politics

We’re not afraid of boats, we’re afraid of unfounded fear.

23 August, 2010

What a weekend. I have laughed, cried, lost hope and managed to find it again. Australia held a federal election on Saturday, and today there’s still no clear result other than evidence of the Australian public’s deep disillusionment with our political system and the politicians that represent us. At this stage we are likely to have a hung parliament which really worried me at first, but now I’m almost convinced that this is the best option. I hope it means that the members of the Lower House will work together instead of playing it safe and sticking to partisan politics.

Of the issues that most concerned me in the last year, few were more heartbreaking and urgent than the issue of asylum seekers. Lots of Australians have been bitterly disappointed with the amount of fear-mongering and scare tactics bandied about, with little regard given to the human beings who risk their lives to come to our country in search of a future where their freedoms and lives aren’t under threat.

Here’s a list of facts about refugees:

  • People who arrive in Australia seeking asylum are not breaking any law. Australia like many other countries believes in the right of individuals to seek asylum from persecution in their home country.
  • Over 90% of asylum seekers arriving by boat are recognised as genuine refugees.
    Less than 5% of people seeking asylum in Australia arrived by boat. There is no invasion of “boat people”.
  • The vast majority of asylum seekers are not jumping the queue – there is no queue for them to jump. Due to political and social factors only a tiny percentage of refugees and asylum seekers can avail themselves of the United Nations system of resettlement. For the rest there is no way to get in “the queue”.
  • Refugees do not receive higher welfare benefits than Australians. The circulating emails and rumours are simply incorrect.

Source: I ain’t afraid of no boats fact card, and Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts? Parliament of Australia Department of Parliamentary Services

I gladly contributed a graphic to be used for a grassroots campaign against fear of “boat people”, and on election day a bunch of compassionate folks wore t-shirts and badges to their polling booths to send a message to politicians and the public. We’re not afraid of boats.

I ain't afraid of no boats!
Instrumental in this campaign was my friend Rachael, who ordered hundreds of shirts and badges to send all over this big old rusty island. Thank you Rachael, I admire your action and your guts.

Badge with hand lettering saying "I ain't afraid of no boats". The word "afraid" has a circle with a red line slashing through the letters.
I also want to thank the staff at Instant Images Strathpine for printing the t-shirts, and Custom Badges for printing the badges.

I’m hopeful for the short term future because it means that the public might actually be heard. Over the last few days politicians sure have been banging on a lot about being in it for the national interest, and now they have to prove it. I’m going to pledge not to shut up about important social justice issues, that’s for damned sure. Even if it is hard and makes me sad… I just think it’s the decent thing to do.

ETA!

Wanna see an actual queue jumper? Steven Fielding, now THAT’S jumping the queue!

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  • kellyhogaboom

    Thanks for your work and your post.

  • <3 Thank YOU Natalie. You are awesome.

  • What I fail to understand and I have never seen addressed is that we can have people saying on one hand refugees are a drain on our country's resources and that we can't afford to take on the extra numbers yet at the same time they are paying out baby bonuses to encourage population growth. Maybe I'm missing something but it seems so hypocritical to me.

  • To me it seems like a distinctly xenophobic policy :(

  • Stephania

    It is so true, the “boat people” that get so much news time, only account of less than 5% of all refugees. Just another example of media exaggerating in order to strike fear in people

  • Lyndal

    I have to agree, i do think this hung parliament will in the end be a good thing. The independents will be able to have much more say in what goes on, and will actually be in the interest of the Australian people, not just the political numbers game.
    I would also love one of those shirts! lol

  • I loved the LNP propaganda I was getting in the mail. Seriously, if you think you can explain your policies in FIVE POINTS of THREE OR FOUR WORDS EACH, you’re doing it wrong. “Stop the boats” is not a policy and it makes no sense and I hate how many people unquestioningly swallowed it without probably even wondering “But how?” or even more importantly “But why?”.

    Unfortunately, my electorate went to the smarmy, oleaginous LNP git who had been sending me the stupid propaganda that had made me snort derisively so very much. He had even stationed himself the minimum of 6m from the door of the voting location and was shaking the hand of every single person in the voting queue, as if we were all desperately queuing up to meet him. After he had a charming and friendly conversation with the man in front of me who had 5 minutes previously been screaming “YOUR LEADER IS A CONFIRMED POOFTER AND I THINK YOU’RE A POOFTER TOO!” at some poor guy trying to hand out Greens how-to-vote sheets, I decided I needed to avoid the candidate’s oily handshake at any cost. Sigh.

    One other bit of propaganda I got in the mail was from an independent who seemed reasonable and started off by saying that we have a duty to help people seeking asylum and fleeing violence… then he went on for a while about how we can’t have all them darn illegal immigrants packing into our schools and stealing our resources. Ok so as of 2006 there were 6902 public schools in Australia (and presumably there are a few more now). In 2009, we had 2750 unauthorised arrivals by boat… even if we assume that half of those were kids (which is probably way too high an estimate), that would still mean 0.2 of a boat person per public school. Somehow I think we might be able to handle that, even with all the Australian families who take advantage of their right to have as many kids as they want and still have educational resources provided.