Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Asylum seekers in Australia - Bartlett nails the lie behind refugee hysteria

Andrew Bartlett has penned a piece to expose the nonsense behind the hysteria whipped up in Australia over refugees by our dishonest brood of politicians. An excerpt follows:

"Despite all the significant economic, human rights, environmental, social and security issues which are important in our future relations with our neighbouring countries, the issue of a few thousand asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat each year is the one which is dominating most Australia media coverage of the Prime Minister's current visits around the region.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has finished her first East Asia Summit, had bilateral discussions with the Vietnamese government and has been to Malaysia for discussions there. Indonesia comes next. This transcript of the media conference she gave in Vietnam after the Summit shows that fully half of the questions related to asylum seekers, with most of the other split between the issue of human rights in the region and a local political story in Australia.

The issue also dominated the coverage by ABC radio of the Prime Minister's Malaysian talks, with just a brief mention at the end of the story about the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement. By contrast, this article about the visit from a Malaysian news agency makes no mention of asylum seekers or people smuggling at all, focusing instead on economic opportunities and how this links with tertiary education and training opportunities offered in Australia."

The shameful xenophobia whipped up in the Adelaide Hills recently is typical of the nastiness spawned by Coalition politicians to shore up electoral support. They pander to a dark underbelly, where sub-cultures lurk that frequently find voice through an 'easy racism'. One Nation tapped into this phenomenon and a key legacy of the Howard years sees Coalition politicians exploiting this tendency ruthlessly. Misrepresentation of facts and ethnic stereotyping are the calling cards (or ‘dog whistles’) of ‘culture warriors’ within politics and the media, pandering to the ignorant and misinformed. One fella turned out on the media to tell us the refugees would be more likely to be at risk in the case of bushfire because they could not speak English, despite the fact the asylum seekers are subject to the authority and care of several federal agencies. Perceived threats to security, health services, water, schools are straws in the wind, served up by the self-appointed spokespersons of affected communities to justify their bigotry and fear of the 'other'.

Our 'easy racism' remains our collective shame and makes of us a laughing stock in our region, where refugee issues really bite.

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