When I was doing my psych undergrad I shared a flat for a semester with another student. In the interests of protecting the bigoted, let’s call her Sally. In that awkward flatmate interview, where you have about 20 minutes to work out if you want to live with a complete stranger, she asked me if I was religious. I’m not. She said she wasn’t either, but went to church at Christmas and Easter with her family because it was a tradition they did together. After I moved in I discovered that not only was she intolerant of eveyone who was not like her, but she was also a great big liar: she was a born-again Christian who went to church every Sunday and then, with the other young people at her church, held “house church” on Wednesdays so they could have more church in their lives. That’s their business and I have no problem with it, but why lie about it when it means you’ll only have to search for another flatmate a few months later?
Anyway, one night we were watching an awards ceremony on tv, and we had the following conversation:
Sally: I don’t know why they’re all wearing those red ribbons.
Me: The AIDS awareness ribbons?
Sally: Yes. Because people with AIDS deserve it.
I was speechless. And aware that nothing I could say was ever going to change her mind. That particular Christian would never display so-called Christian values, such as forgiving people for their sins and loving all of “God’s creatures”. (Personally, I don’t believe Christians have a monopoly on the “goodness” values that we call Christian values.)
Anyway, the reason I started with this story is because I was reminded of it when Tony Abbott said this on the weekend:
“This idea that they will take one and we will take five, just risks Malaysia becoming the open back-door to Australia.”
“What works is Nauru, Manus, temporary protection visas and a willingness to turn boats around, where that can be done safely.”
If by “works” you mean that Nauru cost $24 million a year to run; that at least nine asylum seekers who were forcibly returned to Afghanistan were killed when they got there; that the Howard Government spent more than $1 billion to process “less than 1700 asylum seekers in offshore locations” when it would cost $35 million to do it at Villawood in Sydney; that the enormous psychological damage from being held in a remote jail for years (longer than many convicted criminals spend in jail) isn’t our responsibility; that despite offshore processing the numbers of people seeking asylum in Australia doubled from 2004-05 to 2007-08; and that the Government of Nauru said Australia was taking far too long to process people’s claims, then sure, Nauru works.
I am amazed that Tony Abbott identifies himself as a Christian yet consistently pisses on people who need help, and no one thinks that’s weird.
And now Australia will send the next 800 people who arrive by boat to Malaysia, and in return will take 4000 refugees from them over four years. Australia takes just 1.6 per cent of the world’s asylum applications. It’s really shitty that 800 desperate people will be forced to bear the cost of us starting to pull our weight.