Back where you came from

HomelessSomeone gave me some good advice when I was a single woman: when you’re out on a date with a man, take note of how he treats the waitress. Because one day that’s how he’ll treat you. I couldn’t help but think of this advice, strangely enough, when I tried to digest the disturbing news that Abbott’s government has almost certainly handed Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers back to the government they were fleeing from. Because it occurred to me that Australian voters really should heed this same advice when it comes to the way Abbott treats the most desperate and vulnerable amongst us.

No doubt many Australians would read this and think smugly to themselves, ‘no, I’m Australian. My government would never treat me like they treat an asylum seeker. They’re not from here and I am, so that gives me certain privileges that the asylum seekers don’t have rights to’. But this is clearly naïve.

You think Australians have rights. Sure we do. But asylum seekers have rights too. They’re called human rights and Abbott completely disregards them. Australia has signed up to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, but from the behaviour of the Abbott government over the last 9 months, I wonder why the UNHCR still accepts Australia as a signatory to this international agreement. Yes, we think of ourselves as a first world country. But what first world country would violate human rights and demean the weak and defensive amongst us in order to win political points? How callous does the government have to be before Australian citizens start to show a rational level of concern about the people in charge of this country?

Still not convinced that Australian voters should be worried? Still think vulnerable Australians automatically rank higher in the government’s concern than desperate people fleeing from persecution and violence? What if, just like a first date, a political party is on their best behaviour for a short time? It may last the election campaign. But just like in a new relationship, once the honeymoon period is over and you get to know the real government, their true character can’t be ignored.

The cracks started appearing in Abbott’s best behaviour on the first day of his new government. And there was nothing but red flags in the delivery of his budget. Look, for example, at the way Abbott is treating young Australians. If his welfare policy is accepted by the new Senate, people under 30 who don’t have a job will be denied even the most basic level of Newstart assistance. And it’s not like Abbott’s government haven’t considered the ramifications of this policy change. They know that young people who aren’t getting any Newstart allowance for six out of every 12 months will find themselves broke and homeless. They know that thousands of Australians are going to need emergency relief of the most basic kind – they’ve already increased the emergency relief budget for this very reason. And what about the disabled? Abbott wants people with periodic mental illness to be denied a disability pension because their disability isn’t ‘permanent’. Yet they must know it will be impossible for these people to get a job. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that these Australians will soon be as desperate to survive as Tamil asylum seekers who’ve chosen to risk their life on a leaky boat rather than risk staying where they are.

The handing of Tamil asylum seekers back to the government they were fleeing from should be a lesson for all Australians about a government that wants to put people back in their place. A government that wants to tell us all to go back where we came from. A government who knows that the unemployed young adults from poor families will have the least chance of surviving for six months without Newstart, whilst the rich will be cushioned by their inborn safety net of privilege. But that’s the point of the Abbott government isn’t it? To put us all back in our place. To kick the ladder of social mobility out from under us. To punish the poor and to rub their nose in their misfortune.

I hope Australians are starting to learn this lesson about the Abbott government. I hope they look at the way this government treats asylum seekers and they understand that these poor desperate souls are the canary-in-the-mine-test-of-character that provides all the insight they need into the true values of the Abbott government. And I hope that when they think of the asylum seekers being turned away from Australia, they don’t feel satisfied that Abbott is succeeding in turning back the boats. That they don’t think he’s doing something good for the country and good for them. Even if Australians can’t, on the whole, feel empathy for asylum seekers, I hope they can at least have the emotional intelligence to be worried about themselves. Especially those who know what it is like to be poor and who want to make, or have made, a better life for themselves and their children. I hope they look at the Abbott government and wonder what their futures would be like if they were forced to go back to where they came from. Abbott is trying to exclude whole sections of the community, to define them as less than citizens and to send them back to the misery they came from – just like the asylum seekers. Through his ideological budget, and every decision he has made since becoming Prime Minister of Australia, Abbott is already proving that he will decide who belongs to our community and the manner in which they belong. My question is, are people worried about how he treats the waitress?


  1. Great post as always, Victoria.

    When governments formulate their policies as a means of pandering to the lowest of the low such as the wilfully ignorant racists in our community they certainly have hit rock bottom. This is exactly what this nasty Abbott government are doing. Your insightful comments cover all aspects of this noxious Coalition government who seem to revel in their arrogance & awfulness.

  2. First they treat the ‘other’ in a deplorable way, then it will be you!
    This “Leadership” has a poverty of example. How are parents explaining to their 10 year olds what is happening? What signal is it sending to our youth, our potential future ‘leaders’ and indeed the world what kind of Australia do we want now and into the future.
    The photo of Hockey and Corman puffing on cigars after the Budget was handed down when they knew the cruelty they were supposing onto the most vulnerable in our community is burned into my brain. There was no greater symbol of the divisiveness that is surrounding our Nation now.

    Shame for treating our asylum seekers ( in comparison, even to how the Italians treat their boat loads of people), for treating our disabled, for lying to and obfuscating to the elderly pensioner is becoming an everyday part of who I am as an Australian. Now at 60 I am still shockable and ashamed at what is possible in our nation.
    Thank you Victoria for speaking out and loud.
    You speak for me.

  3. I really admire your reasoned and thoroughly valid arguments. I just want to run around the streets shouting ‘They’re arrogant, privileged arseholes who don’t give a damn about the rest of us!’ My fear is that neither approach will work, particularly with Clive Palmer – equally arrogant and privileged – holding the balance of power in the Senate.

  4. Thank you for your excellent analysis – you are very right. We now live in a global village and Australia is proving to be a very cruel, greedy and non compassionate citizen and that causes me both great sadness and shame!

