A solution to refugees: no more absurd than what Canberra is offering

One of the low points in Australian political and social history over the last decades has been about refugees. The way that both major parties have used some of the world’s most vulnerable people to score cheap political points has been shameful. This began with John Howard’s mantra of ‘we will decide who enters our country and how they enter’ has continued. Though Tony Abbott and his immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison, have taken the debate to new lows, we should not forget that the Gillard Government has had Indonesian minors sitting in prison and charged with people smuggling.


The outrageous has moved to the absurd and ridiculous with our politicians failing to come up with a solution that treats people with dignity while dissuading people to attempt the treacherous voyage. In my frustration, I wrote the following article. Before you read it, remember, it is meant to me satirical… I hope you understand what I am trying to say…


A solution to refugees

 I have just returned from some research work in Europe. Being the political geek that I am, I spent much of my time check in on what was happening in Australia. (I lost interest in the league as the Roosters season got increasingly worse.)

During my time away, the ‘avalanche’ of refugee boats that made there way to Australia and crisis this created overwhelmed me. It was a crisis I say – and I knew it was a crisis because the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, and Opposition Spokesperson on Immigration, Scott Morrison, told me so!


I mean someone just snuck in the other day: sure, thousands of backpackers are here illegally, but we should forget them and keep out the boats!


While I was wrestling with my French and attempting to order some croissants, eight boats arrived in six days and the number of refugees reached over 6000 for the year.


Given that there are 43.5 million refugees in the world, the 6,000 represents a whopping 0.013 percent. This is a staggering amount and should convince those soft-bellied do-gooders who think that there is no crisis and claim that our politicians are merely creating a moral panic for their own political interests otherwise.


I mean, we Australians are expected to carry the entire 0.013 percent? This is outrageous and a threat to our sovereignty!


It will silence people like John Menendue, Malcolm Fraser and the entire crew from GetUp! (I am looking at you Simon Shiehk – Sophie Mirabella was right to look at you with disdain when you fainted on QandA) who do not see that our borders are now under threat!


Sure, Italy takes in more refugees in a weekend than Australia does in a year, and certainly, the majority of refugees that come to us have been displaced by war in places such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq, but that is no reason for us not to turn back the boats.


No one seems to have any answers. The government’s cross-party panel on ‘solving the crisis’ is likely to come up with some sort of soft option. Tony Abbott was mocked for his election promise of having a ‘boat phone’ and his latest mantra of towing back the boats has only managed to get both the Indonesian government and Australian Navy offside. The Greens have refused to negotiate.


So what can we do?


I have a solution that would be beneficial to Australia on many fronts not just solve our refugee crisis.


My solution is to build a fence around Australia!


Yes, a large metal barbed wire fence along the entire 25,760 kilometres! We would have to build it a few kilometres out to sea so it would be a bit bigger than that but hopefully you get the idea!


We could have four main entrances that can be heavily patrolled: from the west (to export to China), east (because of New Zealand), north-east (to export to China) and north-west (to export to China).


Not only would this send the strongest message yet to those fleeing conflict that Australia is no place for them, but it would have a number of additional benefits!


The first is that it would rescue our mining industry! This will occur if we build it with locally mined metals! Obviously the first of July introduction of the price on carbon has put the whole multi-billion dollar industry under threat and they are preparing to move all operations to Africa (where in Africa, we are never told).


This would be the sweetener to keep them here: If you stay here and dig up more wealth, we will buy it from you! If you leave, we will get it from somewhere else. (On a side issue, it could help Wayne Swan make up with the mining magnates: they could have a public signing with a karaoke machine and sing ‘Born to Run’ or ‘Worlds Apart’.)


The second advantage would be that it would give all our politicians somewhere to go and wear a hardhat during the next election cycle. Rather than forcing themselves on the poor unsuspecting manufacturing workers who are must stand around and watch Gillard, Abbott and co look stupid and uncomfortable in safety vests and hardhats!


Apart from saving the workers from this embarrassing process, it would also be a boon for productivity. I mean, how much time and money is lost waiting for the PM or Opposition leader to strut around and cut a ribbon! (The Australian Productivity Commission totally missed that one in their latest report!)


