Kevin Rudd is hellbent on making Australia look as unappealing to refugees as possible. He’s got a tough competition: the Taliban, people who mutilate women so they can’t feel pleasure, the constant bombardment of Palestine and so on. But why should we even care about refugees? Can we just say, it is not our fault that all those bad things are happening, so why should it be our problem? Well maybe because the people getting killed, mutilated, tortured or otherwise made to suffer are also human beings. Yes, that means part of the same species we belong to. Also if we stand by idle while it is happening we are passively assisting… damn you Albert for pointing that out! That was already an unacceptable excuse during the Nuremberg trial anyway…
That is a hard subject so let’s put all that misery and suffering aside and talk about another group of refugees or soon to be refugees. The environmental refugees. These people were referred to by David Suzuki, the renowned Canadian academic in 2009 as well as by Julian Burnside QC (@ 2:56) a few weeks ago in his interview on ABC although he called them “climate refugees”. I would like to expand this group to include the people living in countries producing goods for us, such as our adored mobile phones, computers or white goods and so on. Their environment is polluted with toxic chemicals, byproducts of the factories. Again we could argue that we do not force them to make those products a certain way, but we would be ignoring certain facts. Safe and clean manufacturing conditions will drive the prices up and we are already upset, and somewhat rightfully, about the artificially inflated prices of products. Some of those are so expensive that we could easily make those products here in Australia, without outsourcing their production. The result would be jobs created here and the working conditions, thanks to our health and safety regulations, would be better also. That is a possibility.
Now let’s move on to another addiction of ours: the love of gold and diamond. Do we honestly believe those things just grow on trees? Perhaps the term “gold cyanidation” maybe an unknown thing, but it is worth researching. Most of us also have heard of the “blood diamonds”, which refers to diamonds mined in a war zone and sold to finance war. This issue also includes forced labour and modern-day slavery. To further examine this we may also want to consider the “conflict minerals”, some of which will end up in electronics.
Now if all these people, affected by their toxic environment or the terrible working conditions, just remember the reports about the more than 1100 people who died in a collapsed clothing factory in Bangladesh, and armed conflicts were to leave their homeland and become refugees heading towards Australia, what would we do? We can’t say it is not our problem or our fault now!
This issue is a whole lot more complex than Mr Rudd would like us to believe. I haven’t even mentioned the argument that being a refugee does not mean being a criminal, so they perhaps should not be kept like criminals. Behind bars. Although we have a tendency to do that without even noticing it. I am talking about drug addicts and stray dogs and cats of course. I can’t mention dolphins or orcas because there are no bars in SeaWorld. Only the pain and suffering are the same.
Thank god Australia is not a white Christian isolationist nation anymore. Otherwise there would be more refugees in the world. I would be one of them, leaving this lovely country. Now instead we are trying to make amends. We went as far as mislabeling the traditional custodians of this land as “owners”. Although that does not seem to have any effect on the tent embassy. Maybe because the lip service is just not the thing we need to do.
Are we willing to give up some of our “rights” and cherished mobile devices and cast down our eyes to see who is down below? Or to be exact up above, north of Australia, toiling away in sweat shops and factories…