Howard was an excellent politician because he could understand the electorate. This enabled him to manipulate the electorate regardless of whether or not the end result was good or bad for the country. Hitler had such qualities!
When Howard was in danger of losing an election he was able to invent a situation which enabled him to use the unreasonable fears of the electorate such that he was able to get re-elected. In one instant he demonized the boat people and in the other he took the country into an illegal war in Iraq.
In the case of the boat people, Howard was able to convince the Australian electorate that a small number of refugees arriving by boat of our shores was a threat to our borders and we needed to increase our border security by refusing these people landing rights on the Australian mainland.
The Austalian electorate seemed to be unable to understand that probably 99% of our population were boat people or decendents of boat people of one kind or another. Up till Howard demonized these people they had been accepted and processed and most had become quality citizens of this country. Now they are tortured and bullied and sent to off shore places which no one wants to go, and then, after a number of years they usually end up back here in Australia as accepted refugees.
Besides the cruelty of this off shore processing there was the absolute uneconomical aspect of the whole procedure.
Firstly we had to employ our military forces, mainly the Navy, to intercept the boats and escort them into Christmas Island. Then the refugees had to be transferred to the off shore destination.
To use the off shore destination, the Australian Government had to lease the, even build, the detention centre, and staff it to UN standards. The off shore establishment had to be staffed and operated at Australian expense and this included the responsibility for the welfare and health of the refugees.
The refugees were, often after a very extended period, processed and found to be genuine refugees so they then had to be re-shipped back to the Australian mainland. By the time many of these poor people were returned to Australia, they were badly traumatised and were, consequently, not the same calibre of migrant that they would have been if they had not been subjected to the extra suffering of an off-shore detention centre.
The whole exercise was a magnificent political ploy for Howard to get re-elected using the unrealistic fears of a timid and callous Australian electorate. Tends to make one ashamed of being Australian and I’m sure that many of our Armed personnel feel nothing but shame at having to bully painfully under privileged and defenceless women and children together with somewhat more capable men that were probably responsible for the women and children being on the boats. It would not have been the sort of shameful job that they had joined the armed forces for!
I thought that when we had a Labor Govenment in power that it would realize how uneconomical and cruel off-shore processing of the boat people was and return to processing these people back on the main land and avoid the build up of people waiting to be processed by increasing the number of officers doing the processing. However, I am now ashamed to see that the Labor Government has been sucked in by the Howard ploy and the Abbott urge to return to the past, and is now trying to compete with an even more cruel solution to this problem. I think that eventually any one with any conscience will just have to vote Green”s regardless of whether or not they agree with all the Green’s policies, they at least seem to have some moral regard to politics!
I have lived long enough to have been around when Hitler was making it necessary for a great many German’s and other Europeans to flee Europe. These people had similar experisnces to the present day boat people. Firstly, before Germany was officially at war, the nations such as the USA rejected German refugees because of a similar fear that they would lower living standards etc. Once the war was real, the refugees fleeing Germany had to rely on the equivelent of ” people smugglers “, which in those times were viewed by the allies as heros. The people that helped the refugees escape the Germans often accepted payment for their aid, necessary as they had to survive also.
I would suggest that it should be put to the Australians that these people, fleeing their country of birth, often do so out of fear for their lives and the lives and welfare of the wives and children. Do we as Australians want to have the lives of these people on our hands by sending them back to from whence they have fled? Especially knowing that so many of us have ourselves come from other places.
I would also like to make the point that the name ” people smugglers “, another Howard political ploy, are often simply fishermen that are paid to transport the refugees. They don’t attempt to smuggle the refugees into our country, they just deliver them to our , shores. Not really too much dis-similar to a taxi driver that accepts payment to deliver a pregnant woman to a hospital in an case of emergency! Because we have made such a fuss about these boats coming, it has been possible for entrepeneurs ( crooks ) to find ways of extorting money to get these desperate people onto leaky boats.
If only Gillard would challenge Abbott on this matter and simply state that the off shore precessing was inhumane and uneconomical and instigate a more efficient processing procedure on the mainland, this would really show leadership and courage, and I think that she could have both of these qualities, she just needs the right advice.
Refugees fleeing for their safety and the safety of their famlies, usually do not have the luxury of going through official procedures in the country that they are fleeing from. So we have to accept that we have to carefully check the new arrivals out to ensure that they are in fact refugees but this should be done as quickly as is possible. We should also ensure that we have the right to deport those arrivals that are not acceptable to this country for one reason or another. We should not keep the rejects hanging around for years in detention, it is better that they be deported quickly and humanely.