Attention, all you boat people headed Down Under: Australia doesn”t want you.
Knowing this, the two main candidates for prime minister in Saturday’s national elections each offered plans to turn away the tens of thousands of economic and political refugees that illegally arrive by boat in Oz yearly. It became one of the campaign’s main issues, with each side differing only in how they intended to repel the boat people.
In the six years since Australia’s Labor Party assumed power, an estimated 50,000 boat people have reached its shores, causing much consternation among a still mostly white and legendarily flinty electorate comprised in large part of the descendants of convict laborers. Realizing that any sort of pro-boat-peeps stance would lose him the election amid a largely hostile populace, incumbent Prime Minister Kevin Rudd”allow me to pause and note what an extremely exciting name that is”hastily cobbled together a plan in July that cruelly and amusingly diverted all boat persons intending to paddle toward Australia to Papua New Guinea, AKA “The Haiti of the Eastern Hemisphere,” instead. By the end of August, the mere thought of being permanently resettled in Papua New Guinea”where cannibalism and head-hunting are the only nationally recognized sports”had more than halved the monthly number of asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia via big mean hairy men smuggling them on rusty old leaky boats.
Regardless, Rudd had his ass handed to him in Saturday’s election, so the Papua plan may soon go poof.
Incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott, described as “a former boxer, Rhodes scholar and trainee priest,” says he will try and implement a sterner and more punitive approach to what he calls the “national emergency” of strange, unwanted, and often smelly people arriving on boats. Rather than merely diverting boat people to a hostile jungle island, Abbott’s plan involves using the Australian Navy to intercept the boats and return them to Indonesian waters. He will also require refugees already in Australia to carry temporary (not permanent) visas and to work for their welfare benefits. He will also, quite likely, call them nasty, hurtful, and unfair names behind their backs.
Abbott’s road to victory was largely paved with the support of the Murdoch media empire, which, as is their wont, willfully stirred up the anxieties, fears, insecurities, and paranoia nestled within the loins of every person on Earth who’s white and doesn’t feel bad about it.
But there were other voices in the media”more muted, exasperated, and pious voices”which assured us that “God loves boat people.” We heard of pregnant women vomiting in weather-beaten boats so crammed with runaway Muslims that people reproduced accidentally merely by dint of being packed together so tightly. We heard of them humbly nibbling on crackers and thoughtfully sipping from juice cartons as they made their way down from Myanmar to Malaysia to Indonesia and then finally Australia, dodging choppy seas and fighting great white sharks with their bare fists just for a chance to finally meet Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan in the flesh. We read that in its abject disdain for these humble and holy immigrants, Australia is a “morally backward place” that stinks of racism. We read that even the Jews are upset with Australia’s white redneck majority.
“What,” you might ask, “is the difference between these new boat people and the nearly one million Vietnamese boat people who relocated to the USA in the 1970s and the 125,000 or so Cubans who paddled to Florida in 1980?”
“The difference,” I would answer, “is that Australia is turning these new boat people away.”
Australia’s original boat people, the astoundingly unattractive aborigines who spend most of their time these days huffing spray paint and eating grubs, were said to arrive on the continent 50,000 or so years ago. They spent the next 50 millennia painting caves and running around in loincloths until “the white man””I forget his name”began arriving on boats in large numbers during the late 1700s. From then until 1868, an estimated 161,700 white convicts were transplanted to Oz. Some of their descendants went on to form the multiplatinum-selling classic-rock band AC/DC.