an asylum seeker. Despite my lack of field experience, I think I can apply a little logic.
We also have a lot of noise at the moment about rorting of 457 visas. I do not see a difference between some “agent” charging $40,000 for a 457 visa and a people smuggler. All one and the same to me, I’m afraid.
The world has a massive number of displaced people. That is accepted by all, I understand. The detention system is costing the arms and legs of a nation to run, so we are told, and some companies are making an awful lot of money, taxpayers’ money, to run these things. This is not investment, it is flushing money down the proverbial drain. There is NO return on investment here for the taxpayer dollar.
Let us take a completely different approach.
- Cancel the 457 visa scheme altogether (or at least reduce considerably).
- Close the very expensive detention centres - (short term housing only required for the security checking and processing period)
- INVEST the funds saved to put the asylum seekers, once accepted as refugees and granted permanent residency, through training courses.
- English Proficiency Training – to ensure other training is effective
- Cultural Awareness Training – to ensure integration
- Occupational Training – to enable employment
- Employ the refugees.
- INVEST money in working with the United Nations to develop a new Refugee Convention that caters for today’s global environment.
- INVEST more money in stopping the people smugglers.
Let us understand this once and for all. No matter what is hoped, desired, argued, debated: there is NO magic stopping the boats. It is not going to happen UNLESS we stop the people smugglers. We are penalising the wrong people at the moment. While we penalise the asylum seekers, the people smugglers will continue to ply their trade. Stopping them needs greater cash investments which we can’t afford because we are wasting too much money on penalising the innocent. Even if we stop the people smugglers, boats will still come. The first boat that ever sailed here with asylum seekers on board was not a people smuggler boat. It was just young men desperate for a safe haven.
Yesterday, someone likened stopping the people smugglers to the drug trade. There is NO similarity. The drug trade is based on supply and demand. Kill the demand, the supply goes elsewhere. Asylum seekers is not a supply and demand situation as much as some may like to think of it that way (hence the deterrent approach). Remember back to the gas chambers of Nazi Germany. Those people would have fled anywhere they could have. HOW MANY WERE SMUGGLED TO FREEDOM? Drugs are a luxury item, our lives are not.
Innovation is what is needed here. New ideas for a new time. As I write this I am reminded of watching Cory Bernardi on Q and A about renewable energy. Oh, heavens, we couldn’t possibly stop pulling resources out of the ground because it might upset our current economy. Frankly, Cory, preserving the current economy will be a waste of time of the earth implodes because we dragged all the stuffing (oil, iron, etc) out of it. His short-sightedness and lack of innovative thought stunned me. He doesn’t look that old, really, so I wonder how and why he so lacks innovative thought.
We are attacking the asylum seeker problem from the wrong premise: that if we spout this “no advantage” nonsense loudly enough and long enough, asylum seekers will stop coming. It isn’t happening and Abbott doesn’t have a magic wand to make it happen either, so if you think a change of government is going to solve the problem, it isn’t. This isn’t something the Australian government has any control over and will never have any control over, unless we take control of all the trouble spots of the world. I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Australians also need to stop assuming asylum seekers have to be poor to be genuine. Utter nonsense. Some damn well might be by the time they get here, but there isn’t a rule that people have to be poor to be subjected to persecution.
Let’s have a little innovation. That might just stop the boats. It’s worth a try. Remember, the wheel is really a very simple object, but such an innovation.
- Government concession on No Advantage test possible (guardian.co.uk)
- Asylum seekers could ‘work for dole’ (theage.com.au)
- Sydney people smuggler jailed (bigpondnews.com)
- Judge threatens to release Tamil asylum seekers (abc.net.au)