Carlo's Corner: We got 99 problems, but some boats ain’t one

Saturday, February 22, 2014
'The percentage of our problems caused by asylum seekers coming in boats is exactly zero.'

You know, unless asylum seekers somehow managed to sneak into this country and made it all the way to Geelong to pose as Alcoa executives to announce yet another plant closure at the cost of nearly a thousand more jobs, then I really think this nation has some bigger goddamn problems than boats carrying refugees asking for help.

Put another way, we've got 99 problems and some boats ain’t one, which is a line I put in to show how up to date I am with pop culture by paraphrasing a song released a mere decade ago.

The Australian economy is starting to hit the rocks and the surest sign is the bad jobs news. Behind the statistics showing the jobless rate is at a 10-year high is real pain and suffering — and none of it is caused by refugees, on who our government insists on imposing even worse misery, allegedly paying a gang of thugs on Manus Island to terrorise them.

The percentage of our problems caused by asylum seekers coming in boats is exactly zero. The gains to our society by jailing innocent people in prison camps run by murderous psychopaths is even less.

It does, however, make for a convenient distraction while the government cries poor, preparing us for savage cuts in spending in the coming budget, yet finding billions of dollars to “protect our borders” and run horrific prison camps for people who have committed no crime.

It sometimes seems this government has a form of Tourettes making it unable to stop saying “boats”. So, when prime minister Tony Abbott spoke at a February 12 event about “closing the gap” between Aboriginal people and the rest of society, he said his government was as serious about Indigenous politics as it was about “stopping the boats”.

There seems no topic Abbott can't bring back to stopping the boats. When Margaret Abbott asks him to take out the bins at the Lodge, Abbott must respond: “Of course darling, I am serious about removing the rubbish from this house as I am about stopping the boats”. And then when asked later about why he hasn't done it, pretends he has but refuses to answer questions on the matter citing “operational matters”.

Because despite Abbott's undoubted proficiency at uttering the phrase, his government has manifestly failed to stop boats carrying asylum seekers from entering Australian waters.

So presumably Aboriginal people can look forward to an ever widening gap, which Abbott refuses to discuss before moving on to tell sacked car workers he is as serious about finding them jobs as he was about “closing the gap”.

Revelations that Abbott's Indigenous staff are actually paid $19,000 less than their coworkers indicates that when Abbott says he is as serious about “closing the gap” as “stopping boats” he actually means it. We can expect as much progress on both fronts.

But while the government is busily insisting it has resolved a non-existent problem, it announces more government spending and job cuts in a climate of climbing unemployment.

Which makes it somewhat ironic that, at university orientation weeks across the country, Young Liberals, with their usual mix of charm and tact, produced stickers declaring: “Proud Liberal. Because we can't all be on welfare.”

Well no, but Liberal governments across the country appear to be giving it their best shot.

It can seem that the strategy of demonising asylum seekers is working, but there are signs that the government's line of “believe what we say because we say it” is starting to fall apart.

Despite Abbott insisting the ABC was unAustralian for reporting allegations the Australian Navy tortured asylum seekers, a Fairfax poll found two-thirds of people wanted an independent investigation into the incident.

What is more, even most Coalition voters backed an independent investigation, and most starkly, only 1% of respondents agreed with Abbott that the national broadcaster was “unAustralian or anti-Australian”.

This is truly shocking. If these figures are correct, it would seem by Abbott's logic that the vast majority of Australia is now unAustralian! The country has somehow turned itself into its opposite in a bizarre act of negation that must have the 1% of true Aussies, who believe whatever the government says as a point of principle, scratching their heads in disbelief.

So, here is a suggestion: why don't the last 1% of true Australians leave the rest of us unAustralian masses behind and fuck off to an isolated Pacific island to set up Real Australia, free from journalists who have the sheer gall to ask the government questions.

Those of us stuck here in unAustralia will just have to muddle on without the Abbotts, Hockeys and Morrisons, somehow or other.

From GLW issue 998