I recently caught Tony Abbott’s not-quite-campaign video in which he decided this country needs something called “Real Action.”
Tony's "Real Action" seems to mainly involve sitting around saying "Real Action" a lot. Apparently, if he says "Real Action" enough, wonderful things shall come to pass.
To illustrate his Real Action, Tony has drawn up a graph to illustrate the ongoing issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia.
I use the word "graph" pretty loosely. Graphs are traditionally built around statistics. This one, however, seems to be built on the tradition of frightening small children with the bogeyman. Or, in this case, frightening Grandma with the Boateyman.
Count the ways that Tony’s trying to scare Grandma. For one, these asylum seekers are arriving in the form of red arrows. As we all know, red means danger. That’s why it’s the colour of stop signs, fire trucks and the hair of minor royals who will drink all your champagne. One thing's for sure, the last thing this country needs is DANGEROUS RED PEOPLE!
(If you've met a refugee, you'd know they are very rarely red. Sunburn aside, they tend to be various shades of brown. But Tony knows that brown would look a bit racist. And he wouldn't dream of being racist. Anyway, back to the scaremongering.)
Given that asylum seekers tend to hand themselves over to be locked up on arrival, I'm just not convinced we're in this much immediate peril. Just to demonstrate how much the colour red innately puts us on edge, how would we feel if the asylum seekers arrived in green?
Suddenly, I don't feel so threatened. In fact, I want to take them down to Father O'Flanagan's pub for a pint of Guinness.
But Tony Abbott is running a whole different scare campaign about green people, so let's not confuse issues.
How about this?
RAINBOW Boateymen! This almost makes you wish there were more of them!
With one simple change, these people are no longer a menace to our freedom and way of life. At worst, they're a menace to Jason Akermanis's sensitivities in a footy club change room.
Let's turn our attention to geography, and the extent to which Tony's Boateymen are penetrating the country.
The Iranians might be able to run their fishing boat up the Geraldton beach, but surely not as far as the South Australian border.
The Sri Lankans couldn't just sail a boat down the main street of Broome without raising eyebrows, and Mount Isa's mines appear to have been flooded with Indonesians.
Even if Grandma lives in Hobart, those pointy arrowheads tell her it's only a matter of hours before they'll be at her door.
(Tony would like me using that word "flooded". Some people are fond of claiming that we're being "swamped", "overrun" or "invaded" by boat people. Almost invariably, such people have never encountered a boat person. If I can figure out exactly how you can be overrun by people who aren't there, I'll sell the technology to the forward lines of every team in every league in every football code in the world.)
The less scary fact is that asylum seeker flotillas aren't sailing across the desert sands to Alice Springs. Most arrive at Christmas Island. It’s 2600 kilometres away.
Let's pour Grandma a soothing cup of tea, send Tony Abbott an atlas and move the boats to where they should be.
Well, that's no good ... we can barely see them because Tony's bloody great sign is in the way.
But this won’t be an issue for long, because what’s with the size of those arrows?
If they're to any kind of scale, then the boats they represent are the most enormous things ever constructed by man.
Maybe Tony thinks the refugee boat in the photo is actual size next to Australia, the two of them side-by-side in a photo snapped by a passing space shuttle.
If we reduced these boats to scale, they’d completely disappear off the picture and we wouldn't be able to keep a wary eye on them.
So let's reduce them to a size that better reflects the kind of numbers we're dealing with.
Whether you compare boat arrivals to the size of our population, or boat arrivals compared to the number of asylum seekers who arrive by plane and live amongst us every day, or especially the proportion of the world's refugees who rock up on our doorstep compared to Europe's or America's, it all pretty much amounts to the same thing:
You'll have to look closely, but they're there. And even that is a gross exaggeration. I gave the foreground boat a bit more statistical context too.
It's all starting to look a bit pathetic, really, isn't it?
Now that we've all relaxed and Grandma has drifted peacefully off to sleep, no doubt there's only one person left alarmed, and that's Tony Abbott.
If Uluru is not under threat of being cleaved in two by giant Indonesian fishing boats, then where can he do some of his famous Real Action?
Well, here's his chance. There's a huge wave of illegal immigrants that Tony seems to be completely unaware of.
They’re not arriving on some far-off shore by boat - they're landing IN OUR COUNTRY, by plane.
And the numbers of illegal immigrants from the top three countries alone outweigh the annual number of boat people by FIVE TIMES!
To find these, as Tony would call them, "illegals", and that is certainly what they are, he only has to look where I did: the Parliament House library.
(You do get the feeling he wouldn't know where the Parliament House library is. The gym, sure, but the library .. ba-bow.)
This is an excerpt from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship publication Population Flows: Immigration Aspects 2007-08 Edition.
QUICK! SOMEBODY WAKE UP GRANDMA!
Who better than Tony Abbott to be our man of Real Action, taking concrete measures against these non-citizens living illegally within our borders? The ones from our mother country, our biggest military ally, and our biggest trading partner, friend to his rich mining mates. They come over here, they steal our jobs, etc etc etc (sing along).
…Unless, of course, he isn’t REALLY interested in taking Real Action against illegal immigrants at all.
If, for example, he was cynically using the sensationalised troubles of some wretched neighbours to score some cheap alarmist votes, stoking the flames of racism in a sleazy attempt to ride a wave of fear back into power.
Only a disingenuous politician would try to resurrect an offshore processing program costing millions of unnecessary dollars, that on one hand claims to be tough on asylum seekers, but on the other hand ends up accepting most of them as genuine and letting them in after all.
Meanwhile, their wives and children, denied the possibility of family reunion afforded to permanent refugee visa holders, clamber into another rickety boat and set sail for Australia.
I wonder which one he is. I guess his Real Action will tell.
The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the 7PM Project or the Ten Network.