Sunday, December 19, 2010

Different Welcomes

For two of the last three weeks, Australians welcomed, gushed and had periods of personal hysteria during the “Oprah Winfrey’s Ultimate Australian Holiday”. She was gracious, generous, almost gushing in her praise of Australia, and Australians. Journalists, and media outlets, covered the minutiae of her movements. I heard one journalist say words similar to ‘We believe Oprah is in her car. Oh, my God’.  It was, after all, a promotional tour organised by Tourism Australia. She appears to be a nice lady, well-known, wealthy, and we welcomed her with open arms. We spent considerable amounts of money to pay for her tour, including adding a big “O” to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Contrasting this, was the most terrible crash of a boat-load of asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, on Wednesday. Boat arrivals, and the treatment of asylum-seekers have been the subject of UNHCR criticism. Under former (Liberal) PM, John Howard, the UN was critical of the harsh regimes in detention centres, especially Baxter Detention Centre in central Australia, and of the ‘off-shore’ processing centre at Nauru. (Labor) PM Kevin Rudd, and now Julia Gillard, have been criticised for the length of time it takes to repatriate people whose asylum claims have been denied.

The photo at right shows a woman’s t-shirt that says “bomb the boat” at a community meeting in Northam, WA in November. I do hope she’s not gloating at the loss of 30 or more men, women and children on Wednesday 15-Dec-10 when the boat sank at Christmas Island. Similar meetings and sentiments have been held in the Adelaide Hills, SA.

Australia should not have an open-border policy. But there are people in Australia, and elsewhere, who want to take the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas. Our politicians, of all sides, have led the race to the lowest point, in the quest for a vote, as they try to buy the votes of xenophobic and racist voters. That is our shame, and theirs.

Merry Christmas. I just hope you’re not seeking asylum.