Australia: Seeing What We Have To See.


WHAT DOES IT MEAN when otherwise intelligent people look at something – and don’t see it? How do people train themselves to misperceive – and therefore misrepresent – the reality before their eyes?

Paul Simon’s song, ‘The Boxer’, explains it like this:

I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles.

Such are promises, all lies and jest.

Still, a man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest.

Faced with the deepening humanitarian crisis on Manus Island, why is the New Zealand Government, like the boxer, only seeing what it wants to see, and disregarding the rest?

What should our new government be seeing?

- Sponsor Promotion -

First and foremost, it should see the Australian Government’s policy on illegal immigration by sea as an exercise in imposing immediate cruelty to achieve long-term kindness. Assailed by the victims of corrupt criminal enterprises: the desperate men, women and children being sent out in flimsy boats, foundering on the high seas and drowning; successive Australian Governments have embarked upon a programme of extreme deterrence.

Refugees and economic migrants attempting to circumvent Australia’s official immigration policies, by sailing there illegally, will be treated with the utmost harshness. Without the slightest regard for age or gender, they will be interned in fetid tropical concentration camps; brutally mistreated; and informed, coldly, that under no circumstances will the Australian Government ever permit them, or their offspring, to set foot on Australian soil.

And, it’s worked. The terrifying example presented to potential “boat people” by the inhabitants of the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres has had the desired effect. The criminal middle-men have found fewer and fewer individuals and families willing to pay them the huge sums of money they had previously been able to demand for a journey to Australian shores. People smuggling has become uneconomic. The leaky boats have stopped sailing and their passengers have stopped dying.

When criticised, the Australian Government simply points to the situation in the Mediterranean. The European Union’s “humanitarian” policy of rescuing and receiving boat people has resulted in a huge expansion of people-smuggling. Every week, thousands of refugees and illegal migrants set sail from North Africa for Spain and Italy. Of those thousands, many hundreds – men, women and children – drown at sea.

On 17 June 2017, the British e-newspaper, The Independent, reported that: “More than 2,000 migrants have died attempting treacherous boat crossings to Europe so far this year”. That number must now be approaching 4,000.

These are the numbers that the Australian Government points to as justification for the astonishing cruelty of its policies. The so-called “Pacific Solution” may not be pretty to look at, runs the official argument, but it saves lives. Mothers’ lives. Children’s lives. “If we gave in to the demands of our critics,” say the Australian authorities, “we wouldn’t just have detainees, we’d have blood, on our hands!”

In the authorities’ eyes, the actions of the Australian navy, in intercepting the people-smugglers’ vessels and towing them back to their departure points; and the harsh internment regimes subsidised by the Australian state; are not only the delivery mechanisms for effective policy, but they are also entirely morally defensible. By their reckoning, it is the “humanitarian” NGOs; the groups which insist on “saving” the boat people, that have thousands of drowned human-beings on their consciences – not the Australian Government. For every boatload of refugees and illegal migrants that are “saved”: ten, twenty, thirty more overloaded and leaking death-traps are encouraged to set sail.

Faced with an adamant Australian Government which is utterly convinced that it is doing the right thing vis-à-vis illegal immigration by sea, what should the New Zealand Government do?

If we engage the Aussies in a full-scale moral debate on this issue, can we even be sure of winning it? With the example of the EU’s policy before us; and with the Australians arguably blocking the people-smuggling routes to New Zealand as well as to their own country; might we not expose ourselves to the charge of allowing our kind hearts to get in the way of the higher moral good of breaking the people-smuggling trade?

Let’s assume, however, that we are capable of refuting the Australians’ moral arguments (their policies are, after all in breach of numerous international covenants to which New Zealand remains firmly committed) what, then, should be our course of action?

Some are arguing that we should negotiate directly with the government of Papua-New Guinea. But, that really would be evidence of our diplomatic blindness! The government of Papua-New Guinea is almost entirely in the thrall of the Australian Government – its former colonial master. Ostensibly a democracy, the country is, in fact, a corrupt kleptocracy whose senior ministers are pretty-much the bought-and-paid-for playthings of Canberra. Were we to ask Port Moresby if it was willing to allow New Zealand to take 150 detainees off their hands, its officials would simply pick up the phone and ask Canberra if that would be okay.  Canberra would say “No!” – and that would be that. The same applies to the supposedly independent state of Nauru – another Pacific regime morally and politically compromised by the Australians’ Pacific Solution.

All of which should tell us exactly what we are looking at when we fix our gaze on Australia.

Because it’s not just big Papua-New Guinea, and tiny Nauru, who find themselves in no position to do anything other than obey without question the dictates of Canberra. Australia may not have purchased our politicians, the way it has in other parts of the Pacific, but that’s only because they don’t need to. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is quite capable of assessing this country’s strategic economic, military and diplomatic interests without the need for Canberra to spell them out for us.

What Jacinda saw when she arrived at Kiribili House on Sunday was what she wanted to see. Our good friend and ally, the Australian prime minister. She comported herself accordingly: joshing and joking; and reporting (politely) on her Government’s response to Australia’s latest policy decisions.

Had she seen anything else: a nation able to break the New Zealand economy at will, for example, or, a regime prepared to be almost unbelievably ruthless and brutal in the pursuit of its national objectives. Had she registered a nation arming itself to the teeth in preparation for projecting “Five Eyes” power north, into the Indonesian archipelago, east, into the Pacific, and west, into the strategically vital Indian ocean, and which looks upon its “little mate”, New Zealand, as a lucrative source of economic tribute, a handy supplier of skilled labour, a cheap holiday destination, and, at need, an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” fortuitously positioned to defend Australia’s eastern flank; then what, realistically, could she have done?

