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Archive for August, 2012

Australia must confront its ‘unique’ asylum seeker debate.

Posted by cegan on August 13, 2012

Its been a long, drawn out debate over Asylum seekers that often divides the Australian community. But the  current interest in the Asylum Seeking debate recently for me is the onus of responsibility Australian’s feel for the refugees who make the journey.

In the world that faces refugee movements continuously, this is a unique stand. Deaths from West Africans going to the Canary Islands don’t see the Spanish Government account responsibility for asylum seekers taking the journey as we have seen in Australia.

When the disparity of incomes, civil war and opportunities to move up in the world are seen in these countries as sad, but risks that Asylum Seekers knowingly make.

In Australia, there seems to genuine compassion for Asylum Seekers losing their lives in Australian waters, but not if they don’t hear or see them. Of course that is the reality of media and prominence that you get taught at Journalism school, but its an interesting binary attitude.

Richard Towle the Regional Representative for UNHCR told the ABC earlier this year, after the Christmas Island tragedy of last year.

“Overall, people contemplating moving for whatever reason, saw Australia as a less hospitable place to come and claim international refugee protection,”

“There are many reasons why they would have reached that conclusion, not least the dangers of the voyage, the costs, and what are perceptions of a pretty negative and sometimes hostile public debate on those issues.” (www.abc.net.au)

A hostile debate has turned into a debate of Australian’s not accepting deaths at sea now. Where it has nationalistic and xenophobic links in 2001 it now has a ‘responsibility’ edge where the population demanding no deaths of asylum seekers in Australian waters.

Which is unrealistic and indicates a misunderstanding by the public of the risks asylum seekers take around the world. They know the dangers, they weigh them up and often they leave because they will risk impending death if they stay. Australian’s passions seem to be consumed by their lived experiences of seeing on TV the boat getting smashed to pieces on the rocks of Christmas Island, rather than understanding the genocidal policies that force Hazaras and Tamils out of their countries and have little option but to leave.

It seems despite being in the global environment Australian’s have a unique and somewhat unusual view to a debate that has dominated much of Australian public discourse this millenium.

I haven’t heard a media outlet explain or deliver context to asylums dieing on their journey. We have a one dimensional look at the asylum seeker debate that says its somewhat unusual and a shame on Australia that asylum seekers have died in their journey to Australia. I believe it not to be, rather it a sad part of the risks that Asylum Seekers knowingly make in their journey to asylum across the world.

In 2004 ABC.net reported on the deaths of Africans seeking asylum in the Canary Islands

“One Moroccan human rights group estimates 4,000 people have died since 1997 while trying to reach the Canary Islands or southern Spain.”

So its clearly not a unique problem to Australia, clearly something that nation states can not avoid. What is unique is this unilateral view that Australia is responsible for deaths of asylum seekers on their journey to Australia if they occur within national waters.

Australia is in a unique space in terms of its expectations being totally askew of the reality.

It adds to what Monash University found in a survey of the ‘uniqueness’ of the publics refugee views last year.

“One of the authors, Dr Samantha Thomas, a senior research fellow in Monash’s Marketing Department, described the hostility to people who are seen to “sneak in” as “a very Australian attitude”.

“People are very accepting of asylum seekers and refugees if they feel they’ve been through the appropriate channels,” Dr Thomas said.

“If they feel they’ve somehow jumped the queue or tried to sneak in then there’s quite a different reaction to them, but people are generally in support of Australia taking refugees,” she said.(www.conversation.edu.au)

So its a common practice of Australian’s having somewhat ‘unique’ views on the Asylum Seeker debate, from caring about their welfare in Australian water’s but not in the warlord dominated Afghan countryside.

Why has this occurred? In a debate that has lacked any facts for much of the last decade, sound bites and slogans dominate the discourse. Australian’s have moved on from the Tampa affair and generally are a more compassionate lot.

