Since the Abbott Government was elected in 2013 their Sovereign Borders policy has been activated and three inevitable outcomes have prevailed since, the third of which is the topic of this comment piece.
The first two outcomes of this new immigrant policy were that the boats coming from a variety of countries have largely stopped – predominately boats coming from Sri Lanka and Indonesia. The second outcome is that this Sovereign Borders policy has illustrated that the Australian Government determines who enters Australia and not the 'people smuggler' – whether they be a syndicate or individuals out for a quick buck.
One of the key issues of the 2013 Federal election was this immigration issue. The flood gates were well and truly opened to anyone wanting a new life in Australia whether they were economic refugees or genuine asylum seekers – that is those people truly in fear of their lives by remaining in their own country.
As shown over and over again, it takes an inordinate amount of time to verify whether someone's bonafides is as what they claim and it's been shown time and time again that not everyone is as they claim. I have yet to meet anyone who concurs that Australia should become the country of choice for those wanting to import 'drama' into Australia.
Let's recap: so far the first two points are election political promises in that this new Government policy, we have seen an almost complete stopping of the boats and that the people smugglers have been in effect, put out of business.
The Third issue
Now to the third point which in effect, is the focus of all those who disagree with the political election promise – in effect, those who supported the Labor policies. The Australian population by a landslide put the Labor model out the door, but there is a rowdy minority who disagree.
This vocal and noisy group seem to be against any policy that shunts economic and untested asylum seekers off shore for assessment. They want this done in Australia and unashamedly publicly encouraging this as a back-door entry into this nation.
They claim there is no United Nations 'lining up' procedures to enter Australia as such a process is so mishandled that it is nothing more than a joke in a world of 46 million refugees and moreover those coming by boat have their own system of lining up.
These are the two great gulfs in policy. In the red corner, are those in effect allowing open slather. This model in effect allows the Tamil problem of Sri Lanka imported into Australia (it could neither be denied or concurred as it was an unknown). In the blue corner, the other side of the coin, in effect, closed that door and then sent offshore - the assessment process - of those who somehow edged through the naval blockade.
So far I have set out the issue. Now to the real issue.
The population debate
Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe from Griffith University in Brisbane published a book called Bigger or Better, in which he explains the politics of population growth and what it will mean for Australia. Immigration numbers is the key issue, whether Australia will be below or over 40 million by 2050.
Australia, as it now stands with its water infrastructure, could only reasonably sustain an increase of 15% on the current figure. I base this on the Biblical idea of a philosophical tithe (immigration and neighbourly responsibility) and an offering of an additional 5% as a practical workable figure (humanitarianism).
And this is the critical question for everyone. In my view, a good dose of wisdom might be to ignore any group or church or politician or whomever, unless they offer an annual figure. Then the real debate begins as to how the national fiscal pie is carved up.
The Federal Government recently put a new Prostate drug on the Pharmaceutical Benefits list which for Pensioners will now only cost $5.60 rather than $3,300. The Government will now pay the $3,294.40 (or thereabouts). Do we as a nation ignore this critical health issue for men and instead spend the money to ....
None of us want chaos and whatever else might be said, the Biblical notation focuses on wisdom and good order. This therefore necessarily means that both political persuasions will find ways to divert an unsustainable economic refugee / asylum seeker invasion (there are 46 million refugees around the world).
Any sensible population policy illustrates that an open door policy is nonsense.
Water, Infrastructure and Political Volatility
The essence of the population debate focuses on these three - what could Australia through its national infrastructure and water supply sustain any given population on the one hand, along with political, and social cohesion on the other.
How much water does Australia, a parched continent, use in the best of years. Can our water supply sustain any increased population. The politic is another issue where any vast increase would make the Australian electorate very different than it is today. Volatility and ungovernable are words heard. Then there is the social cohesion issue where more than 50% of the population almost overnight (as it were) from other cultures and religions. I need say no more.
A specific number – the important question
What is a 'realistic number' that Australia could sustainably and safely incorporate into our nation? The former Federal Immigration Minister Bill Shorten said on Q&A 22 July 2013: "We take 180,000 migrants and make them Australians every year. At that time we were taking more refugees than ever before, 20,000" - Shorten was considering lifting that to 27,000."
Herein lies the lack of any current dialogue from the Christian Churches and community groups' viz refugee agencies, asylum seeker benevolent associations and the like. Try getting a specific number from any of them. In that same Q&A program it was stated that there are 46 million refugees around the world. Australia fares reasonably well in the western nations % of refugee intake and so the question remains for the go-gooder groups, as to how many more can Australia take in any one year.
Any argument they make without stating the number they would sustainably bring into Australia, is a cop-out. Recently I've had a number of discussions with fellow theologians who all shout a bit from roof tops, but none of them offer a figure to bring into Australia. At least the Greens last year had a policy of 30,000 humanitarian intake (boat people). Bill Shorten is now the Leader of the Opposition, I have yet to hear a stated figure.
It is not whether asylum seekers or refugees need a place to live safely – that is a given! Yes, Australia is a very generous and hospitable nation. We cannot take the whole 46 million. But what can we take? That's the question we all face and good people on all sides give different answers.
But those who bleat without giving a figure are simply out of touch and very dangerous.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html