The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For those who thought Malcolm Turnbull’s ascent to the position of Prime Minister might take Australia’s conversation on refugees in a more humane – or at least less deranged – direction, the 2016 election campaign must be proving sobering.
Last night, Peter Dutton fronted conservative Sky News host Paul Murray. Murray, not what you would call a deeply humanitarian man, was unhappy about Afghan refugees who, he said, were failing to find work in Australia.
Roused from his usual state of waking coma by this ‘question’, Dutton neatly encapsulated everything that is wrong with the way conservatives talk about refugees in thirty seconds.
“For many people they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English,” the Minister for Immigration said.
There was no evidence provided to back that claim. The asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat, long derided as ‘economic migrants’ but also for chided using their allegedly superior wealth to ‘skip the queue’, were now so poor and illiterate they couldn’t speak their own language, Dutton argued.
Then mere seconds later, the Minster came out with this:
“These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and on the rest of it. So there would be a huge cost. There’s not sense in sugar coating it, that’s the scenario.”
So let’s get this straight. Afghans fleeing conflict in their homeland should be excluded from resettlement in Australia because they will simultaneously refuse to work and take all of the jobs.
Let’s go very slow here, Peter Dutton pace. The refugees will take our jobs. And they will take our welfare. Even though having a job takes you off welfare.
Refugees, famous for apparently hating the oft-referenced but infrequently observed ‘resettlement queue’, are now apparently simultaneously occupying both the dole queue and the jobs queue.
If Peter Dutton ever seeks asylum overseas, the sheer incoherence of his position will surely enable those processing his claim to turn the same argument back on him. This man can barely master basic logic, why should any other state have to take him on as a burden to their economy?
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) May 17, 2016
Later on Sky, Julie Bishop backed Dutton, though repeatedly dodged a question about whether refugee were illiterate or innumerate. Labor described the comment as “offensive”, and called on Turnbull to come out and distance himself from them.
Given the failings on the most basic levels of reasoning, it seems foolhardy to try and bring any evidence into this debate. But, for the record, recent research revealed that once they are settled, refugees prove the most enterprising migrants and actually help create jobs.