Rudd moved the nation from calling them ‘illegal immigrants’ to ‘asylum seekers’ which has been followed by the media and general public.

But in terms of their attitudes, they are completely at odds with how others would judge and understand asylum. In Great Britain, – queue jumping would be laughed at as “What que?”, in Spain they would wonder why Australian’s then take responsibility for deaths that occur in order to seek asylum.

In terms of policy mechanisms, the mixture of a poisonous public debate, a lack of consensus by political parties and an increase in people seeking asylum due to instability around the world has landed Australia in a political quagmire.

The nation doesn’t want boats arriving, nor do they want the people on those boats to die in seeking freedom. What the nation wants and what its leaders can achieve will remain diametrically opposed.

Until the issue is neutralised as a political issue, we will continue to have the public having unrealistic beliefs and attitudes towards the Asylum Seeker debate.  It can’t possibly be solved due to their  core understandings being based on ‘myths’ and a media that fails to look at the issue with any global perspective.

The compassion that everyone has for asylum seekers dieing in Australian waters has come about with no perspective and a somewhat unilateral view that Australia must and can stop Asylum Seekers dieing in our waters.

Chris Egan


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Despite economic headwinds, Key continues to dominate NZ Politics

Posted by cegan on August 7, 2012

John Key is one of the most popular leaders of a developed economy.

His preferred Prime Ministership is at 43% and has been increasing in recent months.

What is John Key doing that others such as Gillard are not? Better Politician? Maybe.  Hasn’t gone on a reformist agenda?

It helps.

But 3News Political Editor Duncan Garner states it has more to do with invisibility.

“People do not like some of these particular policies… but that’s not transferring into them not liking Key overall, I suppose it all comes down to what’s the alternative? Is David Shearer doing well, is he strong, is he visible or is he Mr Invisible? I think the answer is, he probably is invisible, which leaves Key to have a pretty vice-like grip on center voters.”

Questions than are asked is that the media or Shearer’s fault?

Shearer’s speech today uses a mixture of language. At one level, he’s looking at aiming his vote at the battler, but consistently its language like this.

“We propose giving the dole money to an employer to take on an apprentice. The employer gets a subsidy for the apprentice – and the young person gets the training.”

Dole money, is a rather derogatory terminology that is often used in the media to typecast groups and the lower class. It’s a step out of David Cameron’s welfare plan and hardly something about looking after the disadvantaged in society.

Indeed the speech litters itself with political uncertainties of whether they are for the working class battlers, or they are neo-liberal supporters of cheapening wages.

Why do they attack Nationals about Australian migration and low income jobs, when their policy is to cheapen the wages of apprentices through money being taken from the ‘dole’ to businesses to train them.

What’s worse is that there is no extra income for this scheme. The scheme results in government mandating of jobs and withdrawal of income if they don’t agree to an apprenticeship that the powers to be choose for them.

You argue for a high income society? Yet your policy mechanisms will result in a low income society.

His claim is that his central priority is Education. Yet Education is what is driving Kiwi migration to Australia. It’s not that Kiwi’s have a poor education system, its that their economy is not going through the economic expansion that Australia’s has gone on for 21 years.  Through liberal migration pathways, New Zealanders are taking advantage and moving to Australia for higher incomes. There is not much in a policy sense that challenges this.

Whether its the Keating Labour reforms, the Mining Boom or the Harvester Judgement of 1904, all these factors place an election based on stopping Australian migration is fool hardy and a waste of energy.

Is it any wonder the Centre and the Left continue to vote for Keys? Keys supports Gay Marriage and the bill is about to be put into NZ Parliament. Shearer wants to isolate his own Left orientated progressives by using terminology such as ‘dole’ to explain a new policy in a speech.

Keys is entrenching Progressive Voters, Shearer is isolating the Progressive thinkers that could shift from Key.

As long as that continues, Key popularity will refrain from following those of most other World Leaders who hold power in Developed Economies.

Chris Egan


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