On Friday night Australian’s were unwinding from the week that was, settling into the AFL & NRL finals, catching a game from the Rugby World Cup, enjoying a concert, a meal with the family or a night out with friends. Some were still working as the weekend drew near, Hospitals never stop, trains keep on running and night shifts about to start. In Canberra they were working too, the Minister for Immigration and his Department used the night to release their controversial changes to the Migration Act.
Maybe it wasn’t a cynical move, simply an act of a Department and Minister under pressure and burning the mid night oil to have it ready for the weekend press and the monday morning sell. But most, rightly in my view, saw it as a cynical attempt to slip it in under the radar. It’s no secret that the Government, despite being stopped by the High Court, are desperate to restart their “Malaysian Solution”. So while the amendments make no mention of Malaysia, they would allow the Minister to pick and choose the offshore processing destination of his choice. One of the more disturbing aspects of the amendments is that which would allow the Minister alone to choose a country for offshore processing even if that Nation’s domestic and International law protections for Asylum Seekers are zero.
So what does all this have to do with our National anthem, Advance Australia Fair? We all grew up singing it at school, we listen to it belted out at sporting events and we expect new citizens to know the words. But most of us have rarely heard the second verse and clearly the current crop of Australian politicians aren’t aware of the lyrics. “Toil” makes a return, while “Girt” doesn’t get another crack but the end of the verse solves once and for all the true National position on Asylum Seekers.
“For those who’ve come across the seas. We’ve boundless plains to share”
That’s right, the Australian national anthem singles out in particular those who come across the sea that we here in Oz have a huge country to share with them. It doesn’t say you have to come by plane (because you don’t) and it makes clear it is us, not Malaysia, Nauru or PNG that will be sharing our land. And if somehow predicting the current debate the next two lines give us the guidance for this struggle.
“With courage let us all combine. To Advance Australia Fair.”
Yes indeed, with courage let us one and all unite, new Australian’s and old, so that we can share a future that is better than our past, together! Perhaps those of us advocating for onshore processing have been doing it all wrong. First we pointed to Australian law and appealed to the “fair go” attitude. Then we reminded our Government that if they wished to ignore or change our laws there was still International law that they couldn’t circumvent. When that failed a brilliant group of lawyers took the case to the highest court in the land and won! Again it appears even the High Court cannot persuade this Government or those in opposition that offshore processing is wrong.
But the answer was there all along, it was in one of the first things they taught us at school. So important it was deemed that we had to stand in sun, wind, rain and snow to belt it out or fear the wrath of the principal’s scorn. So we must stand tall once more, sing it like we care and make the new Immigration policy, Advance Australia Fair!