A massive Game of Thrones fan friend of mine tagged me in a post shared by our local Federal MP, Andrew Laming. The original post was from a meme page that supported the National Party, and with the GoT poster background and font, they had photoshopped Bill Shorten onto it with the words “The Boats Are Coming”. Funny in a way, if entirely untrue, but as my friend pointed out, there are some relatively trivial but accurate comparisons between the show and real life.
I must disclose that I have not watched the TV show itself, but in fact read the books and am part of the angry crowd of people who are terrified GRRM will die before the sixth instalment of the series comes out. But I know enough about the books and what does happen in the show to understand the connection my friend made. Basically, the Wildings in the north are fleeing and looking for refuge down south, on the other side of the Wall (a closer connection to US politics here, where for the second time this year their government might shutdown again over the wall funding). The leaders of the receiving nation/s unfairly demonise these people which stirs up unwarranted and unsavoury opinions on situations among their own peoples. Our politicians also have a knock or backstabbing each other too, so there is that.
I doubt GRRM ever intended to make political statements with his writing, and sure not on the state of Australia’s policies on refugees, but as always art imitates life, even inadvertently. Our government just passed a bill that will bring all the CURRENT refugees from Manus and Nauru for medical evaluation and treatment. What the Coalition has done since is not only reopen the Christmas Island detention centre, but they have already boosted a scare campaign claiming that Labor will bring the boats back. A few things need to be cleared up here.
- Over 90% of the refugees in question are genuine, and our legal obligations, if not what should be our moral convictions, should have had them brought here years ago.
- It would be at least 50% cheaper, if not more, to bring them all here and process them in Australia rather than running the detentions centres elsewhere, giving millions a year to private companies and other governments to handle them.
- The boats never stopped trying to reach Australia, it has just been banned from reporting, just like the conditions at Manus and Nauru were until they were leaked and people started taking notice.
- This current bill only applies to CURRENTLY held refugees and not new arrivals, but this important bit of information is considered part of the fine text in the scare campaign.
Labor, the Greens, and the Independents will not be bringing the boats back, they are simply doing what any decent human would and bringing desperate and hurt people here to receive the treatment they need. Many of these facts will probably go over the heads of some people, such as one, who even after I explained the above, proceeded to lambast me with rather surreal facts and figures. My only thoughts then were that the refugees, once here, would probably have a better grasp on English than most of those who are against letting them in.
This whole debate has nothing to do with the security of our borders, but entirely to do with the fact that we have an election coming up in a few months’ time. For years these innocent people have been used as a political football between the two major parties, and finally we will get some real actions taken, even if only temporarily. People like Derryn Hinch, who almost threw this bill out the window for the sake of grandstanding when he eventually accepted it, are also capitalising on this. While it must be celebrated that the bill was passed, we should also recognise that it has taken way too long for Labor to take this stance, and that they only did so with pressure from the Greens and the Independents.
One would hope we could have a decent election, but no doubt it will take the same course as the 2013 one and simply stir up more divisive vitriol.
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