Leaky boats and marshmallow pies

10 Jul

Johnny in the sky with rainbows

It was with a sense of “did this really happen” that I watched Leaky Boat on ABC TV on July 7. On ABCTV blog you’ll find a timeline of the events of 2001 from the “Tampa” to the “Children Overboard” affairs covered by this documentary, in case you’ve been on Mars for the last ten years, or overseas where they don’t have meltdowns over a few asylum seekers like we do.

Immediately following the doco there was a Q&A “leaky boat” special, with the usual suspects holding their usual positions. Because I’m bored witless by listening to the same old same old from absolutely everybody on this topic, I decided to pretend I was an intergalactic traveller who’d fetched up in Australia just in time to watch these programs. Of course I had an intergalactic knowingness that allowed me to immediately cotton on to what most of it was about. When I got bogged down, I asked the dog. If he told me without detectable bias I let him lie in front of the fire.

My task was to objectively observe the human talking heads and because I was extra terrestrial, I had no difficulty at all being objective.

I tuned in to everybody’s vibes before I tuned into their words. I have to say straight up that I didn’t take to anybody on an energy level. My antennae (disguised so no human could see them) vibrated something shocking when they picked up the mutual animosity, ill will, one-upmanship and totally negative emotion fairly radiating through the television screen. I found it intensely upsetting to be in the presence of such bad feeling, especially when Raye Coleby (of SBS Go Back to Where you Came From fame) started in on a couple of re-settled Muslim refugees about how they didn’t deserve to be safe in Australia because thousands upon thousands of other asylum seekers are trapped in hellish camps, especially in Africa, without the financial means some lucky Muslims have to get themselves out.

Apparently, the dog explained when I murmured a question into his silky ear, this argument is what’s known as the queue question, and the boat arrivals keep jumping it which everybody knows is bloody bad manners and apparently not a good start in a country where good manners are more important than anything else at all. (Really? Is that really true? Is the dog dissing me?)

The fact that a queue is also a Chinese pigtail is of absolutely no relevance here at all, the dog said when I asked.

Wait a minute, I thought, as I watched Coleby become more and more emotional over her Africans, and more and more aggressive towards the Muslims around her.  There’s no queue to get into Australia, not as we understand queues where I come from. A queue that isn’t a Chinese pigtail is when everybody lines up in an orderly fashion to get something somebody else is distributing. That never happens in refugee camps in Africa or anywhere else. People make an application, Australia chooses who it wants. That’s not a queue it’s a lottery. Doesn’t matter how well mannered you are in a lottery.

So what’s Coleby on about?

Then the dog showed me how to send a tweet. My tweet said: “Is that the “real” Scott Morrison?”  because I thought he might be an extra terrestrial like me, standing in for a human. Well, not like me because I come from a peaceful people and he got right in David Marr’s personal space and embarked on an offensive interrogatory attack that a lesser man than Marr might have clocked him for.

Why nobody threw their shoes at Scott is a mystery to me.

My tweet didn’t appear on the screen and for that I blame the dog who should have told me to say something more intelligent like the other tweeters did.

I have since checked my Twitter account and found that I have ten followers, including one who wrote about me in my human form: “She is a woman of strong opinions with a sparse Twitter following.” The dog just shrugged about that. It’s my own fault, he gave me to understand. You have to nurture your Twitter account, feed it, give it time and attention: it doesn’t just happen all by itself.

But I digress. From my lofty alien perspective I find the public arguments over boat arrivals have become so predictable as to be meaningless. I know exactly who is going to say what, and the tone in which they will say it. It’s like saying a word, any word, over and over again to yourself until it becomes incomprehensible. Both sides of the debate carry great burdens of animosity towards one another. Emotions are high, indeed the entire debate has been so appropriated by high emotion that there’s hardly anything else left in it. Anybody who tries to be rational and reasonable is outside of the parameters and won’t get a look in.

I don’t know what can be done about this, because  from the galactic perspective it looks like it’s becoming a kind of mutual masturbatory opportunity for sado-masochists to hurl and receive nasties, and is achieving nothing at all for people who arrive by boat.

It is, however, a sign of our extraordinary privilege that we can expend so much emotion abusing one another about a situation that is not likely to affect any of us. Who in the ABC’s audience at home and in the studio is likely to suffer even a smidgin of disadvantage from a few thousand boat arrivals being re-settled in this country?

