Hollowing out the asylum seeker ‘debate’
On July 5, while waiting for my dentist, I couldn't help hearing Kerri-Ann Kennelly, her show being blared on the big screen in the waiting room.
Kennelly was telling us how she welcomed PM Julia Gillard's exhortation for an honest debate on the asylum-seeker “problem”. She welcomed Gillard's dog whistle that political correctness had no part in the “debate” and called on her viewers to share their thoughts by emailing the show.
But first, Kennelly had to set the agenda. The tool of choice was fear-mongering.
The show's first item was about rape. Not just any rape, but the horrific rapes perpetrated by the Skaf brothers, who, Kennelly reminded us were “Lebanese Muslims” — almost 10 years ago.
Throughout the story, Kennelly and her correspondent poured over the gruesome details of the Skaf rapes, their propensity for attacking “white European women” and the alleged complicity of their family.
Kennelly asked questions of the entire Lebanese community, and linked the rapes with absurdly sexist comments made by former Mufti of Australia Sheik al Halali, about uncovered women and pieces of meat — comments made six years after the crimes were committed!
Kennelly appeared to recklessly suggest that Muslims were inherently more liable to be rapists than others. The implication for community attitudes to Muslim asylum seekers from Afghanistan and elsewhere was obvious.
If this is what passes for "debate" on Kerri-Ann, I'd hate to see a snow job!
Plebiscites needed now
The time has come for the Australian people to have their say on this country's involvement in the war in Afghanistan. The people did not have any say in the commitment to war either in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Australian Constitution only provides for a de facto dictatorial power for the PM, an absurd situation.
Money spent on the war effort could be used much more profitably for foreign aid purposes in Afghanistan. A plebiscite on this could be run at election time, late August. In addition, a plebiscite on the Republic is long overdue.
Voters could be asked (a) if they want a Republic (b) if they want to elect the President directly (c) if they want a symbolic or executive President. The public has been told that the Gillard Government wants to consult with the people. Plebiscites provide the opportunity to assess the peoples' wishes. It's called democracy.
Pearl Beach, NSW
Julia Gillard is right to argue that people should speak up about their concerns regarding asylum seekers and refugees. Julia is wrong to argue that these concerns are not necessarily racist.
Like Pauline Hanson and the million people who voted for her at one time, it is important people speak up so we can achieve a cathartic engagement and educate to eliminate ignorance and racism.
Australia has the lowest intake of asylum seekers and refugees in the OECD. We take in less than 0.5% of the world's total intake. Have we no shame?
Let us never forget our greatest shames and scandals; John Howard turned back the SIEV X, which was in international waters, Australia-bound and 146 children, 142 women and 65 men, 353 in total, drowned. And of course the other John Howard lie, the Tampa.
We are not doing enough to help people and rather we are inadvertently clinging to a White Australia policy.
Rednecks under the bed
Australians who hold an irrational xenophobia of asylum seekers may not be “rednecks”, but the Leader of the Opposition and his ilk who knowingly spread misinformation tailored to inflame those fears certainly are.
Australia has female parliamentarians, female premiers, female governors, a female prime minister and a female governor-general. We've come a long way. However we've come much less way, not far at all, over a longer period for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, and with our troubling attitudes to first generation migrants and to those very few asylum seekers.
When Australia has for instance Aboriginal premiers, an Aboriginal prime minister and an Aboriginal governor-general we will have come some way. Ask yourself, will we see this in our lifetime?