On 19 July 2013, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared a dramatic change to the nation’s asylum seeker policy. Under the changes, “asylum seekers who come here by boat will never be settled in Australia”. Instead, they will be processed and resettled in Papua New Guinea, even if they are found to be genuine refugees. The aim of the new policy is to stop the numerous fatalities that occur at sea, mainly due to the overcrowding and unseaworthiness of the boats, and to undermine the business model of people smuggling.
But let’s go back to why asylum seekers come here in the first place. Facing oppression and persecution in their countries, these people decide to get on a boat to the possibility of a better life. For many, the dangers of sea are better than their current environment.
Compared to most other nations, Australia receives relatively few refugees – there are 11 for every 10,000 people. And by not catering for them, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre spokeswoman Jana Favero believes that Australia is now “outsourcing their obligations”. Greens leader Christine Milne said it was “absolutely immoral for a rich nation to dump thousands of vulnerable people into an impoverished country”.
Papua New Guinea as a country is still underdeveloped. Its GDP per capita is 2,797, placing it 142nd out of 187 countries. The average life expectancy is 56, with the leading cause of death being pneumonia. The murder rate of Papua New Guinea is 13 times that of Australia.
It also boasts a poor human rights record. The Constitution states the right to vote freely, but this is compromised by the regular violence that occurs during the elections. Public demonstrations require 14 days’ notice as well as police approval which is usually never granted. Two thirds of women have experienced domestic violence and half have experienced rape. In February, a woman was stripped, tortured, doused in petrol and burnt to death by villagers in the highlands after being branded as a witch. Recognition of the 800 different tribes is poor and the contrast in language, tradition and customs often result in inter-tribal feuds.
So are we really fulfilling our moral obligations? Would being resettled in another third world country with serious social issues be noticeably better for asylum seekers? Many would think not. On one side, if someone is prepared to risk their life to come here, then shouldn’t we accept them? But on the other side, unnecessary lives could be lost and they would be taken advantage of by people smugglers. However we deal with this difficult issue, we must always act with social justice – and the PNG solution doesn’t seem to be very socially just.
Date accessed: 27/08/13 10:30 p.m.
‘Dude, shut up, go make some rice’.
This is what this season of Big Brother has come to.
On Wednesday 10 July 2013, CBS aired racist comments made by contestants Aaryn Gries (22) and GinaMarie Zimmerman (32) directed towards fellow contestants Helen Kim (37), Howard Overby (29) and Candice Stewart (29).
‘She’s the first Asian I’ve met who doesn’t work at a nail salon,’ in a stereotypical Asian accent.
‘Be careful what you say in the dark, you might not be able to see the b____’
‘Look at how the white fish go to the top and the black fish go to the bottom, they’re segregated.’
What has clearly been shown is that racism is still very much prevalent in our society today. There is a quintessential thing we must remember – this is reality TV. As CBS as told us, these are the views of the contestants being expressed. If they are prepared to say these things knowing full well that they are being watched 24/7, then what does this say about who they are as people?
When Amanda confronts Aaryn to be careful about what she says, she calls it ‘the most annoying and obnoxious thing I’ve ever heard’ and that ‘I wish I could care about it more, but I don’t’.
And that’s the sound of a lifeboat sinking.
Aaryn then complains about how she herself is always judged for being a blonde. But have any of the contestants publically expressed such views towards her? No. Even if they had these, they kept them to themselves and focused on the game. Which Aaryn clearly hasn’t done.
You would think that people would learn from their mistakes. But not Aaryn. In the next episode, she takes out her frustration by flipping over Candice’s bed and throwing her clothes on the floor. When Candice asks about it, she mocks her with a ghetto accent and says, ‘whatcha gonna do gurl? Whatcha gonna do.’ GinaMarie jumps in and says, ‘you wanna see my black come out?’ Howard is forced to remove Candice from the room and
What has been really impressive is the way that the houseguests have reacted to this by standing against it.
The good news – both Gries and Zimmerman have been fired from their jobs. Zephyr Talent released a statement on their Facebook page:
‘Aaryn, season 15 cast member of Big Brother, revealed prejudices and other beliefs that we (Zephyr Talent) do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by Aaryn on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by Aaryn, either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are hers alone and do not represent the views or opinions of Zephyr Talent. Upon much consideration, we have decided to release Aaryn from her contract with Zephyr Talent.’
They later posted:
‘Zephyr Talent appreciates the overwhelming support of our difficult decision to release Aaryn Elizabeth Gries from her contract. We feel that this is in the best interest of our other clients and our company. Zephyr Talent fully supports free speech, but we also know that free speech does not mean free of consequences. Zephyr Talent, as a company, has always and will continue to be strong supporters of the LGBT community, and we celebrate all races, religions and cultures. While we disagree with Aaryn’s statements, we defend her right to make them; however, due to their direct conflict with many of the values we hold at Zephyr, we cannot continue to allow her to represent our company, nor do we feel comfortable representing her.’