Sunday, 27 November 2011

What was all that about?

6879 came this way last year

 53900 overstayers (currently) came this way

The news that refugees will begin to be released into the community hopefully marks the end of a deplorable episode in recent Australian history.

The phenomenon of both major parties toadying to the basest xenophobic instincts in our national psyche has been wrecked by the legal system.

The wierdness in this comes from the fact that our refugee intake makes up less than 2% of total immigration. Why the fuss about 2%?

It would be great if the shock jocks got just as excited about the 5% of 20 million Australians (born here) with disabilities and their carers living as third class citizens as they do about the 6700 from the boats. Why isn't a National Disabilities Insurance scheme, (which would make a real difference to one million people) as important as the issue of  a relative trickle of unauthorised arrivals? When was the last time you heard Ray Hadley or Alan Jones foaming at the mouth about people with disabilities?

We’re back where we were before Tampa and the Pacific Solution.

From here on in, people arriving unlawfully by boat will be treated in the same way as those coming by plane and unlawfully overstaying.

The irony in all this is that it took Australian law, rather than Australian politics to restore sanity on this issue.

It has to be the best argument for the separation of powers I’ve seen in a long time. In effect, it represents the High Court saying to the Australian government “Wake up to yourselves”, or as my Millennial daughter is fond of saying “Get real!”

Howard’s draconian and retroactive Border Protection Bill 2001 has finally been relegated to that chapter of our national history where other totalitarian legislation such as (for example) the May 1965 amendments to the Defence Act can be found.

If you believe the rabid Right we’ll now see riot and revolution on our streets, boat people driving around in brand new Commodores, and burqa wearing and Sharia law compulsory.

Maybe if none of these catastrophes actually eventuate, we’ll see an end to the hysteria.

But then again, maybe not. The only thing that sells more newspapers than fear and xenophobia is steamy sex stories.

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