Personally, being an intrepid cosmic traveller, I’m always interested to hear another traveller’s tales. I don’t get nearly as bored watching refugees tell their stories as I’m starting to get watching talking heads of all persuasions talking about refugee’s stories. I realise there’s a whole pro and anti boat people industry out there and my perspective will not be popular but I don’t care. I found Leaky Boat fascinating. It was good to see Arne Rinnan again. I found Go Back to Where you Came From fascinating because it humanized everybody involved.

But the talking heads, whether I agree with them or not, I’m over them. Let the people speak. Then I’ll hear.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river, the dog whispered in the firelight, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away,

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone…

That dog. He’s a bloody poet.

Really though, in all honesty I have to admit that when I’m back on earth in my usual form, minus antennae and universal perspective, I will probably just get stuck back into the brawl like I always have. I will jeer and sneer and give the finger with the best of them. I will gasp in outraged horror at something else Scott Morrison says, and I will continue to berate the Gillard government for it’s moral decline into unspeakably horrible plans to transport everybody to Malaysia where they may well be caned without first being stunned.

And why? Because I have to. Because even when it gets tiring and bogged down and you think it’s going nowhere you can’t stop. Because people who arrive in boats are my fellow humans and from that comes everything else, and when I can’t remember that any longer, I might as well sew up my lips,stuff up my ears, and close my kaleidescope eyes.

14 Responses to “Leaky boats and marshmallow pies”

  1. Steve at the Pub July 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Hmmm, didn’t look at it like that. Actually, considering who was on the panel, it was a rather muted discussion. I expected much more sparks. Especially surprising was an unusually restrained David Marr, he is usually the one to talk over the top of everyone then jam his hands over his ears & sing “lalalala, can’t hear you”.
    The most gravitas was Piers Ackerman. The hot ethnic babe was there for colour, just as well as she wasn’t able to contribute much. Chris Bowen was in a rather awkward position, pushed forward to defend indefinsible & hopeless policies. He just plain didn’t answer some very reasonable questions.
    And reasonsable questions were what Scott Morrisson put to him. Overbearing Morrisson certainly was, that isn’t reason to throw a shoe at him though.

    (Keep in mind when considering throwing shoes, that one may be throwing them at someone like [former federal member for Maranoa] Ian Cameron, who’d just come straight down & smash your lights out on the spot, then he’d go back to the panel discussion!)

    Pertinent questions arising from the panel discussion:
    1/. Why do Three countries (Canada, USA, Australia) take 90% of the permenantly resettled refugees? There are plenty of other developed countries, many with far greater populations than Canada or Australia.
    2/. Under the 1951 Convention refugees are not allowed to self-select their final country of settlement. So why does Australia/UN allow those who “tag” Australia to stay? Why don’t they get shuffled off to say, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden or wherever?
    3/. Australia accepts more permenantly resettled refugees per capita than any other country. Why don’t all signatories to the convention accept equal numbers (per capita) of resettled refugees?


  2. gerard oosterman July 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Steve at the pub:

    Of course we settle more ‘per capita’, but our ‘per capita’ is so little that we settle FAR FEWER than Italy, Greece or Spain.
    From your perspective Pakistan settles the least of refugees. Should we perhaps take on some of the Pakistani refugees, perhaps a couple of million?
    Population of Pakistan is more than 180.000.000 and they have 5.000.000 refugees from Afghanistan alone. Then numerous tens of thousands from many other countries.
    Why do you persist in being so obstinately stingy and mean. Try and take a walk away from your pub mentality..


  3. Steve at the Pub July 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Gerard, I struggle to find anything sneaky and mean in my above comment. Perhaps you have inadvertently posted on the wrong thread?

    My Pertinent Question 3/. wasn’t about gross resettlement numbers, but per capita.
    The matter was brought up during the panel discussion (sort of the reason I labelled it “questions arising from the panel discussion). Your comments on it don’t seem to be on topic. More of a blurry discourse on the definition of gross resettlement numbers.

    Have no idea what you mean by “pub mentality” (whatever that is). I won’t be quitting the pub trade, if that is what you mean. (Are you offering to buy me out or something?)


  4. Dejan Tesic July 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Steve, I don’t know where you got your numbers from? Apart from the “panel discussion”? The numbers that I was able to quickly find are quite different. http://tinyurl.com/2cylrpz (“In terms of global rankings, Australia comes in at 68th in terms of refugees per 1000 inhabitants and 77th in terms of refugees per gross domestic product per capita. In real terms, this is 1.1 refugee per 1000 inhabitants and 0.6 refugees per GDP per capita. By contrast, Pakistan has 745 refugees per GDP per capita and 9.6 refugees to every 1000 inhabitants.”) Not to mention that Australia has one of the lowest population densities in the world (there are just 6 countries in the world with a lower population density, and they include Greenland).


