Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fix the Boats

The original boat image is by Jimmy McIntyre - Editor HDR One Magazine 
(An old fishing boat Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. 
I remixed it under the creative commons licence by adding the words ‘Fix the Boats’.


We argue in my family about who came up with the half facetious and half serious ‘Fix the Boats’ slogan.

I know absolutely and for sure that I thought of it. I was fatigued by politicians telling me that they were only sending asylum seekers to Christmas Island, Nauru and Manus Island to stop people drowning. Better to improve the Indonesian fishing fleet – cheaper and more humane. ‘Fix the Boats!’

Will knows for a fact he was the one who first said ‘Fix the Boats’. His argument is that it’s his sort of notion.

Push and Pull

I’ve been thinking about my family and our push and pull factors.

I once sighted and then lost sight of some document that suggested that my mother’s father’s family were pushed out of Scotland as part of a manoeuvre to rid the place of the poorest and most ignorant of its highland people. I was told they wept and grabbed keepsake sods of earth. Pure push if it’s true.

In the nineteenth century, my mother’s mother’s people journeyed from Devon to Queensland to take up country and turn it into stations. My mother told me that the family was attacked by Aborigines as the wagons rolled up country. We were unwanted and uninvited. We might have killed to acquire those stations. I don’t know. If the story is true it’s pure and calculated economic pull.

My father’s father’s family were Scots living as traders in Jamaica in the mid-1800s. The Jamaican economy turned against them and Ballarat’s booming, gold-fuelled economy sounded. Economic push and pull.

So me? I’m fourth or fifth generation on all sides but somehow I don’t feel as though I or anyone else has a particular right to this country – or any other country.

My children are a different story. They are fifth, sixth and second generation Australians. Dror, the father of my eldest son, immigrated here when he was ten. Will, the father of the other two children, came here as a refugee during the cold war. In both cases the critical pull factor was Australia’s native and introduced fauna.

Dror was asked to make a choice between staying in Israel and living with his grandmother or moving to Australia to live with his mother and step-father. The idea of seeing kangaroos hopping down the streets brought him to Melbourne.

Will was an Eastern European refugee, sitting in a refugee camp in Austria. He chose Australia for two reasons. The immigration officer waved a brochure under his nose that promised fast-tracked citizenship and then there were the rabbits. You can’t go hungry in a country full of rabbits.

Free Movement – Money, Goods, Services and People

Money

I’ve been typing up some letters that my mother wrote to her first husband in the 1940s. She and Bob were living in America but she’d come back to Australia to visit her parents. The young couple was desperately poor during the first few post-War years. My grandfather wanted to give them some money but there was a problem. It wasn’t legal to transport Australian pounds to America. My mother’s letter is full of schemes to buy jewellery and then sell it when she gets back to the States.

Goods and Services

I keep trying to buy computer software from America. I keep trying to use Netflix. Each time, I feel the pinch of the continuing territorial nature of the movement of goods and services.

People

When I was born my father didn’t want to register my birth. He said to my mother ‘I want Victoria to be a citizen of the world.’ My mother thought the idea was irritating and registered me. I’ve always felt the world was as much mine as yours so maybe Dad succeeded.

Political Philosophy

I once heard someone arguing that globalisation will inevitably result in the free movement of people. There are precedents. The people of the British Empire used to be able to move freely between Commonwealth countries. Currently member citizens can move within the European Union and New Zealand and Australia have a movement arrangement.

The pejorative phrase for the free movement of people is ‘open borders’. The polite phrase is ‘migration without borders’.

Utopia and Dystopia

I’ve thought that we might end up in a fully globalised world where economic and political cogs whir people around the globe. I’ve wondered what will happen to Australia’s construction and housing sector if we don’t have enough immigrants and refugees. I can’t help thinking about a Star Trek future of re- and dematerialisation or a future of consciousness down- and uploads, making borders obsolete. I wonder what would happen if all the Iranian, Iraqi, Sri Lankan and Afghani dissenters moved here. I’ve fantasised about Australia giving up car making and taking up boat building to profit from ferrying free movers. I’ve imagined Papua New Guinea flourishing from the cultural and economic stimulus of thousands of asylum seekers. Increasingly, I’ve pictured myself as a cultural refugee needing to seek asylum in a more liberal country.