As Australian voters our compassion for our fellow human beings and our morality is represented internationally by the governments we elect.
I could be harsh and say, that after having made the choice of who is going to represent us, we are individually morally responsible for that choice. But this not true, after we get a government elected, lobbying by business and donations to the parties will determine government policy.
Business will have 24/7 access to our elected government and influence legislation and the business of government.
The refugee crises per se will not concern business but the assurance that a government is elected which will enhance their financial and business interest is of vital importance to them and they will back it up with advertising campaigns and political donations.
Generally speaking, business has been in favour of immigration into Australia to provide a labour force or to reduce union influence in the labour market.
Between 1968 and October 1974, 19,000 assisted Turkish migrants arrived in Australia of which 79% were of the Muslim faith.
This immigration of Turkish migrants happened in Europe also but on a greater scale than that in Australia and resulted in acute social problems there.
It is evident right now with the election three months away that the government is using the element of fear to prepare the electorate to vote for them. The government is telling the voters that border protection is the major issue of concern. Morrison is using the same divisive and racist tactics used by John Howard in August 2001 during what has now become known as the ‘Tampa incident’.
John Howard’s liberal government inferred to the electorate that refugees are monstrous people who in their effort to get to Australia go as far as throwing their children overboard. Morrison and all front benchers are now doing the same inferring that all refugees are rapists, murderers or paedophiles.
Australian deaths due to worldwide terrorist attacks from 1973 to 2016 total 113 (excluding the military). Many of those deaths happened outside the jurisdiction of the Australian government and fell outside the control of Australian security measures. Within Australia some deaths occurred because of the failure of the judicial system which allowed mentally deranged potential mass murderers to walk within the community whilst on bail for suspicion of murder (the Lindt Café attack).
The Australian government has responded to these acts of terrorism or mental instability by passing laws restricting individual Australian citizens’ freedom and establishing security measures at an estimated cost of over $30 billion.
Bush fires in Australia since 1960 killed at least 564 people, some of them volunteer fire fighters and it destroyed 9656 dwellings, killed 82,500 livestock, destroyed miles of fencing, power lines and many farm and road vehicles (as recorded in 2016 – these figures would be much higher now). This tragic loss of life and large economic cost does not seem to have actioned the politicians in the same way as the vote winning issues of security and terrorism.
Despite extended police power in Australia, deranged people who were under surveillance at the time have not been able to be stopped from committing acts of violence and death.
Family violence kills more than one woman every week – that is at least 52/year but funding for safe homes has been cut.
To be elected, both major parties in government or in opposition have perceived that wish for stronger border control and therefore they have established and maintained concentration camps on foreign soil where they have kept refugees for over 5 years with inadequate medical facilities. The indefinite duration of the incarceration, without any hope of its ending and the hostile environment in which they are incarcerated is resulting in suicide by adult refugees and catatonic state by their children. The UNHCR in a recent visit described the conditions the refugees are exposed to as “shocking”.
The Australian Government and the Opposition try to justify their inhumane policies as necessary to deter refugees from becoming victims of People Smugglers and prevent them from drowning.
Our conservative government proudly boasts about their achievements of turning the boats back in the media, however the Guardian of the 14th of May 2015 reported the following; “this strategy of ‘pushing them back’ left a small convoy of 6000 refugees and migrants stranded between Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia for more than three weeks”
It stated that by the time they were allowed to land in Malaysia hundreds had died of thirst and hunger.
Our political parties, to justify their policy, conveniently over-simplify the practice of people smuggling and label it as just a criminal enterprise.
The major political parties pretend that they are in a process of fighting the crime of people smuggling and that offshore detention is part of this fight. This is supposed to vindicate them from keeping people locked up indefinitely – supposedly as a deterrent for refugees who attempt to seek asylum in Australia. They pretend that people smuggling is such a heinous crime that fighting it justifies the indefinite detention of hundreds of asylum seekers in conditions identified by the UNHCR as torture.
Apart from questioning our own morality we can question the morality of our Prime Minister who professes to be a devout Christian.
One can wonder when he attends his regular Church service on a Sunday if he asks for forgiveness for his sins committed as Minister of Immigration by continuing and enforcing offshore detention.
People smuggling cannot just be branded as a criminal activity conducted by evil people – it is far more complex than that.
People who escape oppression or try to save their lives and seek asylum in other countries or just try to find a place to hide in their own country often do this by a series of interactions with other human beings who may not all have the same motivations. These people smugglers may be motivated by patriotism, compassion or they may be charlatans motivated by greed or even ordinary people motivated by their extreme poverty in their struggle for survival or they may be family members who went before those seeking refuge.
We now live in a political era of three word slogans and political populism where the word “people smuggling” is supposed to raise our emotions to such a level that we condone what is happening in Nauru and Manus Island. People smuggling is more complex than that – today’s people smugglers deal with a wide variety of refugee groups on a scale never experienced in history before.
Some of the people smuggling organisations are ruthless billion dollar industries aided by corrupt governments but in ruthlessness they are matched by our Australian Government which incarcerates people without any hope of release.
Internationally Australia is quoted as one of the most ruthless and morally repugnant in dealing with refugees.
As an example, Operation Sovereign Borders allegedly paid the people smugglers $32,000 and provided them with maps on where to land in Indonesia so they would turn back their boats with 65 asylum seekers on board.
