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Australia: Media Keep Missing the Real Smuggling Boat Issues

Just Like Canberra's Elites, Australia's Media Keep Missing the Real Smuggling Boat Issues

"Recent video material obtained by the ABC and Fairfax about people smugglers 'promoting' their deals and discussing how great they are, may well be sensational and new material for media outlets, but the way people smuggling is treated in the Australian media is nothing more than the equivalent of sensationalising the emergence in Italy of another topless photo of girls at a Silvio Berlusconi Bunga-Bunga party. The latest video, heavily promoted by Fairfax as well as the ABC - is merely an example of sheer me-too media sensationalism, without any media representatives drilling down to the real issues - the Giant Elephant in the room of Australian political and national discourse that addresses the real questions of how to 'stop the boats'," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said today.

"Astoundingly, all politicians in power and their Immigration Ministers, starting with John Howard and Philip Ruddock, then Kevin Rudd and Chris Evans, then Julia Gillard with Chris Bowen and now Brendan O'Connor, have been 100% successful in seducing the parliament, the Australian people and the media to follow their narrow precipice "disaster-discourse" parameters, which at all times maintains total silence about the Elephant in the Room - where they are successfully 'managing discourse' to maintain a deafening silence around the issue that processing people, regionally and generously, BEFORE they in desperation organise their passage on boats from Indonesia or Malaysia, will stop the boats," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"Rather than confronting Australian politicians with their elephant in the room, media outlets - including the ABC - have taken on sensationalism, where first and foremost, people smugglers have to be described and depicted as "evil merchants". For everyone in the country this could have become clear with the 2010 Four Corners' episodes on people smuggling by Sarah Ferguson, and regrettably, the national broadcaster as well as other media organisations are almost fully and unquestionably joining in with pre-cast and narrow political agenda's rather than expending the needed energy to expose these as self-interested, biased and incapable of resolving anything at all."

"If we treat the "arrivals wave" from Indonesia as having started in 1999, then by now the UNHCR registration and processing office in Jakarta should be a nine-storey building with dozens of staff completing intake registrations, dozens of staff evaluating refugee protection claims put by applicants, and dozens of staff working the phones to many countries in and beyond the Pacific region to secure annual intake numbers of successful claimants. While the intake registrations could be done by counter staff, claims assessments could be completed by UNHCR officers and Australian Immigration officers, while the phones could be manned by UNHCR staff and retired Australian diplomats."

"Instead, and entirely the result of the callous silence of all Australian politicians who have made the decisions since 1999, the UNHCR office in Jakarta is a small office in a semi-shaded back street, with no more than two or three staff who are overworked and who cannot cope with the asylum population on Indonesian soil."

"If Australian politicians had any interest at all in replacing vacuous rhetoric about "regional solutions" and "burden sharing" with actualities, they would have long ago stipulated that their UNHCR funding should be designated for the Indonesian processing centre, tied to performance outcomes by UNHCR in terms of numbers of asylum seekers processed in resettled in Australia and many other countries. If Australia would have committed to take at least 40-50% of the Indonesian caseload under such circumstances, we could count on it that other countries regard our lobbying to be part of such a regional resettlement endeavour as fully credible, worthwhile and in their own interests."

"Instead, Australian politicians, acting like drunken fools, actually think that the merry-go-round of rhetorical statements where we first and foremost talk about "drownings at sea" and "evil people smugglers" cuts the wood with voters. The failure of the Australian media to go beyond this discourse model is a disgrace to the nation, and it assists in the failure to escape the rhetorical merry-go-round - a merry-go-round that, as we repeatedly can see, has deadly consequences."


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