CAIRNS – Chris Overland comments that “we collectively ought to have sufficient insight and humility to accept that we have an obligation to help out those who live in 'shithole' countries….
“Not merely through charity, but by a conscious, systemic and systematic effort to help them reach their true socio-economic potential.”
I agree entirely with this evaluation. The bit that sticks in my craw is the inequity that exists at such a deeply disturbing level.
To observe a young boy dying from the ravages of tuberculosis 200 kilometres from the Australian border kindles a deep sense of sadness and outrage at the inequity.
I cannot separate the image of our citizens arriving as fly in-fly out workers at mines across Papua New Guinea from the hunter gatherer family standing in front of me to whom the boy belongs.
Workers shepherded straight off the plane onto buses going to the mess, their donga or their first world jobs.
And during their 'swing' they can be certain that they won’t miss a single game of footy or be exposed to anything 'outside the fence'.
And the boy? There is nothing we can do.
The nearest health centre is days away and he will probably die before being assessed for treatment.
This is not to bag the workers who come and go.
But to my mind the system from which they benefit represents the worst aspects of our inequitable and imperialist world.
Comments you hear at the camp mess too often confirm that former president Trump’s ruminations on ‘shithouse countries’ expressed commonly held views.
I wince each time I hear Australia’s political class refer to ‘our Pacific family’.
This statement is crass beyond all imagining.
That it is uttered at all given the real circumstances, the real relationship, only serves to show how conveniently ignorant we are, or worse how opportunist and amoral we have become.
This is not about some misplaced 'do-gooder' zeal.
Rather it refers to the notion that, if you wouldn’t tolerate the death of your child or sister from the abject failure of the health system, why would you tolerate it 200 kilometres beyond your border.
And for how much longer do you expect those on the other side of that imaginary line to tolerate the discrepancy?
Australia is a rich nation that benefits directly from its resources. Are we contributing anything worthwhile in return?
Are we doing enough to facilitate the type of social and economic empowerment that provides people with a degree of financial independence and a pathway towards improved health and education?
No – we are not. Our models of development assistance are demonstrably ineffective.
We would rather focus on offshore camps in which to incarcerate other desperate people.
We are now witnessing the cost of inequity across the globe.
We are witnessing the price to be paid for the creeping calamity of global heating, a phenomenon that is driving human misery on an increasing scale.
Millions of people are being forced to look ever further for a place with reliable fresh water, or to deal with the ravages of conflict arising from shrinking resources, or to find a place where they can simply exist.
The notion that we in our privileged bubble can turn a blind eye and solve it by increasing Border Force and naval patrols is mind-numbingly myopic.
It is clear that our survival is becoming more and more dependent and intertwined with others with whom we share an increasingly over stretched planet.
Where access to clean water rather than which movie to watch is the pressing order of the day.
As Chris Overland correctly suggests, the solutions lie in how we assist people to achieve their socio-economic potential and what we also need to do in our own jurisdictions.
That’s not charity, it’s common sense.
So far our political class has not been willing or prepared to confront these realities with anything like the intellectual rigour or physical scale required.
This elite can’t even make sensible decisions about our relationships with our nearest neighbours. There is nothing to be proud of about this. It is painful and cringeworthy to watch.
I fear what will be the consequences of our continuing along the path we have created for ourselves.
The product of exploitation of resources and citizens on a global scale will be an almighty reckoning when the chickens come home to roost.
Almost 400 years ago John Donne penned these prophetic words:
“Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee”
The tolling of those bells is nearing a crescendo now.