Part II of this post centres on an article written by Jonathon Holmes in the Sydney Morning Herald in May 2016:
The Pacific Solution’s brutal fact: we need it.
We risk social disruption if we take more than a tiny fraction of asylum seekers.
Or, “I’ve got no ideas, so why am I bothering to write about this?”
In the article, Holmes says most people he knows deplore the Pacific Solution policy on moral grounds, but “I don’t believe one should pontificate about a policy unless one has some vaguely practical alternative to propose.”
The first hole in Holmes’ argument is that the boats have been stopped. They haven’t been stopped, they are turned around. The boats are still arriving.
The second is the “flood of reaction” from viewers unsympathetic to the situation of the Tampa when it was aired. At the time, the Government, assisted by some sections of the media, worked hard to demonise the asylum seekers claiming falsely they threw children overboard, and so won an election based on a fabricated situation.
The article continues to say we can’t accept more than a trickle of refugees without social disruption, and Holmes can’t think of a better solution so champions what we have. In other words, to maintain the status quo, we can only accept a small number of refugees who come through the “proper” channels.
To come to an end point on any problem, you have to discount what isn’t tenable:
We are signatories to the Refugee Convention, so we can’t do anything that contravenes it. This instantly removes the option of returning refugees to the country they were fleeing. It also removes the option of detention, once they are found to be genuine refugees. It also removes the option of settling refugees overseas.
As long as we accept our status as signatories, we must accept our responsibilities. If that “opens the floodgates”, then so be it. We can stop a lot of people drowning at sea by intercepting their boats as soon as they reach Australian waters and bring them on board. Is this a “practical” solution? Yes, in that the money we waste on off-shore detention could be funneled into saving lives.
We may have to change our views about inclusion, accept that the era of a small Australia has ended, and realise that the global issues of over-population, climate change and food shortages will involve massive change regardless of what we do.
This sticking our head in the sand approach gives me the shits. As a country, we are as great as how we treat our most vulnerable people. It would take little effort on our part to settle the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru in Australia.
The number of displaced people world-wide was around 65 million in 2015 and will no doubt get higher. By ignoring it we aren’t going to improve the lives of millions of people. The question is, are we prepared to share what we have in return for helping more, and if not, then what are we? As always, it comes down to the sheep and the goats.