|Resistance is futile|
A vocal and determined subset of Australians are working very hard to
reverse the current Australian policies of mandatory detention and deterring
unauthorized arrivals. Their progress so far has been extremely modest. Why?
A majority of Australians decided before the last federal election that they
wanted to stem the flow of unauthorized arrivals. Many had not thought through
the issues terribly strongly, they just felt uncomfortable about the prospect
of having large numbers of people arrive who would have to be cared for, and
who may face difficulties integrating into Australian society.
After the brief bout of talk-back hysteria over the MV Tampa, people began
to think about the issues more and, perhaps more significantly, talk about the
issues more. The twin tragedies of a few particularly unpleasant ethnic-based
crimes in Sydney and the September-11 attack on the US further focused people's
attention. But it did not actually change anyone's mind.
Significantly though, it took away people's fear - the fear of being
branded racist by those who disagreed. The racism-card had been played to great
effect over the previous decade, and many people were terrified into silence by
its mere suggestion. Suddenly people were no longer scared of it.
At last count, 55% of Australians were in favor of mandatory detention. The
left have calculated that it only has to win over one million people to open
the borders. They also know that once the borders are open they can never be
closed - the new arrivals will simply vote for them to remain open, and they
will remain that way forever.
Unfortunately for the left, those one million extra people (and the votes
that will enable a policy change) have been totally elusive. Empowered by the
successes in the last two decades, they have tried the usual tactics but they
have not worked.
All of the publicity gaining exercises - Easter protests, people jumping
onto razor wire, mass breakouts, children being rejected by the British
embassy, stories of guards stealing children's toys and so on - changed no-one's
mind. The protestations of being 'ashamed to be Australian' did not shame
Australians, they just annoyed them. The predictions of Australia becoming an
international pariah simply did not come true.
All these things did was harden people's views. Most Australians feel more
strongly about this issue than they ever have before. And that has made the
calculated one million Australians even harder to win over.
With the rest of the OECD moving toward less friendly policies toward
unauthorized arrivals, and the UNHCR treaty at risk of collapse (or at least a
serious make-over), it seems unlikely that Australia will change course
and become more unauthorized-arrival friendly. Those days are gone.
Meanwhile the Liberal government is investing heavily in new detention
centers. They have staked the next election on this, and few people are calling
it a losing strategy.
Investing $10000 on an unauthorized ticket to Australia would be a very
brave thing to do right now. Particularly with the Taliban gone and Saddam
Hussein's job security close to an all-time low.