Another Plebiscite? No Thanks

30/07/2019

Pauline Hanson has made headlines – again – for saying something controversial and obviously not grounded in reality. She put forward, in the Senate, to have a national plebiscite on the number of immigrants coming into the country, asking people whether or not they believed the current number was too high or not. She was soundly defeated when it went to a vote, but of course it’s now made the rounds through the media – the idea is there.

Hanson claims, like many of her ilk do, that migrants – particularly those of scary colours and religions, for sure – are the root cause of many issues Australia faces domestically. She often cites welfare as a major concern, accusing many migrants coming here to get welfare, have children, and set off a negative cycle. But there is no factual basis to this, and her voting record tends to align with the Coalition – the wrong place to cast your lot if you really cared about the average Australian.

But let’s play devil’s advocate – let’s say we held a plebiscite to gauge public opinion on an issue I’m sure endless opinions polls have already deduced. We could send it out in the mail, a foolproof and modern method of communicating with the electorate. Of course, people will need to know it’d coming up, so exorbitant media coverage will need to take place to saturate the 24hr news cycle. That coverage would obviously include well-articulated and totally valid arguments fighting either for or against the topic at hand, with advertising campaigns being forced down peoples’ throats.

Sure, it might have some negative effects on the people that it applies to, but it’s the outcome that counts – the people will get a say! Perhaps it’ll make some people feel unwelcome in their community, or uncertain about their identity and future. It’s all a part of the process, having a discussion about the real issues. Yeah, maybe people could get overwhelmed by it, and have their mental health drastically deteriorate, but this is about facts, not your feelings.

I feel I’m overdoing it, but you get the point. The Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite held a few years ago under Turnbull was a national disaster and a disgrace. It cost an obscene amount of money, generated the result everyone expected, and only served to damage those who were affected by it – the LGBT+ community. Now, would one be right in countering with “well this is a different issue, one that does impact everyone?” Yes and no, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking it would go swimmingly.

Do we need to have debates about immigration? Sure. How about the refugees we’ve kept in indefinite offshore detention or brought to Australia on a temporary basis, affecting both their mental and physical health and abusing their rights? Or the countless immigrant workers who are extorted by giant corporations like 7/11 because they know they can get away with it without much penalty? What about the potential for increased violence against immigrant populations due to vile rhetoric spewed by vile leaders?

Oh, you meant debate immigration in terms of helping the average Aussie out first? You’re going to have to look elsewhere for that, I’m afraid. Maybe start with the $158B in tax cuts, most of which will flow directly to the pockets of already wealthy folk who probably pay little to no taxes anyway. Those cuts suspiciously come after the gutting of public services like Medicare, education, and… you guessed it, welfare.

You could then move onto talking about the reckless spending on infrastructure carried out by Coalition governments across the country. I still don’t have the NBN at my place, even though many of the streets around me do. Road congestion could be solved by actually taking the time to invest in worthwhile projects, not contracting private companies to build giant, ineffective highways to toll the crap out of commuters with. Or, you know, maybe public transport could be worth looking into, but no, that’d be all aboard the socialist train, right?

Or what about the real welfare – I mean, wealthfare – bludgers? The likes of Rupert Murdoch and other media conglomerates receiving millions in funds to do exactly what the ABC was already doing in the Pacific region. Private healthcare insurers being subsidised to make it look like they can compete with a properly funded public healthcare system; fossil fuel companies being subsidised to keep an already dead industry flailing around as renewables, without government investment, will inevitably overtake them anyway. Spending big bucks on defence assets that will be redundant by the time they are operational.

Don’t blame immigrants for the mistakes of our elected officials. It’s not the ‘flood’ of Asians or ‘infestation’ of Africans, as some so delightfully put it, that are tanking our economy. This has been a calculated and intentional outcome resulting from years of dodgy governance and policy. And again, don’t delude yourself with hapless optimism. “This isn’t about race,” Hanson and her followers chant in unison. Bullshit – we all know exactly how this conversation will go, because we see it already. A plebiscite will only serve to severely divide the Australian people again under well-dressed pretexts that obscures both the real reasons for it, and the actual causes of societal issues.

So no, Senator Pauline Hanson – Australia does not need your PR stunt plebiscite any more than it needs whatever other misguided opinion you hold.

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