The Australian Government must now be facing a huge moral dilemma following the tragedy still unfolding on Christmas Island. The dilemma is a simple one: is the Gillard Government going to give the Australian people and indeed the world the truth, or are we going to be fed more political spin and lies? Given that the opposition, probably for its own short term political point scoring, has rejected a bi-partisan committee of enquiry, and the government inquiry is being conducted by the Australian Federal Police, it seems probable that spin and lies will be the order of the day.
While the xenophobes and scaremongers among us will tell you that we are being overrun by refugees to the point that the country can’t take anymore, the facts tell a different story. The resettlement figures for refugees in Indonesia to Australia are disgraceful:
2006-07: 32 people
2007-08: 89 people
2008-09: 35 people.
Between 2006 and 2009, Australia resettled a staggering 156 refugees from Indonesia. Surely with a population of 22 million people Australia can absorb more than 156 people. Remember, one of the arguments used by the English when they invaded and settled Australia in 1788 was that Australia was sparsely populated with abundant undeveloped land, which if managed ‘properly’ could support a much larger population. What was ‘true’ in 1788 remains more so today.
Perhaps Prime Minister Gillard, the answer to the question why do people risk their lives in unseaworthy boats to reach Australia lays partly in the statistics cited above. What is the current Australian policy regarding the resettlement of refugees in Indonesia want to come to Australia?
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says Australia has resettled just 10 per cent of the refugees it said it would take each year as part of an expanded program for refugees in Indonesia.
Australia quietly agreed to boost its intake of refugees from Indonesia from around 50 to 500 earlier this year.
The deal was revealed by the UNHCR in Jakarta just before the federal election held earlier this year.
The UNHCR says that it has recommended 528 confirmed refugees for resettlement I Australia since the deal with the Gillard Government was reached and so far just 52 have come. Is it Australia’s parsimonious attitude towards refugees that drives desperate people to risk their lives in search of a better future?
The new yearly commitment is equal to the total number of refugees resettled in Australia from Indonesia between 2001 and 2009.
If Australia meets its target this year it would take well over half the number of confirmed refugees currently living in Indonesia.
More than 3,200 people are registered with the UNHCR in Jakarta, 850 of whom are confirmed refugees. They are all wondering how they will get out of Indonesia.
In a previous post I wrote about complicity, suggesting that all Australians are in some way complicit in the tragedy that we witnessed unfold on Christmas island earlier in the week. We are complicit because we let our fears sway voting patterns and our leaders are too gutless to lead. This is a potentially fatal combination for our democracy.
With the majority happily ensconced in their middle class bastions of ignorance easily swayed by lies and hyperbole, is it any wonder that nobody challenges government lies about Australia’s resettlement figures? 528 people resettled into a population of 22 million in a decade is hardly an avalanche.
While our politicians prattle on incessantly about boarder security and our so called security and ‘intelligence’ services weave a web of deceit about refugees, organised crime and terrorism, innocent people are dying.
In October 2001, 374 people died — most of them believed to be from Afghanistan and Iraq — when an asylum seekers’ boat sank en route from Indonesia to Christmas Island. Two years earlier, a boat believed to be carrying about 100 asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia, disappeared and may have sunk.
Have we the Australian public ever been truly appraised of the facts relating to either of the above tragedies? We call all remember the spin and hyperbole that encased the so called ‘children overboard’ affair. The truth has become a casualty of political spin and our politicized security and ‘intelligence’ services.
Given we are still waiting to find out what truly happened with the SIEV X in 2001 and whether or not the Australian Federal Police in the course of their ‘people smuggling disruption programme’ had a hand in the tragedy, what would give anyone confidence, in any enquiry the Australian Government conducted into this latest incident?
Perhaps it’s time that the international community took a closer, harder, look into what passes as democracy in Australia.