Australia is a vast nation, geographically--- a beacon for those who live in countries where they are less than cogs in a machine. It has a history going back tens of thousands of years and the more recent colonization period leading to the modern day Australia shows what a nation can do to develop into a ‘lucky country.’ Yes--- there has been pain along the way, especially for the Aborigine People. I am not going to write a treatise on that subject, other than to acknowledge that sad history. I would be hypocritical, given New Zealand’s less than perfect nation-building stage.
Australia had developed a reputation of ‘people who can fight; the forces of nature and the idiocy of ‘mankind.’ It has stuck up for the ‘little person’ and the ‘nations who have been dealt a bad deal.’ Together with New Zealand and others, it has voiced concerns on the world-stage, batting way above its size in population terms.
Perhaps Australia has been too successful. Others notice and then Australia becomes a destination of choice, for those who see no future in their own countries. Thus we have the dilemma that Australia now faces; it is a victim of its own success and the flow of immigrants and refugees threatens to create an almost unsolvable problem.
Australia encourages legal immigrants, much like we do in New Zealand. It chooses those who would most benefit the continuing nation-building process and discourages those who would queue-jump and then face the tragic situation we have seen off the coast of Australia’s Northern and Western shores.
Unscrupulous criminal ‘people smugglers’ take advantage of this situation, and send hundreds (sometimes even themselves) to their deaths. It is the ‘middle-men,’ scattered throughout Asia who reap the rewards while their victims face the dangers of the ocean.
What can Australia do to stem this flow of hopeful people? The politicians are playing games because they do not have the answer. Australia alone cannot solve this issue. It is a regional problem, if not an international one. Australia needs to have excellent relations with its northern neighbour, Indonesia, who itself is a victim, placed unfortunately on the ‘road to hope’ for the refugees.
Indonesia does not encourage such people movement. It has many thousands of people in camps that it can ill-afford to feed and care for. Imagine being a poor Indonesian, barely managing to care for your family, only to see refugees being looked after, while your family suffers. Luckily, Indonesia is growing and developing a large middle-class and is better able to cope.
The Nations of Southeast Asia (including Australia and New Zealand need to act together. Of course if the problems in the countries of ‘source’ (Afghanistan, the Middle East in general) did not exist, nor would the refugee problem, but that is wishful thinking.
One fact remains. Australia I (and NZ) is that beacon of hope and people will continue to set sail in dangerous boats. That after all was how the modern day Australia came into being. The best Australia can hope for is that this ‘flow’ is controlled and does not continue to be a political whipping boy.