Tuesday, April 21

Asylum seekers prove their worth

Those of you who believe Old Grumpy is a bleeding-heart leftie – too soft to take a sensible line on matters of national importance – well, here's where you may find evidence to reinforce your view.

I believe most of those asylum seekers who turn up at Ashmore Reef or Christmas Island on leaky boats, especially those who've brought their families, have shown fitness to live in Australia and eventually become citizens.

Think of it this way. You own a business, and you need to fill a staff vacancy. You place a small ad – and in these difficult times, more than 300 people send you their CV. You and your secretary spend a couple of days working through them.

Nearly all would be worth a trial, but you narrow the list to several dozen applicants. Your secretary sends out emails inviting the short-listed hopefuls in for interviews.

A day later, before the interviews have begun, it's a nice day, so you take sandwiches down to the park.

A fellow comes up to you, introduces himself, apologises for intruding on your time, and – to your irritation – sits down and starts talking about your business. It's clear he's done some research, and he says he'd like to be part of your operation. He describes his education and skills and how he could use them to advance your business. He impresses you.

You do feel a bit guilty. He is, after all, a queue jumper. And you feel a bit sorry for all those people who've done it by the book when they lodged their applications.

But when you think about it, in your business you've got more than enough people who do their jobs by the book – conscientious plodders who perform well but have no zest and contribute no new ideas.


Old Grumpy spent more than thirty years commuting from Woy Woy to Central. Often our train would leave Woy Woy overcrowded, and it was such a relief to reach Hornsby and see so many passengers get out.

The Central Coast commuters would spread themselves out, and the women would go back to their intense study of New Idea and Woman's Day.

But then we'd pull into Epping or Eastwood, and a crush of new passengers would push into the carriages. The Central Coast people would mutter a bit, move closer together and resume their reading or snoozing.

Today, Old Grumpy is ashamed to admit a touch of racism. All those Asian faces crowding on to our Intercity train. Dammit, we provide a perfectly good suburban train system for people from the suburbs.

But I had to note that many of the young people who'd just joined us would pull out university notes, while some of the adults opened briefcases and worked on business papers. In later years, laptops came out and people worked on spreadsheets.

I thought then – and I still think – that these people with non-Anglo faces represent much of the future of Australia, a future in which a complacent “Lucky Country” will need their ambition and skills, their desire to make a better life for their families, to compete against emerging Asian economies.

[My contrast of “old Australians” snoozing or reading New Idea against “new Australians” full of drive and ambition may have a touch of caricature, but not enough to make my argument invalid.]


I wrote the sections above last night, but decided to think about them overnight before posting them to the blog. This morning [Tuesday] I checked the Sydney Morning Herald online, and come across Gerard Henderson's comment containing these thoughts:

There has been a world-wide increase in asylum seekers. Even so, in view of the acute risks involved in attempting to enter Australia in small boats, it seems that such trips are likely to be undertaken if the chances of success are seen to have increased.

The intensity of the debate is such that there is not much room for rationality at either extreme.

Contrary to what many refugee advocates proclaim, not all asylum seekers are refugees, not all tell the truth and not all are secular saints.

Contrary to what many of those who are hostile to them believe, asylum seekers are not security threats and most who gain refugee status become hard working and entrepreneurial citizens. Anyone who has the ingenuity to make it here - by sea or air - has a skills set which adapts well to a multicultural migrant community such as Australia. [Bold type is my emphasis – GOJ]

Exactly. Just what I'm trying to say. Perhaps I'm not such a bleeding heart after all.


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