Controversy - It's not Just a Prince song

There was a bit of controversy after I pressed 'Save & Publish' the other day. It was regarding a few genuine concerns I have about the plight of the asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Australia. So I proposed some practical questions about how Australia could look after the 43,000 people that arrived by sea over the last six years.

When I pressed a work associate, who themselves was UN-selected humanitarian entrant years ago,  as to what they thought of the 'boat people' debate, they laughed at me. The answer was, "We keep these thoughts close in our chests." They know me enough to know my chest is  too wide open at the best of times.

What was most fascinating  about the online response to these questions was the way in which people cannot argue, even if they believe they hold the Truth. The extremes of either side are almost religious in their ferocity. And, as with all zealotry, there is more emotion than substance behind the hysteria.

No one has yet attempted my queries about housing or health. But I am accused of some awful personality traits. As the interactions progressed, where evidence wasn't available, the discussion then grew emotional, irrational and irrelevant. It was like debating  fanatical Christians again. Eventually it came down to faith, and my lack of it. If it's hard to believe in the Jesus story, it's way harder to believe in the Australian government as benevolent tale.

Watching people fall apart because they're running on adrenalin or emotion is still fun after all.  

Every single body has an opinion, ironically, because of the enormous volume of reporting thrust our way. It's an inescapable topic. It's mandatory. You would think it were a national crisis or a deathly epidemic.

Many bodies, though, are keeping their opinions close in their chests because both sides are deeply cynical about the other. Harshly so. You can be seen as either:

- as a bleeding heart liberal who wants to give everything 'we' worked so hard for to 'them' who don't look like 'us' in the slightest. Because that's a part of it too.

Would we struggle with as hard if these asylum seekers were gorgeous blondes from Norway?

Or you can be seen as

- as a cold, selfish, greedy bigot who is doesn't care about the suffering of children. No not indigenous children. They're not as exciting.

So, it's time to ask some other questions. It's time to be unpopular, amongst the intelligentsia in this here big old country town where everyone knows everyone. There seem to be so few acceptable points of view in this country, Nile, Katter, Rudd, Abbott, Alan Jones, Murdoch, Packer.  Worse yet, are the popular left wingers, those who dare never to offend, yet are so easily offended. Or is that the right wing?

I still want to know where the housing is coming from for all those who come by boat. You know that sub-standard accommodation will make further headlines. So the living conditions have to be acceptable. Tens of thousands of people need somewhere to live. Where will that be?

I get in trouble for these kinds of questions, a lot, in fact it's generally cost me a lot, especially career wise. But if it's good enough for Lieutenant Columbo to say, "One more thing....?" as his signature move than it's good enough for every one of us.

Questions for The Boat People Supporters

Australians are hysterical about asylum seekers who arrive here without permission by boat. We are cruel and inhumane!, they cry on their blogs and newspapers. Serious journalists get caught up in the hype that we are just a selfish, greedy nation that refuses to share.  See video above for propaganda re: our dreadful cruelty.

So, before we can get to the concept of what a refugee is, here's some questions I want to ask those who push the faces of children onto front pages to elicit guilt that Australians do not throw a Welcome Home party for every boat that rocks up on the shores.

#QandA Viewers, help me with this:

1. Where do you want these people to live?  

Over 10,000 people have arrived in 2013. Last time I went to an inspection of a 2 bedroom flat in Wollongong, there were 20 people barging through. Was wondering where the sympathisers are hoping the housing will spring from, because I've not once seen the radicals offer up a room in their own homes.

2. What would you like these people to eat, keeping in mind it must be culturally appropriate, and often religious as well? 

Would you like the government to provide food rations, food vouchers, referrals to charities, or Centrelink benefits? Or are you feeding them? Or is there a huge soup kitchen I missed?

3. What would you like these people to eat on?

How will they store their food? Where will they sleep? How will they clean their clothes? 

Where will the 10,00 fridges and beds and washing machines come from?  

Is the Salvation Army expected to produce them? The "Government"? What about plates and sheets and knives and forks?  You got spares?

4. Where will the children go to school?

With the public school system groaning with underfunding, is there room to fit a few hundred extra kids in here and there, and still make sure that education stays at a high standard? Did you count in the extra support teachers, and English teachers?  You won't mind if the classroom gets bigger by ten in your Amelia's HSC year will you?

5. What if somebody gets sick? What if lots of people are really sick because of what they've been through back home as well as the journey here?

While our hospital system makes headlines for its mishaps and under resourcing, where are you supposing these beds will come from?

I'm sure no one will mind an extra ten thousand people on the Medicare system after the big discussion that was needed for a measly $300 to look after our disabled? Plus we have all those doctors lying around country towns, don't we? That'll give em something to do.

6. Speaking of the disabled, why is it that our own disadvantaged are not so important to you folk?

There are plenty of kids in institutions, individuals and families that have suffered horrendously in their lives, and have constant suffering.  Here.

We still have 3rd world standards for the indigenous owners of this land. Are the sufferings of Aboriginal children not as tear-jerking anymore? Are our old, isolated, disabled, and poverty stricken all taken care of now? 

Charity begins at home, don't you think?  Nah, here's boring. Asylum seekers are a way to stay local, but act global, all at once. Great for a social conscience buzz.

7. How do you expect the new arrivals to have any idea how to survive here?

Will they just hop off the boat and live happily ever after? How will they stay safe? How will the find their way around or know where to seek help? Or will this all be driven by human instinct and that courage we love to read about in our cosy living rooms?

8.  Who's going to manage the trauma?

The levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are beyond an Australian's comprehension. With a mental health system in tatters around the countryside, where might the highly skilled psychologists, nurses, psychiatrists, and other therapists come from? They will be essential to treat the very real, very terrifying symptoms of having survived a war that may have killed everyone else you knew savagely? 

And if there just aren't enough specialists to give the help that is so needed, what might we do with thousands of people who are deeply affected by the horrors of their lives? Will we allow them to remain untreated while those of us familiar with the system get priority treatment? Will we cry when heinous crimes are committed by those in mental anguish?  Who will be to blame then? Not you, QandA viewers. You have each kindly billeted 3 asylum seekers each.

9. Where will they get jobs? 

Because that is the long term goal isn't it? Self-sufficiency? Please. Australians can't even cope with some labour being flown in from overseas in factories. The uproar would be enormous in this, the Lazy and Lucky Country.   But who will train them, apprentice them, employ them, in a way that is equal and fair? Where will these mentors come from? Or will they become a second class for Australia, the unemployed visitors who are staying, without the support they so desperately need?

10. How many people is enough? 

There are currently 23 million refugees in the world today in camps waiting for resettlement. Should Australia take 100,000? A million? Ten million? Because we don't want to be cruel or selfish and knot share? Yes, let's take ten million highly traumatised people who have nothing here for them, and then we'll feel better about ourselves.

Or will we? Will there come a point where the boat people sympathisers say 'Enough. I'm sorry but I think we can't help anymore'?

And if there is, what is that magic number, that will make all your guilt go away? 

We're all so eager to see Utopia the way you do.