POINTS MAKE PRISON

Rolf+Harris+-+Greatest+Hits+-+LP+RECORD-231696[1]There were just as many tedious phrases repeated during the recent EU Referendum campaign as feature in a George Osborne budget statement; we may not have heard ‘long-term economic recovery’, but we did get endless repetitive references to ‘the Australian points system’. This was sold as the Brexit solution to immigration, of course; and with immigration being a key issue in the campaign, Australia’s apparently magic formula was evoked with wearisome regularity, though without much in-depth examination of what it actually entails.

Australia being held up as a model for enlightened means of dealing with what is a global crisis might seem odd to anyone familiar with the country’s history. Like America, Australia was built on European immigration to the detriment of the indigenous population; but white Australians who can trace their family trees as far back as two-hundred years usually find they’re descended not from persecuted religious minorities or enterprising merchants and traders, but beggars and thieves. Australia’s role as the nascent British Empire’s most prominent penal colony is something that is always worth remembering when it comes to the way in which the nation has developed its sense of identity.

With Britain’s imperial possessions beginning their lives as trading posts for the world’s pre-eminent maritime power rather than lands conquered by armies, most early British colonials struck deals with natives and entered into mutually beneficent business arrangements. A good example is India when, under the control of the East India Company as opposed to Viceroys trained on the playing fields of Eton, early British settlers embraced the native culture and took Indian wives. Australia was slightly different in that there was nothing resembling recognisable civilisation to European eyes, with a vast landmass viewed as virgin territory once the inconvenient Aborigines were persuaded to relocate. After great numbers of the indigenous peoples were wiped out by the arrival of the diseases colonists brought with them, requisitioning their lands was the approach adopted by the freed convicts once they’d decided to remain in the home they’d been forcibly transported to; and it was then passed onto their descendents for several generations. But it never really left the Australian psyche.

There was a gradual adaptation of European dress, language and religion by Aborigines as white settlers began to establish a distinctly British colonial culture in the country, but natives were made very aware of their second-class status within Australian society. The Eugenics movement classified Aborigines as an inferior form of human, something that appeared to justify their employment as cheap labour as well as the institutionalised practice of the authorities taking Aboriginal children from their families and ironing out their cultural heritage in the process, something that continued well into the 1960s. Aborigines couldn’t even vote until the late 1940s, when the franchise was extended to those who’d served in the armed forces during the Second World War. While migration from Britain to Australia was aggressively promoted in the immediate post-war era (the so-called ‘ten pound poms’), it was evident that the faces the Australian Government wanted to populate the country were white.

Successive legislation from 1967 onwards has sought to give Aborigines the same legal and social rights as white Australians, but an unofficial policy of apartheid in all-but name persisted in permeating Australian society for decades, including the way that descendents of colonists regarded their indigenous neighbours. It might not receive much coverage in the Aussie soaps that have infiltrated British television from the 1980s onwards, but I know from English friends who have spent considerable time down under that there is a strain of blatant racism governing the attitudes of the average Australian that wouldn’t be tolerated here. Therefore, it shouldn’t really come as a great surprise to learn precisely what the lauded Australian points system for dealing with immigration involves.

A ‘Channel 4 News’ report last night lifted the lid on how anybody washed up on Australian shores is quickly dispatched to one of two small, isolated islands several thousand miles from the Australian mainland. Once there, what are essentially concentration camps detain the illegal arrivals indefinitely, despite the fact that they have committed no crimes on Australian soil and are being held in ways that contradict international law. Conditions in these camps make the notorious ‘Jungle’ across the Channel appear more like Butlin’s, so bad that some detainees have sewn up their lips on hunger strike, while others (including children) have tried to hang themselves or have simply set themselves on fire as a protest. When the lucky few are released, Australia dumps them in Papa New Guinea or Cambodia – basically anywhere but a country with plenty of room to spare such as Australia. And this is the system proudly held up by prominent Brexiteers as the one we should emulate?

Nobody would deny that the unprecedented migrations from war-torn Middle Eastern and African countries over the past four or five years have presented Europe in particular with perhaps its greatest post-war problem, outstripping any economic crises; but the UN, the EU or whoever have to devise humane means of resolving the problem, and that doesn’t – or shouldn’t – mean looking to Australia’s frankly appalling methods as a blueprint.

© The Editor

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8 thoughts on “POINTS MAKE PRISON

  1. There’s a huge difference between ‘applying the Australian system’ and ‘applying an Australian-style points-based system’.
    All that the aspirant ‘immigration controllers’ have proposed is that Britain should develop its own system, based on whatever criteria are agreed in Britain, by elected British politicians, and that a potential starting-model for a methodology may be found in the way that Australia decides which individuals it wants to admit. That’s all.
    No-one has suggested an absolute clone of the Australian model, using the same spreadsheet with the same values, even less so a clone of the process which Australia uses to evaluate applicants whilst keeping them off-shore in allegedly inhumane holding-zones.

