So. Julia Gillard’s asylum seeker policy. This is a hard post to write because we don’t know all – many – details yet, but that doesn’t stop me banging on about how rubbish Tony Abbott’s policies are.
If you haven’t read Gillard’s speech, I encourage you to do so. It’s very interesting.
Now, I know she’s not after my vote. As an educated, small-l liberal feminist, I’d sooner slice my own nipples off than vote for Tony Abbott. Gillard knows this. She knows that I know that asylum seekers who risk their lives to get here by boat are almost always found to be refugees. She knows that I know that there’s no “queue” in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan because there’s no consular presence. She knows that I know that asylum seekers who arrive by plane aren’t locked up like those who arrive by boat. She knows that I know that you can’t get on a plane without a passport, and many of the countries that asylum seekers come from won’t issue passports to their citizens because they’ll flee. She knows that I know that many people found to be refugees by the UNHCR wait for years and years in camps where they can’t work and their children can’t go to school, until some rich country decides to throw them some scraps.
Yet when Gillard says “let’s have a frank, open, honest national conversation on the issues of border protection and asylum seekers”, then I do expect her to be honest. One look at the newspaper headlines and comments on websites on ANY asylum seeker story over the last few years and it’s pretty fucking clear that the “national conversation” has not been honest at all. It has been dominated by those who think “blow up the boats” and “they come here and take our jobs and get on welfare” (at the same time?) are reasonable things to say. Surely a true leader would be honest about the asylum seeker myths and use the knowledge they have to educate the nation about what is real and what is false. Oh, wait. Australian politics doesn’t work like that.
So. The East Timor Solution. The involvement of the UNHCR is a good thing. But my question is this: Is the “regional processing centre” only for people picked up at sea, or can anyone just rock up and start being “processed”? Because the former is just the Pacific Solution (bad bad bad). But the latter could be less completely shit. But we would have to pull our international weight and take more refugees and take them quickly.
Last year there were 6500 asylum claims lodged in Australia. In the EU, there were 25,000 and in the US and Canada, 82,000. I’m sure they would love to have our asylum seeker “problem”.
I’m a bleeding-heart lefty. Any asylum seeker policy from Labor or Liberal will not make me happy. But this one could be not terrible. I hope I don’t regret saying that, but I suspect I will.