A contentious issue in the Australian election was illegal migration, the party leaders competing for the harshest tactics to deal with it.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's first foreign trip was to Indonesia, the staging post for most Australia-bound boat people, but far from obtaining co-operation, he virtually apologised to the Indonesian President for bothering him. Meanwhile, the Australian Greens leader, Christine Milne, reinforced her wetness credentials by protesting at the Immigration Minister calling them illegal migrants. "People seeking asylum are not illegal, they are human beings," she said, as if anyone is questioning that.
In fact, they are illegal, most being economic migrants, these normally barred whereas access is accorded political refugees by international convention. Political refugee status was meant for people facing death or imprisonment for their views which is not the case with Sri Lankans, Syrians or Afghanis, hellish though their lives may be.
But who can blame them for seeking something better? Sri Lankans flowed in here during the civil war, to our benefit. I know many, both Tamil and Sinhalese, all but one (an employee of mine) medical and other professionals. Of our migrants they're among the cream: studious, hard-working and imbued in decency. But with the civil war over, still they come, fleeing the oppressive mismanagement of their homeland.
Afghani and Syrian migrants need no explanation. The exodus of more than two million Syrians is at crisis proportions for its neighbours, this especially tough on Jordan, a poor country already awash with Iraqis; likewise Lebanon and Turkey struggling to cope with the two million-plus influx. They're now forced further afield, spreading across Europe. Bulgaria has taken the most on a population basis but now intends spending millions it can ill afford on a lengthy fence.
It won't work, just as it doesn't with the Mexican border fence and today America hosts millions of illegal Hispanics, this a contentious issue in last year's presidential race.
It's also huge in Europe, the destination for black and North African jobseekers fleeing their mismanaged nations. Tunisia, for example - its people better educated than its neighbours - has massive unemployment and its desperate job-seekers easily slip across to southern Europe seeking salvation in countries themselves suffering disastrous unemployment problems. Sweden has now offered to take all Syrians who turn up, to the outrage of its burgeoning anti-immigrant party.
Unpopular migration into Britain has resulted in the UK Independence Party's spectacular rise, although its concerns are more with Eastern Europeans, and particularly gypsies, flooding in legally under the European Union pact and exploiting the welfare system.
Similar anti-migrant political parties are polling strongly throughout Western Europe, some, particularly in Hungary and Greece, of a decidedly fascist bent. The Brits welcome foreign nurses, otherwise they virtually won't have any, plus Polish building workers, noted for getting the job done. The revelation that entrepreneurs are training building tradesmen to acquire Polish accents says it all. Apparently people would call, say, Phoenix Plumbers, and put the phone down if a Polish voice didn't answer. As said, they wanted the job done, not messed about with.
Everyone or their ancestors were migrants at some stage. But we all claim the right to determine whom we allow into our countries. The problem is what to do when they arrive illegally in large numbers. Australia established concentration camps but they didn't deter and played on people's consciences, more so as they contain innocent children.
A current dreadful strategy is to dump them in Papua New Guinea, which has accepted sizeable sums for taking them. Australia's also given Sri Lanka two patrol boats which will stem the flow from that country, evidenced by the Australian Refugee Council slamming the move.
But the main problem lies with Indonesia, the launching pad for the illegals, now understandably in a huff over the revelations of Australia's cyber spying on their leaders' telephones and computers, thus they've withdrawn from co-operation, not that they intended any as it was.
But what of our country? To date, our geographic isolation has provided immunity from the boat people. That won't last, as the world abounds in cheap old ships and inevitably one laden with illegal migrants will turn up here, more so as that same isolation gives us an Elysian Fields imagery in the eyes of people enduring hardship in distant lands. It will be easy to send ashore in simple barges hundreds of migrants along, say, Ninety Mile Beach. By the time they're discovered, the ship will be 500 miles away, off to pick up a fresh load.
As with Australia, the navy will be helpless dealing with this. Hobson's choice will invariably see us accept them, resulting in ever more arriving. There's no answer to this problem other than not viewing it as a problem and, instead, accepting a multi-race future; a miniature melting pot as lies at the heart of America's greatness. The grandchildren of today's 20-year-olds will all be part Asian, Arab and God knows what else, and be better for this infusion.