Finally, it would solve a bunch of other problems for our pollies: Clive Palmer could use the Titanic to patrol the north-east corner; NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell could ask the Shooters Party to patrol the fence (safer there than in our national parks I say); and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman could propose it to as a tourist destination to replace the Great Barrier Reef if it gets damaged in the next round of coal port expansions.


The alternative would be for a long-term regional plan and some goodwill amongst our various elites to find a solution that treats the most desperate people with dignity and ensures all countries respond appropriately.


But somehow, building a 25,760 kilometre fence seems a little easier. So let us be inspired by former US Presidential candidate, John McCain, and ‘Build the Danged Fence.’ I mean, it works for them right?


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4 Responses to A solution to refugees: no more absurd than what Canberra is offering

  1. lisa tran says:

    Satire is mother tongue! I too am a massive politics geek (but to be honest I am a biological science major) and have been very obsessive about the way the Australian government has been handling the “boat people issue” and your views very much so echo mine. While you get points for the creativity of your resolution, I am very interested in hearing what you would do to solve the problem.

    • James Arvanitakis says:

      Hey Lisa

      My apologies for the delay in responding… I need to be better at this but life just seems to get in the way…

      I would look for guidance at the Centre for Policy Development where I am a research fellow. This policy paper provides some guidance: http://cpd.org.au/2011/08/a-new-approach-breaking-australia’s-stalemate-on-refugees-and-asylum-seekers/

      The other thing is not just the policy but the way that the demonisation of refugees is occurring. Even if the current policies were found to be effective, why do they have to focus on treating people like they are invading us and threatening our way of life?

      Hope this answers your question

      Best, james

      • aytoo kaifor says:

        I agree with Lisa and am waiting to see if you actually have a possible solution of your own to offer. Your answer, sadly, was similar to that I would expect from those you criticize.

        You say you would look for guidance ..? that is not a solution ..

        and in that guidance ..is …”Rapidly returns home in safety and dignity those who are found not to be in need of
        Australia’s protection”.

        that is what they are already doing..and who makes that decision ?

        only the same people you are currently criticizing..

        You are quick to point out that you are a research fellow of blah blah blah..is that name dropping or what ?

        You disrespect those you purport to stand up for with your smartypants satire ..for no purpose other than to inflate your own ego.

        Put some real thought into it and make use of those wonderful qualifications..

        Stop calling them genuine refugees and non genuine refugees…(the go home ones)

        If you had done your research you would know they are asylum seekers and displaced persons, not economic migrants..

        • James Arvanitakis says:

          Hey Aytoo

          I would say ‘thanks for the feedback’ but not really feedback, just some animosity…

          Addressing your points in turn:

          1. An alternative policy: I think we can get a great deal of guidance from people like John Menadue (http://cpd.org.au/2011/08/a-new-approach-breaking-australia’s-stalemate-on-refugees-and-asylum-seekers/) and Julian Burnside. Also, a dear friend and ex-student, Abdul Hekmat, a former asylum seeker provides me with a lot of guidance and feedback (his work includes this wonderful piece: http://cpd.org.au/2011/08/a-new-approach-breaking-australia’s-stalemate-on-refugees-and-asylum-seekers/).

          2. No different to those I criticise: I will have to disagree with you. I support welcoming of refugees but I also support a quick health and security check. You can do this with a maximum 30 day turnaround. Who makes the decision? An independent panel with a review process… quite simple really.

          3. Yes, I admit I am a ‘smartypants’… and I love satire… see, I am making fun of all those idiot policies out there. But you know, satire is contextual and if you do not like it, don’t read it.

          4. Making use of my qualifications: last time I checked, I was doing this… in my class in semester 1 there was 1,168 students and refugee facts forms part of my course. Curiosity, how many students did you lecture to this year?

          5. What to call refugees: See my answer ‘1’… You have not read enough of my stuff if you think I use the term economic refugee.

          Thanks for engaging…

          Smartypants james

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