Gerry Georgatos is the Education Vice-President at Murdoch University in Perth, WA. In this article, first published in Murdoch University's student magazine METIOR (Edition 07, 2005, the man issue) Gerry reviews Australia's policy of locking up refugees and he searches for answers from philosophers, the state of the media, and our persistent closed-shop racism to explain Australia's attitudes in this policy area.
From Metior, Ed 07, 2005
by Gerry Georgatos, Education Vice-President
Mandatory Detention is in breach of S268(12) of the Criminal Code. Only the Attorney-General can lay a charge against his own government, possibly himself and against the Minister of Immigration. In a presumably just society the laying of charges, and the case by case inquiry must always lay in the hands of totally independent bodies.
Australia does not have an illegal immigration problem. Australia, still, is racist, and this racism continues to construct Australia's legal and governance stances. The presumed illegal immigration, historically and contemporaneously, has been, and is, miniscule - most peoples fleeing to Australia have legitimate claims, such as persecution and starvation. Most of the people cruelly incarcerated in Detention Centres are genuinely considered as asylum seekers. 90% have been granted Temporary Protection Visas, thus they are bona-fide refugees. It is anathema, as bona-fide refugees, when Australia is signatory to so many human rights conventions, and the initiator of many agreements, and the voice of allegations, that the government prolongs the incarceration of the bona-fides.
It must always be reinforced that Australia has never had, and does not have, an illegal immigration problem. What it has is a racist identity, and self-regarding history, that has created a closed economy, and these are main contributions to the ludicrous cries for border controls. If Australia's foreign policy wasn't in line with the other major players in world politics, and their transnational corporate regulators, then Australia would be suffering similar condemnation as did Apartheid South Africa. Australia's White Australia shame has not concluded, nor has it sought forgiveness and identified pursuance to a new national consciousness. When peoples insist on mandates, rules and regulations which favour certain presumed stereotypes then this is sheer racism and discriminatory. They predicate Foreign policies, and the perpetuation of conflicts and disparity. The long-term vision of ending cycles, regionally and globally, is lost to the short-term-vision of self-regard. The Liberal Party wallows in self-regard, in its closed ranks mentality, its closed economy principles: and with this self-regarding ethos can never aspire to end cycles and have a globally sustainable vision. The Laborites, the Greens, the Democrats are Australia's only immediate hopes with their, in principle, other-regarding natures. Yet, Malcolm Fraser maybe right when he suggests that Labor has descended from its original platforms and with the Liberals is chasing the redneck vote.
It is for Labor to stand truer to its underlying ethos and be other-regarding, for the Greens and Democrats to maintain this steadfast vision. Howard Conservatism, or rather bigotry, have, for the last decade, frowned upon Australia, and, consequently, most young people have now grown up under the influence of Howard Conservatism. It is a sad state when people support the locking up of children rather than demand universal human rights. Even though I am for old growth forests, and disagree with logging, I can understand their arguments, but can never understand arguments in relation to the loss of human rights for the many, and the upholding of rights for the few. Thus, human existence devolves to numbers, it is a lottery, all merely depending on how you hit the world. Nietzche described the Herrenmoral, where the aristocracy are honourable to their own kind, but cruelly look down upon their presumed inferiors. Nietzsche died maddened by his witness at the disgust he presumed of the world. God is dead, and humankind hoodwinked by falsity, and in blind wandering, everyone an Oedipus and no-one knowing who's screwing them, all screwing each other. It's always the poor, hoodwinked by the rich, upholding the hopes and aspirations of the rich, never belonging to the blind.
Australia's economy is pretty much similar to that of some of the Scandinavian countries, and has a reductionist and protectionist policy which values non-utilitarian economics, and totally disregards diversity and difference. Aetiologically, originating from the harsh silence of the Australian seascape that oppressed and dispossessed the Indigenous peoples, and viewed its immediate neighbours as heathens.
Greece has suffered economically for opening its borders to the poverty-stricken of Albania, and, yes, there is dissension amongst Greeks. Yet, the government, and it has as right-wing a government as Greece has known in recent decades, took on humanistic value formations manifest by their acknowledgement of the impost of human interrelations and the long-term vision of human intellectual evolution, and allowed them in. Yes, Greece has a different psychological history to Australia, its national consciousness is heavily influenced by the ancient philosophers, and it has more educated people than Australia (17% of Australians have a higher education, this is another issue). The Serbian nightmare arose when they had allowed 90% of Kossovo to be settled by Albanians, but this did not deflect from the Greek decision. Nationalism is a sickness, a lie: people, on this planet, have the right to go wherever they want to whenever they want to. How dare people sit in judgement of people who risk their lives, and the lives of their family members in order to discover safer haven? Instead of ameliorating and bringing humanity together, there is raging debate about how to maintain reductionist policies, and perpetuate a self-regarding closed economy. Not all people come to Australia because they believe it to be this wonderful place, and once here feel isolated and dispossessed, but are here to survive. Many migrants are distressed by the quiet suburbs and the lack of community and activity.
