Den (dewhitton) wrote,

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Opinion from The Daily Telegraph

I can't stand the opinion makers in that bloody Murdoch mouthpiece The Daily Telegraph.

They all give me the shits, espcially that prick Piers Ackerman, but one of the least unfavourable writers is Mark Day. I don't often agree with him, but lately he forced me to nod my head. I hate agreeing with Conservatives but he's made me do it this time. This is his article for today, c&p without change:

Instead of tearing ourselves apart, we could do ourselves a favour by taking a longer view and drawing on our past experiences.

There is no doubt there have been a number of hot spots, mainly in our cities, where racial tensions have been growing recently.

The first major eruption leading to the current debate came in July when it was reported that gangs of youths of Lebanese origin had engaged in a series of gang rapes of girls allegedly selected because they were "Skips", that is, white, Australian and Christian.

News of this ghastly new form of crime sparked a debate about whether or not police should identify suspects by more specific forms of ethnicity. Along the way anti-Muslim sentiments were raised.

Then the Tampa sailed over the horizon and John Howard seized the opportunity to declare our borders closed to boat people.

It was an astute political move, because it struck a responsive chord with the majority of Australians and was the single most important component of his remarkable poll recovery.

Again, anti-Muslim feeling and fear of the unknown drove the outpourings against the asylum seekers.

Then came the World Trade Centre attacks, and suddenly Muslim terrorism, Muslim boat people and Muslim youth gangs in our midst were all entwined in the public mind on the eve of an election.

This is not a recipe likely to promote clear thinking or long-term actions.

But the election will pass; we will cope with the war just as we have with previous wars, even if it drags on and proves extremely costly. Eventually, we will be called on to deal with the outcomes.

It is likely that more, rather than fewer, people will be displaced by the war against terrorism, but even if that is not the case, the world still has to deal with a terrible refugee problem.

Australia cannot be expected to solve the problem of all 23 million displaced people on this globe, but it is reasonable to ask if we could do more than we are doing, because we are a civilised nation; we are helping to prosecute the current war, and because we can.

We are currently taking just 12,000 refugees a year among the total immigration program of 88,000. We used to do more. We can still do more.

LET us turn back the clock to the days when we saw immigration as a plus – a vital part of our nation building. So many post-war migrants contributed to the Snowy Mountains Scheme; is it beyond us to develop a new nation-building project specifically aimed at helping those who have no homes to go back to?

We could see refugees as the muscle power to help build new assets for Australia.

Here's an idea: Up in the East Kimberley, between Darwin and Broome, enough rain falls each year to fill Sydney Harbour a dozen times. That used to go to waste in the sea until the Ord River dam was built, and now 13,000ha of incredibly rich soil is under cultivation with many millions of dollars worth of fresh produce being exported directly to the booming Asian markets to the north.

Another 65,000ha – that is five times the area developed over the past 25 years – are ready for irrigation and agricultural development.

We could take a cue from the postwar Soldier Settlement Scheme – which provided low-cost loans to returned servicemen to allow them to become farmers – and offer refugees the chance to sign up and rebuild their lives on the rich volcanic soils of the Ord River flats.

There would be many short-term issues to be dealt with, of course, but none that a bit of lateral thinking and time would not fix. The refugee communities would inevitably create demand for local businesses, and create wealth for themselves and all Australians.

It is what generations of migrants have done in the past. Grizzles about ghettos and slow cultural integration have given way to an acceptance and awareness of the ways in which our society has benefited.

Australia has about 5 per cent of the world's land mass and less than half of 1 per cent of the world's people.

We owe it to ourselves to think about how that equation might play out over the next 100 years. Do we have a moral right to leave rich and useful land empty?

We have plenty of space for refugees in our land, but do we have it in our hearts?

My only disagreement here is that much of the centre of Australia isn't rich and useful land. It's a desert with a fragile ecology.

I'm agreeing with a conservative, dammit!

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