      • There is a HUGE difference between peoples right of choice to chance the journey to..well anywhere, and that where there is no choice and your life is curtailed, truncated languishing in a gaol on an island behind bars without work, a future and hope. THAT is not a choice, personal or otherwise. To take your children on a boat to escape the horrors of terror and torture is one thing, to be incarcerated by a first world, rich nation indefinitely because you LEGALLY sought asylum is totally without a moral compass.
        And NO I do not believe the Labor policy of offshore ‘processing’ was the right way to go either..but don’t be cute by half thinking that ‘stopping the boats’ is working. How would/will we ever know the truth? How many left, how many were turned around, how many were towed back, how many people were transferred to their orange ‘life-boat of horror’, how many were transferred onto Aust vessels and secreted to Nauru or Manus? WE may never know. THAT is not ‘stopping the boats’..oh and by the way, it isn’t the ‘boats’ that matter it is PEOPLE and our obligation to them under International laws and agreements. What a nasty people we are!!

      • How many do we take? What do we do when that limit is reached? Why should those who come by boat trump those who the UN assess as most needing resettlement?

  5. Given we have a finite capacity to bring in refugees / asylum seekers, and our settlement rates are among the highest in the world, how many should we take, and what should we do when one more arrives with a sorry story, and why should self selecting groups take precedence over those the UN have assessed as being in the most need for care?

    If a young person has got a lifetime of potential earning ahead of them, shouldn’t society expect that if they’re going to be propped up for a while until they get a job, that they are in training so they are more employable? Quid pro quo.

    Alternatively, if you want to keep up the current levels of largesse, which taxes would you increase to balance the books?

    • Thats an easy question to answer;
      Start with taxing those who are not paying tax, who have clever ‘accountants’ who squirrel and move numbers around so that they pay no or minimal tax ( eg Packer was proud to have only been paying 3% tax on his ‘earnings’).
      Close the loop holes of those corporations who are not paying anything under the present system.
      Raise the tax of the multi millionaires, oh heck even the one millionaire.
      Check that the banks are not moving large amounts off shore to sink more ‘dividends’ into the pockets of the already wealthy…
      There are a myriad of ways, AndyM…but I bet you would hate most of them, coz you want to keep your wealth for yourself and yours instead of spreading a little hope and support around.

      • and what did labor do to increase the revenue by doing any of those things? I don’t recall any massive reductions in how deductions could be taken, or how offshoring of profits was limited. I’m a salary earner, and there are no deductions i recall getting except for charitable giving. I don’t mind taxes being raised as long as there is a sense that the money given to individuals isn’t an open ended right without reciprocal obligations to society.

        What of the other questions i raised, regarding the number of refugees and asylum seekers we take in. Do you have any glib answers to that as well?

  6. Yes, the Liberals’ policies are illegal, inhumane, and indefensible. As are Labor’s. Only the Greens support onshore processing of refugees, and they get my support in return.

  7. My wife and I have come to the same conclusion …… Under this government Australia is a rouge nation . Our reputation is being trashed around the world …. Having just come back from Europe …. We were bombarded with comments along the line ….. What is going on in Aust ???? … It was truly embarrassing . Worse from our point of view is that we are now considering a move away from our Country of birth to go and live in a Country that values it’s citizens and looks after the unfortunate . It saddens me … Deeply that we feel this way …. But our whole family … Children and spouses and grandchildren will be better off if we go .
    Having come from a single parent family of 8 children ( west Sydney) and worked my way out of poverty to be able to make these decisions for my family and had the great displeasure to work in corporate land with LNP wannabes … Served in the Military by way of conscription … To see this band of no hopers in control is depressing … We have worked hard over the years to see an end to privelige and right of passage … This LNP Government are about treating our less fortunate ( and those from overseas ) as cannon fodder to the Maintainence of their own lifestyle and profit at all cost . They wear us down …. I am tired of having to put up with them …. Can we not have a Nation that is considerate and caring … Helping one .

  8. Many years ago and a few weeks before he was due to marry the mother of his unborn child, Tony Abbott decided to call off the wedding.

    He didn’t tell the woman himself but got his mother to do it on his behalf.

    I think this surpasses the “waitress” analogy and also demonstrates that he gets others to do the dirty work on his behalf, just like Howard used to do. That way he stays above the fray while seemong Presidential and gets no blood on his hands.

    A good leader leads from the front and gets everyone to follow. A bad leader pushes from the rear.

      • At least Gillard was “man enough” to confront her accusers head-on and not (sometimes literally) run from the media while continually lying to the public.

        Abbott is a classic example of a bully and a sociopath who loves to dish it out but can’t take it.

        Like those convenient photo-ops of him presenting himself as a fireman (but one who is not actually trained and qualified to be on a fire-ground and fight fires) – it’s all hollow spin.

      • @AndyM There is a serious flaw in your logic. This is not about LNP this of ALP that, it is about calling out cruel, inhumane & possibly unlawful behaviour by a government which claims to represent you and me. Attempting to turn this into a partisan argument will not distract Victoria and others from being principle focused and speaking honestly about the dark collective heart of those who would kick the weak to improve their own chances. Please go elsewhere if you just want to be a barracker / spruiker for your favourite team.

      • Well said GPS. We should as a Nation be over all of the political spin.
        The proof of performance in relation to decisions made by Politicians when other “persons” are involved is not great ….. look at the results … Vietnam War , Iraq , Afganistan , Howard Government sending a 8 mth pregnant woman back to China ( pregnancy aborted ) , Children Overboard and the list goes on.

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