Calls to ban Muslim immigration are irrational and economically unviable since Australia's Muslim community and tourist visitors have brought peace and prosperity — not terrorism. John Haly reports.
In the light of fears expressed by Sonia Kruger and Pauline Hanson calling for a ban on Muslim immigration and Morrison and Dutton’s harsh detention policies for any desperate enough to approach our shores, justified?
Asylum seekers are not terrorists
All this despite no asylum seeker arriving in a boat ever being implicated in political terrorism in Australia! Yet Reclaim Australia adherents and government MPs keep raising the fear levels. They imply terrorists are trudging from country to country, risking life and limb in leaky fishing boats for the express purpose of carrying out terrorist acts.
Hiding as victimised refugees defies logic, especially when it is easier to simply fly in. Yet, this really is the type of argument touted by politicians like Cory Bernardi, Jacqui Lambie, Pauline Hanson and George Christensen.
The closest thing to any sort of “Muslim terrorist” we have experienced in the last decade, flew in on a comfortable plane on a business visa with the approval of the government of the day. Granted a protection visa in 2000, Haron Monis became a citizen in 2004. Aside from having a criminal and psychological history and fallouts with the Australian courts for implications in crimes, it was evident that Monis only thought of using the “terrorist” angle for his actions in the Lindt Café as an afterthought. His request for an ISIL flag to be brought into the cafe, reflects the lack of an organised act of terrorism and is more accurately described as 'a violent rampage by a narcissistic and mentally unstable man'.
Perhaps we should stop cutting mental health programs as a mitigating effort? Even if you do consider this an act of political terrorism – and let’s generously give it the widest definition possible – the death of one person (the police killed the other person) might bring the number of deaths due to “terrorism” in Australia to five. That number includes the 1978 Hilton Hotel bombing (which killed three) and also includes the Turkish consul-general murdered in Sydney in 1980 — although adding this murder as a “terrorist death” is stretching credibility.
It’s hard to manufacture any numbers of significance for actual terrorist acts in this country. Of course, strict interpretation of the definition of a “terrorist act” in the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Section 100.1), would suggest only the Hilton Bombing is relevant. If you count worldwide terrorist deaths of Australians killed since the 1978 Hilton bombing, then a total of 113 deaths are represented.
At an average of three a year, frankly, horses kill more Australians (at a rate of 20 per year). I curiously await the announcement of the closure of the horseriding, rearing and racing industry and sport. Really? We have a tendency to become hysterical about hypothetical possibilities, while inadequately dealing with more prominent causes of mortality — such as women’s deaths from domestic violence.
Australia spends billions on the negligible threat of “terrorism”, while our current conservative government reduced by $300 million the amount we spend on risk mitigation for domestic violence. Rape victim Kate Stone reported (from Destroy The Joint figures) that 79 women were killed due to domestic violence last year yet, while resources for domestic violence have shrunk, counter terrorism measures for the theoretical possibility of a death, have increased by $1.2 billion in 2016.
Frankly, the most significant post World War II loss of lives on Australian shores due to a single individual was accomplished by a blue eyed, blonde, Caucasian (non-Muslim) man at Port Arthur named Martin Bryant in 1996. Before that, there was the Queen Street Australia Post office massacre by the Catholic Caucasian (non-Muslim) Frank Vitkovic who killed nine people. In the same year, 1987, the right-wing Caucasian (non-Muslim) Australian Army officer, Julian Knight killed seven people.
In fact, the more you examine the history of massacres in Australia (and in particular the ones prior to the World Wars), the more you realise the real profile of mass killers is very similar to the American experience. The lessons are, restore mental health programs and beware of white, Christian, right-wing, non-Muslim Caucasians!
Too many terrorists
Yet we are content to ignore the fact that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide are peaceful, law abiding citizens who are more often the victims of radicalised elements within their own society. They have a greater risk of death by terrorism than any non-Muslim Australian.
That doesn’t include deaths instituted by the global "war on terror" which estimates have put at 4 million people.
So many terrified of so few
Yet, death by Muslim terrorists rates as a fear that preoccupies our social media chatter and our TV talk show conversations. Our irrational fear of barely two % of our population who are Muslim (a third of which are Australian born) is odd in the face of so many other, more common causes of death.
Are you a Muslim?
With the return of prominent racial vilification on the political national agenda with Hanson’s One Nation party returning to power, new calls for action have emerged.
The proposal that we should lock out Muslims from entering our country poses some significant issues. Not unlike the Donald Trump response to the threat of ISIL of locking down borders to any Muslims, the identification of Muslims is problematic. Given Muslim culture is expanded by conversion and spans beyond typical skin colour demographics, do we adopt the Trump methodology of discerning Muslim identity by having Border Force, ask each entrant “Are you Muslim?”
Would we expect a person entering the country intent on doing us harm to answer honestly? Who would we stop and how would Sonia Kruger’s ban be implemented?
Are you a Refugee?
Muslims enter the country as refugees, immigrants, or for education, business or tourism. Refugees and immigrants, historically, add considerably to the economic welfare of our country. Not only have this asylum seeker population NOT generated terrorist incidents but they have created economic wealth in Australia — and not by taking jobs so much as creating them.
The example of Karen refugees making $40 million worth of contributions to the economy in Nhill, Victoria, is a classic case. Spending 1.2 billion a year to keep them in detention, when they could be boosting our economy by millions is non-productive.
So, if it is not refugees that are a threat, then what of the alternative group that fly in on a plane every year? Which industry in Australia are we prepared to damage to allay our fears? Of the 7.78 million visitors to Australia for reasons of holidays, business, employment or education, many originate from Muslim countries.
In 2015, visitors from Malaysia (with a 61% Muslim population) generated $1.1 billion in total expenditure. Indonesia (with 87% Muslims) generated $0.6 billion and the Middle East (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with a combined 82% Muslim population), about $1 billion.
Since international students contribute about $20 billion to the Australian economy, preventing Muslims from participating in Australian education would have a significant economic impact. If – like the Australian population – Muslims represent less than 2% of university students, then we might be discussing a $400 million hit to our economy.
Then there are the business and 457 visas, which facilitate Muslims entering the country for employment or trade. Trade for goods, services and technology with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a $16 billion industry.
The economic rationalisation?
The question we need to ask is how much of the billions of dollars in tourism, education and business markets are we prepared to sacrifice or adversely affect? All this in the name of a hypothetical possibility we haven’t seen actualised in 38 years? If we’d only stopped sabotaging funding for mental health programs perhaps we’d have less murderous events we like to inappropriately call “terrorism”.
To what extent will we lock out the Muslim world from Australia because of this disproportionate fear?
I thought true conservatives sought to be prosperous, measure real risk rationally and be economically responsible? The call for banning Muslims is an economically irrational and highly expensive path based on an obscure risk with negligible statistical occurrences. Will the Coalition Government ignore it?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Support independent journalism. Subscribe to IA for just $5.