The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Boat People Drowning in a Sea of Fear

The 2010 federal election campaign has been an interesting one, to say the least. Much more interesting than the last one, anyway, which was all Kevin '07 and Howard-and-then-after-a-little-while-Costello '07 (which didn't have quite the same ring to it, did it?). One thing that has really bothered me this election, though, is illegal immigrants, or, as both the Coalition and ALP insist on calling them, "Boat People".

The issue of illegal immigration is hardly a new topic - in the 2004 and 2007 elections, it barely registered in the media. Now, every second policy seems to be about boat people. But, Ms Gillard and Mr Abbot, do you have any idea how many illegal immigrants are arriving by boat? For the past decade - yes, even with the Rudd government - illegal immigrants arriving by boat has been less than one percent of all immigrants arriving in Australia. I've prepared this handy graph with information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Parliamentary Library that compares births, total immigration and illegal immigration (by boat). It covers from when the Howard Government took office to now:


You see the tiny, tiny rise in the purple line? That is the "influx of boat people" that Gillard and Abbot want us to be so scared of that we'll vote for them. Compared to births and legal migration, it's barely a drop in the ocean (no pun intended).

I also loathe the way that both parties are screaming "Stop the boats!", when boats aren't even the main problem. Let's look at another graph, this time prepared by the Parliamentary Library:

Source: Parliamentary Library - Immigration Detention in Australia


It's a bit more complicated than the first, but you'll note that the category "Unauthorised Boat" has remained at a pretty constant level since 2002-2003. Since then, the biggest source of illegal immigrants has been "Overstayer", that is, people who entered the country legally with a visa or passport, but did not renew it. If there is a problem with illegal immigration (and there's really not), then surely we should be cracking down on these people? Then again, I suppose it's not as catchy to say "The people doing the menial jobs that nobody else wants for minimum wage HAVE TO GO!"

But what really upsets me is the fact that Abbot and Gillard are using immigrants arriving by boat simply to get elected. True, some of them may be criminals (the immigrants, that is, not the politicians. But then again...). However, there are genuine refugees in these boats as well. It may be easy to think of boat people as "invaders" and "queue jumpers", but these are real people, with real emotions. They deserve to be treated as such.

© 2010 by The Free Man
UPDATE 10/8/10: Clearly the ABC reads my blog, as on 9/8/10, Media Watch had a segment on illegal immigrants arriving by boat, and how the media blows it out of proportion: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2977986.htm