A possie in Aussie

October 17, 2009

Invaded by boat people: Let’s build barricades with statistics!

Filed under: asylum,asylum seeker,boat people,refugee — Nayano @ 8:02 am
Tags: , ,

“Australia is being invaded!!

“Well, that’s the impression you get if you’ve been reading the Australian media headlines.”

So says Michael Perry of Reuters Global News Blog.

Michael then argues the side of rationality. He points out that the “numbers are a drop in the ocean compared with the tens of thousands of asylum seekers sailing across the Mediterranean to Europe each year.”

“In 2007 alone more than 51,000 people arrived on the coasts of Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta. In the first seven months of 2009, the number of illegal immigrants entering Italy doubled to 15,000, leading to new laws carrying a four year jail term for entering the country illegally.” Asylum seeker influx stirs Australians

Did you feel anything when you read those numbers?

Or did your eyes glaze over- like mine did?

How about these excellent numbers quoted by Zhi Yan, the national co-ordinator of A Just Australia, in the Sydney Morning Herald?

“The truth is that global asylum seeker numbers have increased significantly in the past two years. When comparing 2008 figures with 2007, for example, asylum seeker numbers rose by 122 per cent in Italy, 121 per cent in Norway, 89 per cent in the Netherlands, 70 per cent in Turkey, 53 per cent in Switzerland, 30 per cent in Canada and 20 per cent in France, according to a 2009 UNHCR report. Yet in the same period, Australia experienced only a 19 per cent increase.” More global conflict means more asylum seekers

Do those numbers stir your loins?

I know that those who want to calm the moral panic that has been aroused are seeking to be the voice of reason. And I agree with that reason.

But as Michelle Grattan says, the opposition is “seizing on an emotive issue that played for it politically in the past”. An ugly, divisive debate

Not an issue of statistics, but of emotions.

Emotions trump numbers and reason every time. Someone who feels ‘flooded’ is not going to feel happier because somewhere in Europe the flood is worse.

‘Floods’ do not mean numbers. They mean fear. Fear of loss of our home, our sense of ourselves as Australians.

One way we know ourselves as Australians is as ‘good mates’. I know, it is not empirically true, but academic proofs won’t win this debate.

If we offer less reasoned argument, and appealing to ‘good neighbours’ ‘good mates’ and a ‘fair go’ while ignoring the rhetoric of fear, we could extinguish the ‘floods’ (how’s THAT for a mixed metaphor!).

Grattan says “If Rudd can’t stem the boat flow by election time, border control and how to deal with asylum seekers will be issues. However the cards fell politically, that would be very unfortunate for the nation because it would be divisive and destructive. Let’s hope we can avoid it.”

Or, Rudd could own the debate.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] is honesty of emotion. We are being honest when we quote correct statistics, (see Invaded by boat people: Let’s build barricades with statistics!) but the honesty of emotion always counts for […]

    Pingback by Winning the asylum seeker war of words part 3: Honesty « A possie in Aussie — October 23, 2009 @ 7:47 am | Reply


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