How to flee persecution to Australia properly and other nonsense rhymes

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(Comic strip by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons)

'Fleeing the Nazis (or maybe the Commies)', 'We can't let you out because you might sneak in', 'That boat is not a boat!', and many other traditional Australian favourites. By managing editor Dave Donovan.

THE THINGS the Government says only make complete sense if you don’t listen properly, can’t remember the past, seldom ask any questions and refuse to think very hard. Fortunately for the people in power, that accounts for most Australians.

Let’s consider current Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s angry tirade on his way back home from Beersheba last Friday.

He was over in the former Palestine last week, along with many other Australians, to celebrate (and I use that word advisedly) the 100th anniversary of our most famous Light Horse victory. Of course, the event was all about the Charge, now marketed by Australia’s ever-expanding conflict glorification industry as the “last major cavalry charge in history” — which it simply wasn’t. (Nor were there any Israeli flags or blue ensigns on display in 1917.)

Anyway, Turnbull came back from Israel on Friday, landed in Fremantle and immediately launched into a tired and emotional rant directed at “those people” who dared to question Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg’s citizenship. The gist of Turnbull’s fiercely demonstrative lecture was that, because the Nazis took away Hungarian citizenship from Hungarian Jews before World War II, and Fry’s Jewish family was fleeing Nazi death camps in Hungary to come to Australia, “those people” should cut him some goddamned slack.

Which all sounds entirely reasonable — except that Fry’s family came to Australia in 1950. The Nazis stopped running death camps when they were wrestled out of power in Europe in 1945. So, who knows who Fry’s family was fleeing, but it certainly wasn’t the Nazis. Maybe the Communists? They took power in Hungary in 1949, after all.

Okay then, perhaps you might say, fleeing Communism wasn’t what Turnbull based his thinly veiled accusations of anti-Semitism upon — but the Commies were just as bad, weren’t they? So the Frydenbergs were still fleeing persecution, right?

Well, maybe. Except when it comes to fleeing persecution, for this Government, there is persecution and then there is persecution.

As deputy editor Michelle Pini put it, in an article called ‘Manus refugees left to rot as son-of-a-refugee Frydenberg whines about s44’:

… the headlines are all about Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg and the question mark over his citizenship.

Meanwhile, there are over 600 refugees who fled persecution and came to us for help. They are stranded for the third day on a hostile island where we have dumped them — without water, food, medications or power.

Without any sense of irony, Frydenberg, whose mother was a Hungarian refugee who fled persecution, said:

"It is absurd to think that I could involuntarily acquire citizenship of a foreign country from a stateless mother and grandparents."

So, let's get this straight. You are a genuine refugee, entitled to vast amounts of public sympathy, if you flee persecution from the Nazis (or the maybe the Commies) in Europe? But you are entitled to nothing more than further persecution if you happen to have fled conflicts in Asia or Africa — many of which Australia helped create? Regrettably, the Turnbull-Frydenberg doctrine does make a perverse sort of sense. As the learned doctors Barry Hindess and Jennifer Wilson explained this week, their approach closely resembles the original, rather racist, intent of the 1951 Refugee Convention – that is, to help people fleeing Europe and to hell with the rest – which pertained until the 1967 Protocol came into effect.

It is good to see it is not just Abbott stuck in the 1950s.

As for it being absurd to suggest Fry could involuntarily acquire citizenship? Well, what about Barnaby Joyce? Also, in 2011, Hungary restored citizenship to all those people the Nazis took citizenship away from during World War II. This, in fact, led to former Queensland Federal LNP MP Alex Somalyay ‒ a former Fry caucus colleague and fellow Hungarian diasporic ‒ renouncing his citizenship at that time. But not Fry. Don’t be absurd.

And don’t be so absurd as to suggest Fry is a dual citizen, because he probably is. Which was probably why Turnbull was so angry. “Those people” are ruining everything!

Our lofty, grandiloquent, finger-pointy-pointy Prime Minister ended his embellished 11-minute World War II documentary by imploring all of "those people" questioning Fry’s citizenship to “think deeper”. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean it, though. Because pretty much everything he said in his ill-tempered tirade was either silly nonsense or a specious diversion. And it is only if you don’t think about what he said that it makes any sense. Luckily for Malcolm, not many Australians do!

On Saturday, the very next day, our Prime Minister met with new New Zealand Prime Minister Jessica Ardern — who, unlike Turnbull, is a reluctant leader and a genuine progressive. (And one whose cat has just died, which is very sad.) Being a kindly and decent person, Ardern offered sanctuary for 150 of the 600 or so refugees our Government has left to perish on Manus Island. Naturally, Turnbull turned this down out of hand. Why turn down a credible offer to rehouse refugees on another country no longer in our care and for whom we no longer are responsible? I have no idea. But he did.

Oh, there were some reasons offered. Apparently some of these poor unfortunates might still be resettled in the United States under our refugee swap “deal”. Sure, after that Trump phone call. We’ll believe that when we see it!

The other explanation was one that has been used previously by our Government to head off any New Zealand do-gooder attempts to rehouse refugees rotting away in our rotten tropical island prison camps. That if we did offer asylum, those treacherous reffos would inevitably sneak into our bounteous land of milk and honey through the Kiwi back door ‒ the one left ajar through our ill-advised preferential trans-Tasman immigration laws ‒ thereby creating a “pull factor” for people smugglers.

Which would be a disaster! Because, as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton crowed last month:

“We haven't had a successful boat arrival in now over 1,100 days.”

Wow! That’s amazing, you might say. How on Earth did they achieve that?

Well, it’s really very simple. It just depends on what you call a “boat arrival”.

We’ll let the stand-in Border Force boss explain, via this exchange in Senate Estimates on 23 October 2017:

KIM CARR, LABOR SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: Did a boat arrive on Sabo Island on the 20th of August?


KIM CARR: And did it involve six Chinese nationals? 


KIM CARR: And was there a New Guinean people smuggler involved? 

MICHAEL OUTRAM: There was a New Guinean person on there, yes. 

KIM CARR: So why is that not an arrival in Australia? 

MICHAEL OUTRAM: It's not an arrival under the scope of Operation Sovereign Borders. Is that what you mean?

KIM CARR: Oh, I see. So, I wanted to be clear. So, just so long as we understand what 1,000 days means. It doesn't mean Chinese? It doesn't mean East Coast? 

MICHAEL OUTRAM: No, no. Senator, no. We get illegal arrivals in Australia at the border all the time and have done for many years, as you know. The reason OSB [Operation Sovereign Borders] was set up was not to deal with Papua New Guinea. As I articulated, it was to do with people arriving on the high seas, primarily out of Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

You got that? Under our Government, sometimes, when a boat arrives on our shores, it really doesn't.

And New Guinean people smugglers are not really people smugglers at all.

And publicising that route from Papua New Guinea isn’t a pull factor. Of course not.

Our leaders are liars. They’ll say any old thing. Unfortunately, they are allowed to, because ignorance reigns in this Brown Flat Land.

May it not reign for very much longer.

This Independent Australia editorial was originally published in the IA weekly newsletter and members only area in a slightly different form. If you'd like to receive exclusive subscriber only articles like this one, along with many other extras, for as little as $5 a month, you can subscribe to IA HERE.

You can also follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

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