  5. Steve at the Pub July 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    Dejan, words have meanings. When I typed “arising from the panel discussion” that is exactly what I meant. Those 3 (pertinent) questions are from content of the panel discussion.
    Per capita, means exactly that, and no more.
    Permanent settlement, means exactly that, and no more.

    Thus whilst your observations on GDP, and on refugees in general are interesting, you do not make it clear that you are referring to permanent settlement per capita.
    From the way your comment is written it is possible that it may be interpreted instead as referring to total number of refugees present inside the borders.


  6. Julia July 12, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    Mutual animosity,ill will, one-up-manship and totally negative emotion…and an audience who were there mainly to stoke their over-inflated egos. certainly not to ask questions or learn something new. Just an unpleasant rehash done-to-death same old.

    I was almost the one to throw the shoe, but couldn’t decide who deserved it more…so I saved my tv screen, (and my sanity) and changed the channel to SBS where the Japanese Ninja wars actually made more sense…though admittedly, not by much.


  7. Marilyn July 12, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    According to Judi Moylan we ‘resettle” 0,0001% of the world’s refugees.

    The entire bullshit rant on the Q & A was based on a false premise. Morrison and Bowen are deliberately ignoring the fact that resettlement is nothing to do with the refugee convention, it is a voluntary scheme and only less than 1% of the world’s refugees ever get resettlement with only 6% of that 1% ever getting here.

    There might well be 47,000 people filing applications from refugee “camps”, although we don’t accept any, and only 9,000 of them accepted but that is nothing to do with seeking asylum as they have already got asylum.

    And anyone is allowed to apply at any signatory country they get to. There is zero need to stay in the first country, the convention was written precisely so that people don’t have to apply in the first country.

    I do wish people would learn how things work before they go to the pub and prattle.


    • Steve at the Pub July 12, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      Marilyn, does this mean that Australia is not compelled by the convention to resettle refugees? That we do it voluntarily?
      If so this would seem to turn on its head the tune being sung by our blog hostess (that we have no choice but to accept refugees).

      NB: The panel discussion (& prattling) occurred in an ABC studio, not in a pub.


      • Marilyn July 13, 2011 at 4:01 am #

        No, that means the dingbats are deliberately confusing resettlement with protection.

        We have to protect those who are refugees in our territory, we have no obligation at all to those not in our territory.

        Resettlement is not protection, it is in fact double dipping – refugees in one country decide they want to go to another country when there is no legal basis for such a thing.


  8. gerard oosterman July 12, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    If space for refugees was ever to be considered, ‘acreage’ would make far more sense than ‘per capita’. The ABC 4 Corners program on the plight of Tunesians landing on the rather barren Italian island of Lampedusa, doubling the population almost overnight, showed far more compassion than our leaders would ever muster . See how genereous and humane we would be if the refugees and boat-people were allowed to settle in Australia on a ‘per acreage’ basis!

    Would you open your pub for refugees to sleep in the bar, provide them with warmth and food.?


    • Steve at the Pub July 12, 2011 at 10:59 am #

      I’ll disagree with that. As with rural land (as farmer Gerard may be aware) acreage is to a large extent irrelevant.
      Of course, for temporary camps Australia has plenty of room. There is ample unsettled country in the north, with plenty of water, & plenty of land to grow food. But we won’t allow our own people to settle there, why should we allow refugees?

      Lampedusa of course is landed on by Africans not because Lampedusa has plenty of room, but because it is a foothold on the EU.

      (If I allowed people to sleep in the bar I would be breaking several laws. No can do. As for providing warmth, what are you on about? Nobody needs my help to get warm. It is cooling down that takes work. Anyone foolish enough to switch off the airconditioner at night is going to have a sweltering uncomfortable sleep, hehe)


  9. paul walter July 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Yes, Steve, you could even leave a slab out for them.
    The Lampedusa thing was an adroit doco, as Gerard says, and once again demonstrates how pathetic and disorganised the West is in coming to terms with global population movement problems.
    The people running the Friday chook raffle at Steve’s pub would have done better.


  10. Steve at the Pub July 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    They wouldn’t be the first to sleep on the slab out the front. But if they’re going to sleep on concrete, there are far more comfortable slabs than the footpath at my place.


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