A reluctant defence of Australia's illegal immigration policy

By Jonathan Holmes

Nick Riemer has a choleric response to the article below on New Matilda -- but I can't see that he offers any arguments that hold water.  I am amused that he waxes righteous about what is the "moral" thing to do.  Stopping unauthorized arrivals is immoral, apparently. I wonder how he deduces that?  And since he and his ilk would in other contexts argue that "there is no such thing as right and wrong", I can't see that he has any basis for his moral claims at all.  As I pointed out long ago, Leftists who use moral claims are just being manipulative and dishonest.

And -- OF COURSE -- stopping the boats is RACIST!  Everything that Leftists disagree with is racist.  So how does Herr Riemer (Riemer is a German and Yiddish name for a maker of leather reins and similar articles) decide that it is racist?  Because the illegals are brown.  But they mostly are not.  Iranians and Afghans are white -- not as white as Northern Europeans but no darker than Southern Italians.  And seeing that Australia accepts immigrants of all races through legal channels, the racism accusation is patently absurd anyway.

So I can't see that Riemer has any basis for his opposition to immigration control at all. He certainly does not show that it is in Australia's best interests to accept poorly educated arrivals who subscribe to a barbaric religion and who often hate us and who mostly become welfare dependent. All he has is his rage and his faux morality. The rage could be faux too.

I doubt that he would be happy about a third world family moving into his house and living there without his permission -- but other Australians should accept the something very similar, apparently.  Australians are not allowed to regard their country as their home.  He wants to deny their government the selectivity that he himself would exercise.

But now for Jonathan Holmes. I have omitted the initial throat clearing:

During the so-called "Tampa" election in 2001, I was the executive producer of the ABC's 7.30 Report. Every time we aired an item that was in any way sympathetic to boat people, we would get a flood of reaction from viewers: outraged, furious, bitter. It gave me some inkling of the tide that was washing into MPs' electoral offices.

And nowhere more than in western Sydney and western Melbourne, the heartlands of Australia's post-war immigrant population, where to have parents who were native English speakers made you the exception, not the rule.

These were people who had stood in the "queue" that others called fictional, who had waited years for the family reunion scheme to bring their wives and kids and parents to Australia; who had relatives and friends hoping desperately to join them; who knew that every boat person allowed to stay was one fewer of their own people who'd be admitted through the off-shore humanitarian visa intake.

They are also the parts of Australia where most people know someone who arrived by boat. They know about the networks of agents set up by people-smugglers, have seen the phone calls to families in Malaysia and Indonesia.

In three Four Corners programs (links here, here and here) that made far less impact than they deserved, Sarah Ferguson revealed beyond doubt that the criminal people-smuggler networks are not just a fantasy dreamt up by immigration ministers. They exist. And a lot of Australians know it. They don't see why people who can pay criminals should be able to buy a chance at a life they themselves had to get by legal means.

I still see the opposition to boat people dismissed by refugee advocates as "racist". That's a fundamental misunderstanding. Australia is rightly proud of its immigration program. It has created one of the most diverse and successful multi-ethnic nations in the world. The reason the boat people had to be stopped was that – justifiably or otherwise – they were undermining Australians' belief in a fair and orderly immigration program.

But, say many of the current policy's opponents, there are other solutions. In this four-year-old blog on the ABC's Religion and Ethics site, Aly argues that it's just a matter of taking more refugees from Indonesia. If people could get here legitimately, they wouldn't risk the boats. The Guardian's Richard Ackland put much the same proposition just last week.

Both blithely ignore that the people in Indonesia and Malaysia who want to come to Australia are not Indonesians or Malaysians. Overwhelmingly, they are Hazaras from Afghanistan, and Iranians; if the way to Australia were open, they would now be Syrians too.

They've already travelled a long way – helped by people smugglers – to get to Indonesia, and there are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, more where they came from.

Taking a large proportion of would-be Australian migrants from Indonesia would only induce more to follow; very soon there would be far more than any orderly migration program could accommodate. The Indonesians and Malaysians would not thank us for that. That's why we source so much of our refugee intake from camps close to where they've fled from: Somalis and Sudanese from Kenya, Afghans from Pakistan, and so on.

As Europe is discovering, there is an almost limitless demand, through the Middle East, and central Asia, and Africa, for a better, safer life. Whether these people are "genuine refugees" or "economic migrants" may matter to the lawyers, but is immaterial in policy terms.

The brutal fact is that we cannot take them all. We cannot, without risking social disruption, take more than a tiny fraction of them. And as John Howard famously said, it should be our government that decides who comes to this country, not a free-for-all scramble for a place on a leaky boat.

For the poor souls who are its victims, the "Pacific Solution" has provided a living hell. I doubt their agony can be justified philosophically. I don't believe we should be sheltered from it by censorship. I hope, somehow, that it can soon be ended.
But I don't know what the alternative policy should have been in the past, or could be in the future.


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