    The Britain we inhabit has been created over centuries by absorbing immigrants and there is no reason why that should not continue to develop the nation – they difference is whether, in a now-globalised world with such ease of transport and communications, it is smart to have wholly uncontrolled immigration, potentially beyond the nation’s capacity to absorb socially, or smart immigration which maps on to both the need and the capacity. If the decision is for the latter, then some sort of smart system is necessary to enable that – the debate will then be about the operating detail of that system and its ongoing flexibility to respond to changing needs and events. That is where we should now be placing our efforts and our concerns.

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    1. As with so much of the disinformation dispensed during the Referendum campaign, mention of the Australian Points System didn’t go much further than that, leaving (I would imagine) a lot of people ignorant as to how Australia applies it. Along with the billions for the NHS etc, I think these promises were plucked out of the sky without any genuine expectation of having to deliver them.

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      1. Thre problem for both sides in the referendum was trying to express in shorthand some complex aspects of their differing views of the future, shorthand (or sound-bites) which would resonate with their target audiences. Some degree of disinfomation is inevitable as a consequence because its meaning that depends on the interpretation put on it by the receivers.
        The infamous £350m a week is an example – it’s true, we do send £350m a week to the EU, but we get half of that back in lots of different grants, based on the EU’s spending decisions – but that doesn’t stop the headline being correct. That’s not to say the Leave campaign weren’t a tad cavalier with their sound-bites about how many pints of spending they could get out of that same half-pint pot, but that’s campaigning for you.
        As regards how much would or could be spent on that voter-hot-button, the NHS, well obviously not the whole £350m, or even the £175m – any decisions on how that ‘excess’ may now be spent will depend on (a) whether there still is an excess and (b) how a future government decides to spend it – building HS2, or flood defences, or farming subsidies, or expanding Heathrow, or the NHS – you choose – but be aware, whatever you choose will not please everyone. But at least it will be a spending-government that we can then dismiss every five years if we don’t like their decisions, and that’s a major benefit of Brexit.

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  2. You overlook the other result of the ‘Australian welcome’. The message rapidly gets back to the migrants’ compatriots at home that trying to sneak into Australia it is not worth the candle. If caught, you get bunged into some faraway tropical hell-hole and left to rot. So people look elsewhere for ‘sanctuary’.

    More ‘enlightened’ western countries, with NGOs and politicians supporting open borders, instant entitlement to lavish benefits regardless of skills possessed, and a somewhat porous citizen registration system can hardly be surprised if the number of arrivals on their shores keeps growing. The fact that there is no democratic mandate for uncontrolled immigration in those countries is of course quietly swept under the carpet.

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    1. I guess it just seemed mildly ironic to me that, whereas most European nations are bursting at the seams and are attempting to cram in as many refugees as is viable, Australia remains under-populated for such a huge landmass, yet is a closed shop.

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      1. It’s also interesting that Australia is the country with the world’s highest per-capita level of pollution, acclording to the ‘Green’ global-warming lobby. You’d have thought that Bruce & Sheila would want to address this ignominy by one of two channels, either reduce pollution or increase the population of ‘capitas’. They obviously couldn’t give a XXXX about the pollution issue.

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  3. Australia apparently has a higher per capita immigration rate than the UK, as do Norway and Switzerland. During the ITV debate, the Leave side dodged the question of whether they would actually reduce immigration. They just repeated their mantra that it was all about “control”. Perhaps the UK will end up in the Schengen area like Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, with a higher immigration rate than is the case now. And given that Norway currently pays as much to the EU as we do now, it would seem logical if our contribution were also to increase. Whatever deal is reached, the politicians and pro-Brexit media will know how to present it to the public as if it were a positive gain for the UK and the public will fall into line just as they did when told to “vote leave and take back control”.

    I came across this the other day and thought it was interesting:
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/01/eu-referendum-leave-hypnotist-paul-mckenna-nigel-farage
    Johnson, Stuart and Leadsom repeated “take control” or “take back control” again and again during the ITV debate. On Question Time (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9-jDRQuToo), Michael Gove said “control” repeatedly, “take back control” or “take control” 13 times and “ultimately this debate is about control”. Not feeling as if one has enough control probably applies to a lot of people. Perhaps some voters simply obeyed instructions when they saw the Leave option on the ballot paper.

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    1. Considering Theresa May is adamant she won’t call a General Election until the scheduled 2020 date if she becomes PM, it would seem ‘control’ is poised to pass from the hands of an unelected elite to an unelected elite.

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