What makes a patriot? Asking for PMs
What does a patriot look like exactly?
I’m asking coz last week our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull asked immigrants and newly minted citizens of this country to act like patriots, as if their contributions to society aren’t already enough.This leads me to ask, what exactly is a patriot and where can we find one? Not in Parliament, surely.It’s not exactly like our Prime Ministers (yes, Prime Ministers plural) have done such a bang up job of walking the talk.In the last week Immigration Minister and defacto Prime Minister Peter Dutton stood before the cameras and referred to the refugee victims of civil rights abuses on Manus and Nauru detention centres so heinous the government chose to settle out of court for $90 million as ‘ambulance chasers’, and followed it up by submitting a request for the power to overrule the will of the courts on immigration cases, aping Donald Trump’s ‘extreme vetting’ orders by enacting our own informal Muslim Ban and a reimplementation of the White Australia Policy all in one day. Talk about two birds, one stone! Former PM Tony Abbott weighed in by referring to these refugees as ‘so-called’ victims.To be clear, after fleeing civil war, political and religious persecution, ‘these people’ have been subject to systemic sexual and physical assault in detention, casual violence by guards, left without access to running water or medical care, many have died needlessly because Dutton wouldn’t approve airlifting to Australian hospitals – or any hospitals – in time, resulting in suicide attempts, hunger strikes and death.
‘Ambulance chasers’.And now this very same person wants the ability to deport peoplewho do not pass a character test, and is already implementing a test-case, threatening to deport alleged New Zealand bikie, Mehaka Tepuia who has lived in WA for more than a decade before having his visa cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act.The month before thatTurnbull scrapped the 457 visa, putting the employment status of hundreds of thousands of Aussie migrants, many who have been here for decades, in jeopardy. Then there was the deportation of 1500 people with criminal backgrounds. And the case of Iranian refugee and former child bride, Mojgan Shamsalipoo who was held in detention for more than a year after a 2015 review tribunal ruled she was not a legitimate refugee, despite having fled rape and domestic violence at the hands of her former husband and family members in Iran. Dutton begrudgingly offered her a three month bridging visa in March, giving her a temporary reprieve to spend time with her (new) husband in Queensland, but he still has refused to commit to ‘raising the statutory bar’ to allow her to apply for a spousal visa that would allow her to stay.Let’s not forget the two Australian children – and citizens –who spent Easter in detention as Peter Dutton threatens to deport their Fijian parents who face indigenous and civil violence, the result of the 2000 bloody military coup. Is that patriotism?What about shadow Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s army of supporters that showed up with effigies and signs of former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard threatening to ‘burn the bitch’? What about his use of Parliamentary Privilegeto claim her father died of shame? Or defacto PM Peter Dutton’s militarising the police and customs authorities, while claiming Qantas Chief, Alan Joyce should ‘stick to his knitting’ for disputing the government’s continued opposition to gay marriage.Is
driving Yassmin Abdel-Magied out of a job for the audacious act of insisting we pay attention to Australia’s role in Manus, Nauru, Syria and Palestine on Anzac Day an act of patriotism?How about Pauline Hanson and the One Nation party members who use their privilege to claim Australia is being swamped by Muslims. Are they patriots? What about holding the government’s legislative agenda (hah!)
to ransom because they don’t like the public broadcaster’s factual reporting of its corrupt activity, is that patriotic?I’m not really sure what it means to be on ‘Team Australia’ but if you’re ‘not from around here’ it seems you must be gracious while enduring disproportionate levels of hatred and discrimination. The new citizenship test includes an ‘Australian Values’ section, but it is not exactly clear what values it refers to,
because Turnbull decided to withhold the findings of the Refugee Council, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils, and the Race Discrimination Commission which consulted the government to help inform its definition but whose advice was summarily ignored, in favour of a vague catch-all, demonstrated on a case-by-case basis and assessed by unqualified customs staffers whose rubber stamp depends entirely on how uncomfortable the colour of applicants’ skin makes them feel.One would assume all future migrants are required to quickly develop an innate fear of foreigners, sport southern-cross tattoos and try to ‘blend in’ if they insist on spending time in public. And smile while people spit in your face. And thank them for the opportunity.
Our Prime Minister implied that Australian immigrants must literally be holier than thou, holding themselves to a standard not even the Government feels compelled to meet.
Over in England, as
Muslim families rushed from their homes and mosques, breaking with the tradition of Ramadan to save the city’s poor from the blazing inferno that was Grenfell Tower, I was reminded of the resilience and compassion of a community that took more care for the country’s citizens than the government that is meant to look out for their interests and safety. It may not have happened in Australia, but the lessons are universal: It was the country’s migrants who were first responders, along with police and firies whose jobs, resources and funding have been cut that banded together to get people out, in spite of a dodgy, craven, cheap and bigoted leadership. Together they demonstrated the very community outreach and leadership so lacking in our leaders, whether in Westminster or Canberra.If you want people to act like patriots, it would help if you treated them like people.
While we’re talking patriotism, perhaps it is not our country’s immigrants but our leaders who should be forced to take the litmus test.
It is impossible to be an Australian patriot in government with legislation that fails to meet the needs of the people whose interests it is meant to represent. It would be nice if Turnbull held himself to the same standard,
particularly given it is immigration that is literally keeping the country’s economy afloat right now.Without immigrants and private debt the economy would be stuffed. When that property bubble bursts, Turnbull is going to need all those people he and his cabinet have spent so much time demonising and othering. He might just find they don’t want to live here anymore.
It may suit the ideologies of Turnbull’s backbench to have them leave, but both the Prime Minister, and the country, will
really be stuffed when that happens. (And it will happen. Maybe not overnight. But it will happen).