Australia has always had problems with asylum seekers. Even in the earliest days of European settlement, those brave first Australians were plagued by hordes of primitive folk — the so-called "Indigenous" people — infringing upon their national sovereignty and taking their jobs. Having completely ignored the process by which one could apply for residency — by stealing food in London — these queue-jumpers often wandered right into the middle of the settlement, border surveillance methods being less sophisticated in these days.
In time, that crisis was overcome by the then-government’s combination of co-operation with regional neighbours and ample reserves of musket balls. But the problem has never gone away completely. Every now and then, another pack of people, recognising that Australia is the best country in the world, and too lazy to fill out a formal application and patiently wait their turn, take the soft option by lavishing some of their vast wealth upon an unscrupulous "people smuggler" to bring them to this land of opportunity, with nothing but the shirts on their backs, a can of petrol in case of interception, and a NewStart application form.
Who are these people smugglers? Well, don’t let the name fool you. These are not the kinds of smugglers you might find in a Famous Five novel or working for Jabba the Hutt. They are the bad kind of smuggler. In fact, our Prime Minister Kevin "Where’s My Goddamn Lunch" Rudd put it quite eloquently when he described them as "the scum of the earth" and expressed a wish that they "rot in hell". One has the distinct feeling that one more boatload and Rudd is going to head up to Indonesia himself and lay the smackdown. Those guys are in for the talking-to of their lives. Look out, people smugglers. You sow the wind, you reap the shitstorm, as Kevin himself might say.
So yes, the people smugglers are indeed the vilest and foulest that the world has to offer, wretched, sub-human wastrels constituted of equal parts malice, greed and moral deformity, whose callous disregard for human life is matched only by their malevolent business acumen, and whose only redeeming quality is the opportunity they provide this country to show its mettle by wiping the filthy scum from the very face of the earth. Truly, we can always be grateful for the evil in others for showing us the good in ourselves, and for having a prime minister willing to take the tough decision to condemn foreign criminals to eternal damnation that so many leaders shy away from.
However, having agreed that people smugglers are several rungs below Hitler on the decency scale, what of the refugees themselves? Opinion is divided on them: some say they are nothing but shiftless no-hopers, while others insist they are malicious criminals. So there are arguments on both sides. But it’s worthwhile looking at just who these people are, and why they feel the need to claim "asylum" to cover up their real activities.
Firstly, let’s be clear: this is not an anti-immigration rant. Of course, there are good immigrants, such as Derryn Hinch, Don Lane, Marcia Hines, and all those decent, hard-working folk who were willing to go through the proper channels, arrive in an orderly fashion, and open a noodle house. But then there are the bad immigrants; the ones who don’t sing or dance or serve steaming platters of delicious dumplings. The ones who don’t respect the process, who merely barge in here as if they own the place and run about wearing strange headgear and constantly praying in a highly suspicious manner.
Because as anyone who reads the papers knows, these are not ordinary people, but "boatpeople". And boatpeople are different from you and I, twisted and warped by their boatish ways. Often, after many weeks at sea, boatpeople become more boat than person, which is a disaster waiting to happen should they be allowed on land among real people. Can boatpeople and actual people ever really get along? Perhaps in utopia, but in the real world, it may well be that the best we can do is isolate boatpeople, in order to study them.
For an example of the problems raised by boatpeople, look at the way that, during the Howard years, they kept on sewing their lips together. Horrible, wasn’t it? Aren’t you glad they were locked up safely before they began enacting these bizarre customs? Had they been allowed into the community, who knows what they might have sewn together next? Who can predict the bizarre destruction of the boat-folk? Unless you want to wake up one day with your head stitched to your shoulder and the oppressive smell of falafel all through your house, you should be grateful for those detention camps.
Which is why, of course, it’s so worrying that these boats are once more becoming a flood, a torrent of leaky wood and metal threatening to sink us all in a swelling ocean of sweaty caftans and wiry beards. Why, only this year there have been six boats making their way to Australia, with a seventh now spotted and an eighth believed to be on its way. Should the number reach nine, it will, according to the Constitution, officially put Australia into a state of national emergency, necessitating the mobilisation of the Army Reserve to man the beaches and making Herald Sun subscriptions compulsory.
Yes, it seems that Australia is once again more popular with boatpeople than a ponytail within stone-range in the Swat Valley. Is it Kevin Rudd’s softer border protection policy that has caused this phenomenal surge in numbers? It is hard to conclude otherwise, especially given this article by refugee expert Andrew Bolt, which specifically states, "blame Rudd". Need more evidence? There is almost certainly a lot.
And as Bolt so pithily puts it, it’s not just that Rudd is too soft on boatpeople, he is also far too cruel to boatpeople. Whereas Howard’s policies allowed refugees the dignity of dying on their own two feet in their homeland, or of living out their days in the tropical phosphate paradise of Nauru, Rudd’s policies condemn them to a terrible death at sea, a nightmarish replay of the SIEV X tragedy in 2001. Unfortunately the details of which prime minister was in charge at that time have been lost in the mists of history, so who knows whose policies were to blame? But the one thing that is certain is that Rudd has, as Bolt says, "lured at least three people to their deaths".
There Kevin sits, upon the rock of government, singing his siren song: "Speedy processing," he croons. "Access to lawyers," he purrs, strumming away on the harp of civil liberties and batting the eyelashes of bleeding-heart liberalism, and before you can say "scurrilous lies from well-known homosexual David Marr", the boat people have run onto the rocks of unscrupulous people-smuggling, capsized on the waves of disrespect for proper process, and they’re dead. Tragic. After all, even boatpeople have feelings, maybe. Even boatpeople deserve a better fate than that, within reason.
And Rudd stands there and denies responsibility, denies that he stands guilty, just as sure as if he himself had thrown the match that ignited the petrol on that boat, a hypothesis that itself is perhaps not so far-fetched; just where was the PM at the time in question? His movements are shadowy at best.
So we know the problem, and we know who’s to blame. But what are we to do? Simply imprison and/or execute every unauthorised arrival on our shores? Obviously that would be both the most efficient and emotionally satisfying solution, but there are undeniable logistical problems, not least the contemptible squeamishness of our judicial system. Compromise may be necessary. Only every second arrival? Torture rather than execution?
Whatever the solution, one thing is certain. We are the greatest country on Earth, and we must take swift action to prevent it being overrun by desperate people of indeterminate reputation and irregular hygiene hell-bent on infecting our free and democratic society with broken English and exotic music.
Get tough, Kevin. These plains aren’t getting any more boundless.
Ben Pobjie will be in coversation with Christian Lander, creator of website Stuff White People Like, at the Sydney Writers Festival. The first reader to email us with "SWF Tickets" in the subject line to: enquiries(at)newmatilda.com wins a double pass.
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