If the conditions within a country are so terrible as to force their civilian population to flee and seek refuge elsewhere, then we should be doing everything that we can to alleviate their suffering, and everything we can to deescalate whatever tensions sparked such conditions. One country in particular, where the conditions are incredibly abhorrent, receives relatively little coverage – Yemen. But instead of a humanitarian approach to such a devastating situation, the “West” has been directly and indirectly responsible for the suffering of millions since 2015. Australia, usually a bystander unless in coalition with US interests, is now about to actively participate in this suffering.
For a government so averse to the idea of refugees trying to seek asylum in our country (by any means necessary, as it is legal to do so), it would seem rather contradictory that their policies are of the sort that actually create the conditions that cause refugees to materialise. But that is exactly what our government (and their US and European counterparts) is doing.
While Australia has had its share of involvement in the US’ endless wars for the last 18 years now, we’ve never had a major impact on a global scale. That might begin to change, ever so slightly, with the government funding Australian defence company Electro Optic Systems to the tune of $36 million – a company that had a deal of hundreds of millions of dollars with the UAE in the works. The UAE is heavily involved in Saudi Arabia’s brutal invasion of Yemen.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has been promoting the idea of Australia being a leading weapons exporter, hoping to cash in like the Americans have for decades. For starters, screw that – the American war machine is not something that we should aspire to model in any way whatsoever. A country that just produced a line of miniaturised nukes at such a fragile moment in international relations is an inspiration only to morons or those that literally want to see the world burn.
No, we should most certainly be moving away from such destructive measures – I have said before, a people at war cannot call themselves civilised. Potential destruction of the planet aside (we are still at 2 minutes to midnight), our government’s policies regarding the matter of refugees is blatantly contradictory. Considering our nation’s ‘apparent’ disgust of refugees daring to reach our shores, one would think that the government would instead support measures that allow these people to return to a safe and war free home, or, even better, not force them to leave in the first place. Exporting weapons and systems to a nation that will likely use them in conflict that has generated mass displacement is the polar opposite.
It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that there is obvious correlation between wars and refugees, and when you make a business out of war those refugees are the unfortunate by-product. If one does not wish to receive these desperate people, firstly they are heartless and despicable people, but more importantly, shouldn’t they instead strive for policies that deescalate tensions, rather than raise them? I know, I know, there’s profit to be made in suffering, and there are elections to win with callous human rights abuses, but there are more worthwhile products to export to these war-torn countries. How about we export education, or humanitarian aid? How about our government stands up to the US and, with groups like the UN, Red Cross, etc. assist these people where they are? And for those who endlessly throw out incoherent variations of “help our struggling Aussies out first before sending aid elsewhere”, a moment should be taken to consider the amount of money that has and will be spent keeping these people out. Not to mention the simple fact, that I’ve repeatedly stated here and elsewhere, that the two types of aid are not mutually exclusive.
The Paladin contract, which has now received scrutiny in the press, is north of $400 million. They are supposedly supplying security for the people in Nauru, but have been criticised for essentially doing nothing more, or indeed less, than a local police officer is doing. There are still questions that need answering about why Paladin received the contract, and why it costs so much given what we get out of it is so little. An interesting aside, Dutton allegedly has no idea about the process that went into choosing Paladin, just like Mathias Cormann had no idea his luxurious holiday trip (booked directly through the CEO of Helloworld, who also recently received a government contract) was not billed to his bank account, and just like how Michaelia Cash isn’t giving a statement to the AFP over the investigation into who leaked information of the AWU raid to the media that she doesn’t know was politically motivated. Out politicians do an awful lot of not knowing things they should know.
Back to the costs, Christmas Island (which, coincidentally, slammed the government for wanting to reopen the detention centres there, saying they do not have the medical, or any, facilities required) detentions centres are likely to cost the taxpayers millions to reopen and maintain, to no greater effect than the ones on Manus and Nauru did. This still leaves the refugees in seemingly indefinite detention and zero required medical care while lucrative contracts are handed out to private companies, some with non-existent portfolios either in this area of business or at all.
What our government has formed here is a vicious cycle. The funding and sale of weapons and weapon systems to countries involved in atrocities leads to a massive spread of refugees, which in turn (when they try to arrive here) leads to the demonisation of innocents and the lining of corporate pockets in the name of ‘border security’. All the crap about Labor, Phelps, and the Greens opening our borders up to rapists and murderers (as Dutton, the odious… you fill in the blank, tried to claim and couldn’t verify) is mere scaremongering and fear tactics leading to the election. But it isn’t ‘mere’ when peoples’ lives are at stake, is it? To a decent member of the public it is disgusting, and to the refugees it’s a matter of life and death, security or a constant state of uncertainty.
There should be no ‘sides’ in this debate, no politics or opinion – these people should be brought here for the proper medical care they need and be allowed to resettle here. Not only is it our international obligation to do so, but if we are going to directly contribute to the chaos being sewn then we have a very compelling moral obligation to help these people. I won’t be holding my breath.
Previous piece on Paladin HERE