Over the past few years, politicians in general have spoken of motivating those with aspiration to better themselves across the country. The conservatives will tell you that granting tax cuts to business and building coal fired power stations will make those businesses more profitable and those profits will be returned to the public through increased wages and job opportunities. The progressives will counter that the best way to increase wages and job opportunities is to ensure those requirements are directly funded through targeted government grants and government funded capital works. While their methods may vary and both methods have their proponents, the pros and cons can wait for another day. Never the less, we all routinely aspire to improve what we perceive to be our current position in life so if you look at the big picture, the politicians are right.
People are aspirational, otherwise how do we explain the millions of people paying money for a statistically slight chance of untold wealth to improve their quality of life in one of the many forms of gambling permitted across Australia every week? We could also use the number of people that will queue outside Apple and Samsung stores the day the latest greatest mobile phone is released, all willingly prepared to dispose of their existing perfectly good and functional mobile phone because it isn’t the latest model, as a demonstration of aspirational behaviour. Those that routinely change the car when the new generation model is released, commit to another mortgage to move to the ‘better end’ of the suburb, the ‘better’ postcode, the catchment of the ‘better’ public school or in fact send their child to private school also demonstrate the innate need to strive for something perceived to be better.
So why do we as a nation readily accept that the newer phone, car or ‘better’ house are worthwhile aims, have politicians that commit to the concept and yet deliberately penalise some who are aspiring to a better life? Refugees who attempt to come to Australia are attempting to create a better life for themselves or their families. It is worth pointing out yet again here that people seeking asylum can do so at any point of their journey from their ‘home’ country and there is no ‘queue’ to start the process under the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention (incidentally signed by Australia’s then Prime Minister and founder of the Liberal Party, Robert Menzies).
Since World War 2, Australia has had a constant flow of refugees. A significant number of people have come from southern Europe, South East Asia and the Middle East. The possibly not so obvious connection between those countries and Australia is that when the particular ethnic group was seeking asylum, Australia and ‘our allies’ were (or had just finished) attempting to bomb the country to oblivion. Others have come from areas of the world that have suffered considerable environmental or economic hardship, generally not well supported by Australian aid efforts, such as parts of Africa.
It’s probably fair to say that deciding to leave your family, familiar surroundings, country and embark on a risky journey without a certain conclusion takes far more determination and demonstrates far more aspirational behaviour than the slight financial pain incurred to someone who can afford to purchase a new mobile phone or fund the relocation of goods and chattels as well as suffering while finding the ‘good’ coffee shop in their new locality.
The abuses to those that are sentenced to exist in sub-human conditions on Nauru and Manus Island because Australia won’t live up to our obligations are well known and documented. Some, who are fortunate enough to tick the right boxes at some stage on their journey to what they perceive to be safety, are permitted to land in Australia. Sadly, a number of these people are victimised for political gain by the same politicians that are claiming to assist the aspirational.
The RMIT/ABC Factcheck Unit recently assessed the claim that African Gangs were again making Melbourne unsafe, this time due to a recent brawl in Collingwood with 200 people apparently involved
. It’s an ‘easy’ headline in an environment where a state election is due in a couple of months and the Liberal Party opposition is running on a ‘law and order’ platform. The headline is also demonstrably wrong, the percentage of crime in Melbourne committed by ‘African Gangs’ is around 1%, less than the percentage of crime committed by Australians (obviously) as well as those committed by a number of other nationalities including Indians, New Zealanders and those from the UK. The same dog-whistle was used by the same culprits during the ‘super Saturday’ by-elections as a sop to the those who intended to vote One Nation in Longman (based in northern Brisbane and next to Dutton’s marginal seat of Dickson) and it resulted in an almost 4% increase in the ALP two party preferred vote.
The Liberal Party can’t have it both ways. If they are there to reward the aspirational, it demonstrates far more aspiration and a belief that life can get better to move away from your known world into a different culture half way across the world than buying a new mobile phone or increasing the mortgage to purchase the higher specification large 4WD vehicle (on the off chance that one day you will take it off-road). To penalise one and praise the other is duplicity, if not racism.
What do you think?