Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's be fair dinkum

Last night's debate pissed me off. And I'm being fair dinkum when I say that. When Tony Abbott began by mentioning his wife and kids, it didn't just feel like a dig at Julia, it felt like a dig at anyone who doesn't fit into the conventional mould. Julia herself isn't much better, taking any opportunity to be photographed with children, presumably in the hope that she will appear "family-friendly". I don't give a rats arse about how many children a policitan has, or how many they say hello to in one day, I just want to know what their policies are on parental leave, abortion rights and gay marriage. But, sadly, it feels as if good policy plays a poor second to election victory - a goal made easier by fuelling the fears of "everyday, hardworking, Australians".

And that brings me to the whole border protection issue. It seems that, whichever way the polls go on election day, asylum seekers risk again being treated as illegal terrorists at worst and opportunistic economic migrants at best. The fact that the number of people who sought asylum in Australia in 2009 was way less than 1% of our total population and when finally processed were found overwhelmingly to be legitimately fleeing persecution due to race, religion, nationality or political persuation seems irrelevant.

I wonder whether the latest Government is "losing its way". I was proud when the Rudd Government ratified the Kyoto Protocol, I was proud when they made the formal apology to the Stolen Generations and I felt I could finally hold my head up high in international circles when Australia gave support to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now I'm feeling almost as despondant as when Howard was in office.

During the Howard era I was friends with asylum seekers who had not only survived torture in their home countries, followed by the soul-destroying experience of detention, but then waited on temporary protection visas for the length of that Government's term in office. With no access to medical support, legitimate employment or housing, they were dependant on the charity of non-profit organisations to maintain their dignity and sanity during the long wait for an answer.

So, what do I want to happen on election day? Well, ideally the Greens win government and we all live happily ever after in our sustainble houses and electric cars, but failing that, I would hope that the next Government is one that is not only able to tackle the challenge of climate change with leadership and a longterm vision, but is also able to put the national interest in perspective and give equal consideration to the interests of the world's most vulnerable people, thereby making me fair dinkum proud once again to be Australian.