The media cannot be counted on to tell the truth, it doesn't. It is institutionalised and policy ridden by its transnational corporate owners who are the oligarchy, the players who manifest true governance. The political parties toe the line with the media, because they believe they're lost without them. The non-Liberal parties always feel a tenuous hold with the media, and rarely speak their mind, because they know the value of the increasing power of editing. Yet, they too should remember the voices of the past that have made great differences, and should vest belief in going hard with their true apothegms. People are not stupid, though formatively malleable, and Hanson did have a million behind her, and Howard more, but it is about education. I do not believe in any form of censorship, and defend latitudes of expression, they are our rights and hopes. I don't heckle anyone down, I want them heard, because if allowed to talk for long enough then they will either be shown up, or positively contribute. If Labor in the last election had described its true nature, had spoken out against the scaremongering of the Liberals, of the falsity of illegal immigration as some major problem, of the conspiracies and contraventions in our Foreign policies then the Liberals would not have the hideous balance of power they now have, and, with it, hope to manifest the type of social, cultural and economic engineering that governments achieved in the first half of the 2Oth century.
Rossetti wrote '...who can see the wind, neither you nor I...' but when the boughs bend we know it is passing, and so, likewise, we sense truth. Howard, Costello, Abbott, Ruddock, Vanstone are throwbacks to the 1920s, social engineers rather than utilitarian reformers. Yet, I've crossed paths with some of them, and know them as God-fearing types, but their policy making is foreign to New Testament fundaments. Instead, they have maintained as if inherent the belief that the Celtic, and the assimilated, Australian are virtuous and most of the rest of humanity as heathen, or inferior. Religion is not to blame, because the Methodist David Lange was a positive social justice reformer in New Zealand and stood up to American nuclear power. We just don't live in the right psychological conditions, and thus the Dark Ages continue - it's just not Queensland conservatism and the harsh rural existence that permitted Hanson and a million others, Howard Conservatism is no less ignorant or vile than Hanson's nescience.
Though our ability to discover the truth is now being outstripped by our ability to manifest deceit there is much that is obvious to those who are somewhat learned, or observant. Foreign policy is built around recidivistic Transnationals and not the workers that make it possible, or the remaining ransomed citizenry. Foreign policy, in order to institutionalise, rampages cultural and economic normative(s). I've seen more democratic communities in the Third World than I have in the presumed First World with its Tenth World consciousness. Eisenhower warned the American citizenry to be on the alert against the unwarranted influences within the military-industrial-complex and governance. Any fool knows that for Transnationals to achieve ends Foreign Policy is dictated to, and its lackeys and cronies stir the dormant passions of regional fundamental beliefs in order to foment the chaos that is their door. The God-fearing types in governance and the recalcitrant and recidivistic Transnationals, with their petrol eyes, scare-monger and decimate. We know that hideous regimes have been perpetuated by the presumed Western World. So many of us knew that there were no WMDs, the SCUD struggled to make the list. We're searching for answers to resolve towards sustainable development, but 60 years after Oppenheimer's weapons were tested for consequences on two Japanese cities, we still haven't learned. As Einstein once remarked, we can't solve the problems with the same thinking that created them. The Jewish, are one of many cultures, to suffer every outrage imagineable, persecution, exile, quarantine, the Holocaust, yet they who should have known better can't resolve the Palestinian question in which after two millennia of residence, they rudely dispossessed the Indigenous Palestinians. Australia still can't fully admit its crimes against the Indigenous, can't admit it is still racially prejudiced, can't admit it contravenes human rights, can't admit it is a selfishly closed economy. Think about the great world we live in: hundreds of millions live sheltered at the expense of, and from, the billions who live in abject poverty because the hundreds of millions have taken their allotments and their rights away. This is who we're keeping out, we don't want them here, but we want their resources. This world can't work, not on utilitarian and egalitarian principles, if it will not have genuine minimum and maximum standards.
In fifty years, as, somewhat, with the Stolen Generation, Australia will look back with a modicum of shame on the great crime it committed with the SIEV X, where it broke every humanitarian, maritime and international law and sent to their watery deaths so many mothers and children. In the preceding August Australia had turned away a leaky overcrowded boat of refugees, that a Norwegian freighter saved when it found it sinking. The SIEV X sank not, in that great Howard lie, in Indonesian waters, but in International waters, Australia bound, in Australia's aerial border protected surveillance zone. 146 children, 142 women and 65 men, 353, drowned at sea. Boats had been turned back by Australia's Operation Relex, and there is a history of refugees drowning at sea, and even a Ruddock interview preceding the SIEV X disaster defending Australian inaction in searching for missing boats of refugees in the high seas. And people think these people aren't desperate, that most aren't bona-fide in fleeing? ... In the end, the current designs are shit, the rich exploit the poor, the few are sheltered from the many, if people in their hearts aren't evil their ways are evil, this system isn't working, and lies are manifest and swallowed - as long as we insist on society and structures, and thus interrelations, then people have a right to go wherever they want to in this world, and people have a right to the same rights as everyone else. Detention Centres are part of the exercise that is the Dark Ages.