Friday, June 29, 2012

Asylum seekers + alliances in the Asia Pacific region

Amanda Vanstone’s (a former Australian politician) solution to the problem of an influx of asylum seekers (ABC News report 10.40 am) is to ‘take the sugar off the cake’ by not granting asylum seekers Australian residency. Does she think the refugee issue in the Asia Pacific region should be dealt by someone other than Australia and does this mean that she simply does not want these needy, desperate people to land on our shores, perhaps reflecting opinions of some pockets of the Australian community? The more I listen to opinions and debate on this issue I understand its complexity. Of course no country wants to deal with refugees from another country, particularly when their culture/religion/ideology differs greatly from ours, and we would be drawing upon our own resources to feed and house them as well as finding employment opportunities and the necessary infrastructure, when we obviously find it already difficult supplying this to existing Australian residents. But short of eliminating war, greed, poverty and oppression from the world and modifying human behavior we must face the fact that there are millions of refugees seeking asylum worldwide.
The Greens won’t support ‘offshore’ processing, however will support it as long as staff members are increased in order for claims to be processed quickly. No wonder the public is confused! On this note, it would be great if the Green’s took the politics out of their actions and instead perceived themselves as persuaders, rather than simply people with power in the Senate.
I suppose one of the questions we have a right to ask is: How many asylum seekers are we willing to allow permanent Australian residency and how will they impact upon our lives? Will we be able to provide the infrastructure, jobs, housing, health care & support system to cater for another 50,000 people (10,000 per year over the next five years)? I recall Dick Smith raising such a point in 2010 when he spoke of Australia's Population Puzzle. It’s pointless using the ‘what would be without souvlaki’ argument because we already know that different cultures provide richness and diversity to our lives, but it’s all a bit more complex than that. I certainly hope that the ‘expert committee’ set up by Julia Gillard last night will resolve this complex issue over the next six weeks. But don't hold your breath for I suspect that much of the complexity of this issue may be about our place in the Asia Pacific region and our existing and future partnerships and alliances.

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