In the light of this, what has Australia's response been?
Australia's default response since the Abbott Government came to power is one of abject cruelty. This has either meant sending asylum seekers to island nations in the Pacific who are I'll equipped to deal with the issue or in some cases it has meant turning boats around and or paying people smugglers to take people back out of Australian territorial waters.
In an international relations sense, it was revealed that the Australian Government asked the US Government to ask Australia if they would like to help bomb ISIS and Syria. The general tone appears to be that of the rhetoric immediately before a state election in that we want to get tough on Syria and we want to get tough on the people fleeing Syria.
It is perhaps fitting that if you were to read through Hansard, you would find that the last time that Tony Abbott used the words "asylum seekers" on the floor of the parliament in any other sense other than to offer condolences, was all the way back in November of 2012. Since then, most speeches that Mr Abbott has made have referred to "illegal immigrants". This is despite the fact that seeking asylum isn't illegal and under the terms of the UN Refugee Convention 1951, there is no prescribed method of entry.
Germany and Austria's response over this last week has been remarkable. German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised that Germany would accept 800,000 refugees from Syria and across Germany and Austria, crowds cheered as asylum seekers and refugees emerged from trains and into communities. In contrast, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, has practically pleaded for Australia to increase its intake of refugees from the crisis from 2,200 to 10,000; which is 1.25% that of Germany's. In an act of just bizarreness, PM Tony Abbott declared at the weekend that ISIS was "worse than the Nazis" because the Nazis showed a degree of shame in what they we doing and tried to hide it
In 2013 in a speech to the IPA, Tony Abbott said¹:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the foundation of our justice. “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” is the foundation of our mercy. Faith has weakened but not, I’m pleased to say, this high mindedness which faith helped to spawn..." but how is that policy being put into practice?
That last quote "Love your neighbour as you love yourself" which comes from Luke 10 comes out of the parable of the 'Good Samaritan'² when an expert in the law asks the question "And who is my neighbor?". The Samaritans were hated by the Jews and so this parable is very much a provocative story; making use of people's racism at the time. The parallel with today is obvious. Just like the parable, our policy as a nation and as enacted by the current government is the same as the priest and the Levite. We would rather pass by on the other side of the road and do nothing if we can get away with it. It's even better if we can exercise our continuing racist and Islamophobic agenda as a nation because if we can cast asylum seekers and refugees as less than human, we can justify our total apathy towards them. Quite frankly, it's pathetic and if this is how "Team Australia" operates then I don't want to be part of it.
PM Abbott of all people, who was once a youth pastor in a Catholic church should be familiar with the story of Jesus and remember that Joseph, Mary and Jesus also fled their homeland for Egypt because of a barbarous régime intent on the destruction of its own people. If Egypt had closed its borders in the first century, then this story might read rather differently.
Admittedly Section 116 of the Australian Constitution³ expressly forbids the state from enacting laws in respect of religion but I think that as a nation we should be exhibiting love, joy, peace and kindness, to people, irrespective of where they come from and what they believe because against such things there is no law. It seems to me that the only religion operating in Australia with any real force of law behind it is the idiotic worship of the great god Dollar.
It is un-Australian to know the second verse of the national anthem and I used to think that it was because we were collectively apathetic when it came to national pride but now I know better:
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
The truth is that we don't have "boundless plains to share" and if you dare show up at our borders, we'll turn your boats around or send you off to a detention centre on Manus Island.
If we do nothing we will "make this Commonwealth of ours, renowned of all the lands"; indeed we might already be doing that:
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has overseen a ruthlessly effective effort to stop boats packed with migrants, many of them refugees, from reaching Australia’s shores. His policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war.
- New York Times, 3rd Sep 2015.⁴
What will Australia's response be in the future?