THE ASYLUM SEEKER SITUATION has always been a minor issue. Australia has been receiving refugees by the thousands for years. Where on earth do you think all those Poms, Greeks, Eyeties and Vietnamese came from?
It was only when John Howard turned these latest unfortunate souls into desperate pawns in his bid for re-election that the issue became prominent. Since then politicians of all persuasions have been capitalising on the public’s xenophobia.
This latest round of hysteria has uncovered some interesting truths. Chief among these is to never believe what the media says.
Never believe what a writer says and never believe what they write is an old adage. Writers of every ilk essentially deal in fictions. In the case of novelists this is well and good but when it comes to journalists it is a different matter.
Some other useful axioms in the same vein are that facts very often get in the way of truth and common sense is very dangerous, especially when the likes of Pauline Hanson are spruiking it. Add to that the fact that the rich and powerful write history and people generally only interpret events from their own narrow perspectives. All up, a very confusing mix.
Sometimes the truth is boring and needs to be tizzied up before people will buy it. This is what a lot of journalists are good at.
Sometimes when they don’t know the facts or fail to understand them or can’t be bothered checking them they become creative and make stuff up. This is how PNG has suddenly become a ‘shit-hole’ of a place. Nothing personal intended.
At the moment all of the above, plus some, is being brought into play in relation to the matter of asylum seekers and PNG. Now is especially not a good time to believe what you are reading or hearing. Wait a bit and it will start to get more rational. At the moment everything needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Subtleties abound.
Martyn Namorong, among others, has suddenly decided that Australia is no friend of PNG. With friends like that who needs enemies, he reasons. He’s probably right but that doesn’t mean that Australians, as opposed to the collectivity known as ‘Australia’, aren’t PNG’s friends – well, some of them at least.
Conversely, one wonders, does this mean that PNG is no friend of Australia? Hardly - it can’t exactly afford to be can it?
Peter O’Neill and Kevin Rudd suddenly seem to be great mates. It takes two to tango and they are both locked together on the dance floor over this one it seems.
Which is interesting because they are both men with a huge amount of front and this whole asylum seeker thing is essentially a gigantic bluff. Something history shows they are both very good at.
Neither of them is seriously expecting thousands of refugees to be re-located to PNG and eventually resettled there.
What they are counting on is that, except for a sacrificial few, the prospect of living in PNG will scare the boat people away and put the people traffickers out of business. And it seems to be working.
So the more the media beats this up and the more the public in both PNG and Australia blather on about it the better will be the bluff.
Kevin Rudd has even got the unlikely human horrors of Alan Jones and his shock jock mates hard at work for him. Hell, even Tony Abbott is thinking about using the idea. The worse PNG is portrayed the better.
And if it doesn’t come off? Well, by then Rudd might have won an election. And don’t forget that he and O’Neill have inserted a sunset clause in their agreement. If it doesn’t work they can cancel the whole thing in 12 month’s time.
And if it works? Well, Kevin Rudd will owe Peter O’Neill big time. I wonder how he’ll collect on that one?
But wait, someone just said something about some kid being born to some obscure princess in a faraway land and it has blown the whole thing off the front page.
Oh dear, aren’t we fickle.