(Ref. Amnesty International, ’Australia: Damning Evidence of Officials’ Involvement in Transnational Crime Uncovered’ 28 Oct. 2015: HERE)
On the other hand I like to provide a different view of people smugglers and quote Peter Tinti and Tuesday Reitand from their book, ‘Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Saviour’;
“Some smugglers are revered by the people they transport, hailed as saviours due to their willingness to deliver men, women and children and give them opportunity when no legal alternative will offer them either.
In a Neoliberal world where fates of individuals are couched in anodyne policy-speak, it is often the criminals who help the most desperate among us to escape the inadequacy, hypocrisy and immorality that runs through our current international system.
It is certainly true that smugglers profit from the desperation of others, but it also true that in many cases smugglers save lives, create possibilities and redress global inequalities.”
There are estimated to be 68 million refugees and for many, Europe as their closest landmass, is their preferred destination and they need smugglers to get there.
Because of the flood of migrants entering Europe via Greece alone, in 2014 (885,000), it was perceived as a crisis and the European governments were becoming more right wing as a result of public pressure and increased their police and military border forces.
Croatia put up a 350KM fence to keep refugees out.
At one stage Turkey was holding 2 million refugees seeking a way to get into Europe.
Some of those refugees are so-called “economic refugees” but they may come from countries destroyed by continual war and devastation which results in crushing poverty.
Why do we have so many refugees, war?– yes — but why – how did this happen, who is responsible and why are the Western countries the refugees’ favourite destination ?
Some of the reasons go back to the 8th of June 632AD, the date of Muhammad’s death. This started the feuds between the Shi’ites and Sunnis about who was the rightful messenger of the prophet Muhammed.
Was it Muhammad’s friend Abu Bakr (Sunnis) or was Muhammad’s cousin (Shi’ites) the rightful messenger.
People historically and now are displaced because of their differences in belief. Many people have died for the belief as to who has the right to interpret the Koran. Religious wars between Roman Catholic and Protestant created a refugee crises and brutal carnage in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Looking at the present refugee crisis, in part it is because of the recent Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen wars, but also because of the aftermath of colonisation and technology.
TV, the internet and mobile phones have given many people the tools to look beyond their borders and community and make the decision to migrate. Colonisation and the aftermath of WWI redrew borders sometimes enclosing previous enemies within the same territory.
Colonisation in the 17th century for many European kingdoms became a frantic mercantile pursuit for riches and exploitation of resources and the slavery trade. Colonising nations all practice the same method of ruling their colonies. They ruled with the help of existing ruling dominant tribes or rulers.
In Africa, take for example Rwanda – Germany and later the Belgians ruled the territory with the help of the dominant Tutsis. After the colonialists left, the Hutus revolted. It is estimated the consequent massacre cost a million lives. This also happened in the French colony of Indo China and in the Dutch colony of the Dutch Indies, now Indonesia (estimated casualties 3 million) – in India, the Congo, the list goes on.
It was the European merchants who colonised and exploited the colonies for their treasures and slaves.
The conservatives like to quote Adam Smith’s Theory ”of the invisible hand of self-interest” ie greed is good.
But Adam Smith, which the capitalists so readily quote about the invisible hand of greed, warned us about of something we hear little about;
“The monopolising spirit of the merchant and manufacturer who neither are, nor ought to be the rulers of mankind….
Their interest is.. directly opposite to that of the great body of people.”
We inherited the aftermath of Colonialism and the Oil wars which created the regional instabilities and the consequent influx of refugees and the demand for people smugglers.
We now have to deal with it, but building fences and increasing border security will not stop the flow of refugees.
It only means that people smuggling has to become more sophisticated and more expensive. Neither will employing NATO war ships in the Mediterranean Sea stop the flow. Smugglers buy bulk cheap rafts with outboard motors from China which they instruct refugees to cut-up, with knives they supply, when they are in sight of a patrol boat.
Locals in Greece then dive to the sea to retrieve the outboard motors.
Governments would be better off spending on infrastructure to integrate the migrants than to spend taxes on the building of fences and increasing spending on policing their borders.
The European community gave 6 billion to Turkey in an endeavor for Turkey to increase its border control which proved to be unsuccessful.
Kenya which holds hundreds of thousands Somalis, Jordan and the Lebanon who hold hundreds of thousands of Syrians are put out by the contribution made to Turkey.
Whatever the European, Malaysian and Australian governments spend on border control won’t stop the influx and to cut foreign aid will only worsen the economic position of third world countries and the refugee crises.
The international society and its structure is changing due to past historical events and the now new technologies.
We are in an era of globalization of banks and industry but now we have to deal with a globalization of migration, which conservatives have to come to terms with, it will change the world to never be the same as before.
Bob Lubout is a ‘climate refugee’ from Perth WA. He has been living in Penguin on the NW coast of Tasmania with his artist partner Sandra and their two dogs, Tessie and Winston since 2013. He went to Curtin University as a ‘mature age student’ where he gained a Bachelor of Education majoring in Sociology and Politics and then onto Murdoch University where he continued his studies for a Master’s in Education and Science and Technology Policy. He worked as a TAFE lecturer, teaching electronics, maths, science and aviation. Bob now enjoys spending his time researching and writing and flying around this beautiful part of the world in a small aircraft.