It has been said that Federal Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, is a fool and a bigot, [ http://jrhennessy.com/2013/07/19/on-scott-morrison-and-other-awful-things/ ] but lets not put him at the centre of the problem.
Australia’s backward view on immigration is still around, even after two hundred years. It’s just taken a former Tourism Australia director to make racism into something people can feel good about. Any Labor voter who claimed some kind of moral superiority over Liberal voters on the issue of asylum seekers is trapped in an extremely dangerous fantasy. The previous Government is as culpable for our human rights abuses as anyone else.
The people sent to Nauru and Manus Island are often fleeing dangerous and life-threatening situations. The men detained on Manus Island come from a large number of different countries and backgrounds, so it does not make sense to make sweeping generalisations about conditions or situations in their countries of origin. However, Amnesty International does not recommend that asylum seekers enter communities without any kind of security, health and identity checks. The conditions on Manus Island contribute to a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, lack of sleep and trauma, especially for men from war zones.
In a country that has always exhibited a fickle streak towards foreigners heading for its shores, Scott Morrison has the credentials to speak on the subject of his ministerial portfolio, immigration. The Liberal politician who has spent much of the past 18 months regurgitating the phrase ‘stop the boats’ was also the managing director of Tourism Australia, who asked the rest of the world: ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ The member for Cook, who counts Desmond Tutu and the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce among his heroes, reportedly argued when in shadow cabinet that the Liberals should exploit community concerns about Muslim immigrants.
The man who attests that his faith has imbued him with “the values of loving kindness, justice and righteousness” also tried to make political hay when relatives of asylum seekers killed in the boat tragedy off Christmas Island in December 2010 were flown at taxpayers’ expense to attend their loved ones’ funerals in Sydney.
The Scott Morrison who claims that deterring boat people from ever embarking on the hazardous journey across the Indian Ocean offers the most humane and Christian approach is also the Scott Morrison whose incessant politicization of the issue has made compromise so difficult. “There is nothing to negotiate,” he said after a vessel carrying 250 asylum seekers sank off the coast of Java in December, adding glibly that Labor had “super-sized” the problem by releasing boat people into the community.
From early on, Scott and his elder brother Alan were instilled with a strong sense of community service. Scott is a muscular Christian in his father’s mould, and in his zero-tolerance approach towards border protection, perhaps there is something of the police commander as well. Neither did it come as a complete surprise to learn that his bloodline reaches back to Northern Ireland where is reminiscent of the Orangemen of Belfast, who march in their tangerine V-shaped collarettes to the thumping beat of the Lambeg drum. Typically they were genial men, of ’50s-era sensibilities, who were prone to defensiveness and flashes of anger on the thorny subject of the border.
Asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat are just everyday people desperate to escape from war and persecution at any cost. As a country founded on immigration, I think we should give these people a fair go. For asylum seekers to be politically useful they need to be talked and thought about as an issue, not as people. One of the major effects of media coverage of people seeking asylum in Australia is that they are dehumanised. When boat arrivals are reported, the people on board are only defined by what they are presumed to be doing.
We rarely, if ever see their faces, hear their names or are told their stories. SBS television is about the only media outlet that has bothered to humanise their plight with the program aired a while ago called, ‘Go back to where you came From’.
So you see the hypocrisy here, we get what we vote for!
Manus Island Riot