Other than josh, and joke, and hope like hell that Australia never decides to treat Kiwis the way it treats the detainees on Manus Island and Nauru.

Oh, wait a minute …



  1. If we can circumvent the foreign buyers bogey then there’s probably some way of circumventing this mess, too.

    Are we ‘allowed’ to hire them as workers – and let them ‘telecommute’ so they have employment, income, and gain skills? Provide the equipment, too, if we must. (With an offer to the envious of Papua-New Guinea to provide similar training.)

    Can anyone supply them with international passports, or similar to those issued to some of the Olympics competitors, so they can actually leave and not be tied to any state? (There are many people who are stateless and migratory without being poverty-stricken.)

    More to the point: did she talk with the Opposition people? When Turnbull and his “””Liberal””” government is replaced – will those who follow be more inclined to help those stuck in a fracas not of their making? Including the Lost and Damned on Christmas Island.

    Did she ask also what the long-term plan is for joint participation in measures to deal with the international two- and three- tier economic situations that are causing so many people to wage war on their fellows and send people into desperate flight? (If Ms Clarke would like to get together with the Elders on this matter before the tea goes cold?)

    Personally, I hope this episode marks the time when we look appraisingly at our association with Australia and make some overdue corrections. If Mr Peters would be so kind?

  2. The world population is at 7.6 billion. 70 million added so far tis year, 150 000 so far today. Net increase not births.
    Most of this population , and most of the increase is in poor countries with repressive governments, ripped off their resources by rich less densely populated countries esp. U S A.
    Almost all of them individually would be far better off if they could find a way to become New Zealand or Australian citizens, even at the risk of having ti live for a time in a car. Millions, probably billions are in desperate situations.
    It would be real friendly and humanitarian to forestall the need for any of them to risk leaky overcrowded coffin ships by putting on free air travel, or pas anger ships to all those wishing to improve their lives by becoming New Zealand or Australian citizens, so they didn’t have to risk their lives.
    We have to be very grateful that we don’t have to make or implement the decisions about how many we should help, how many we can help without all entering the same overcrowded predicament they are in, and what to do to limit the numbers arriving.
    Can we provide a solution that meets the needs and aspirations of those millions of disadvantaged people , without destroying the lives of the present populations by accepting numbers of immigrants so large that our average living standard drops that from which they are trying to escape?
    I’m glad it isn’t my responsibility to decide.
    D J S

  3. I was disappointed that Jacinda didn’t come out stronger in condemning Oz treatment of the Manus Island refugees.

    I then had the thought if she went directly to PNGan negotiated taking the refugees from then, I wouldn’t put it past Australia to come down heavily on the ability of NZders to travel to Australia to live and work…..

    I didn’t realize that PNG would likely ring Canberra and ask their permission to release the refugees……….

    I think she has to pick her battles…….

  4. It does not start or end with Manus Island.

    Why is there hardly any reporting about the Rohingya being driven out of Myanmar, why is there hardly any reporting about the misery in many other places on earth here in New Zealand?

    Human beings are quite capable of selective perception and selective thinking, no matter what race, nationality, religion or culture, New Zealanders are capable of it en masse, just like Jacinda as PM.

    That is why so many can focus on the nice commercials they get bombarded with, book a holiday in a tropical island, and let the poor there serve them nice cocktail drinks and ice cream, and have no scruples about paying low prices for lowly paid servants there.

    That is why people can buy gadgets like i-phones and so forth, made by slave labour in China or elsewhere, and they will also not bother thinking about the huge levels of pollution that is the price to pay there.

    That is why nobody does much about climate change and CO2 and other climate changing emissions, they carry on driving their cars every day, and also continue buying millions of plastic bags daily.

    That is why nobody really cares, as it is ME first, it is MY interests, MY space and MY house, MY car, MY this and that and the other, stuff the rest.

    The same enabled many Germans and Austrians and some others in Europe in the 1930s to turn the other way, and let that leader with a loud voice, Adolf was his name, go about and do what he and his troops and followers did.

    They rather got on with daily life, as if nothing much else was to worry about, life was not that bad for those not persecuted, and not bombed towards the end.

    Humanity is corrupt, and remains corrupt, New Zealanders are just humans or less so humans, like the rest.

  5. Jacinda has been working hard and needs a brake. The Xmas period will no doubt revive her …

    Firstly, I feel Malcolm Turnbull has done a number on her with his pseudo, sycophant rhetoric wrapped in demeaning undertones design to aggrandize himself (Malcolm Turnbull) and Australia … while belittling New Zealand.

    Let’s not forget Australia has a huge housing bubble, tent cities and a large hidden underclass, not to mention questionable forgiven policies.

    Secondly, the ‘Speaker of the House’ fiasco was plain embarrassing and I’d be whipping the whips. Jacinda obviously needs some down time and perhaps a couple of quarter ponder combos.

    Saying that, she is the leader and the time has come for her to walk in that authority and demand her caucus are more prepared. She’s good at delegating but needs to convey a sense of strong expectations. This fiasco was uninspiring for new MP’s.

    • What could she do? If she had ruffled feathers, the MSM would have had a feast at destroying her, as bing ‘irresponsible’ or so. She is faced with a big neigh bour, the ANZAC BS artists, that go on about heritage and so, and hold us to ransom, same as the British colonialists did. The only way is to break free from both, that though may come with another big risk. So Jacinda knew, this was nothing more than a damned ‘courtesy visit’ to a kind of old relative, nothing more or less. The rest of history will be written by what she does for future years on other stages

Comments are closed.