The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

12000 Years Without Boats

Should you ever feel sufficiently bored to pay a visit to Scott Morrison’s website you’ll notice two things. Firstly, you’ll notice that it’s time to take a good, long look at your life and, secondly, you’ll see a series of triumphal proclamations claiming that there have been x number of days without ‘boats’.

Now clearly this statement cannot be taken at face value. Simple logic begs the question – if there have been no boats, what have the Navy been turning back all this time? We therefore come to the conclusion that this statement needs to be examined. So let’s examine it.

Clearly, boats are still arriving. Sources that I am unwilling and unable to name inform me that the pace of boat interceptions hasn’t really changed since I was serving in the comparatively benign Operation Resolute. We have, however, ceased the practice of transporting asylum seekers to Christmas Island and have instead been either sending them back outside our EEZ or taking them to Manus Island. So what’s changed?

Basically, the LNP is now in a position to say that no boat arrivals set foot on Australian territory. I suppose this is a major triumph and, considering that this is done merely at the cost of turning all boat interceptions from benign to hostile, endangering the lives of asylum seekers and Navy personnel and housing people in a facility that wouldn’t pass muster as an abandoned dog shelter, it’s probably cheap at the price. Largely because the Restricted OP RESOLUTE¬†has turned into the Secret OP SOVEREIGN BORDERS. And any price is cheap, really, if you don’t know you’re paying it.

Of course, there have been a few minor hiccups. An unintentional breach of Indonesian waters generated much derision for the Navy (I’d like to see any of those smarmy commentators navigate a boat out of the harbour, much less the open ocean) and soured not a little our relationship with our Northern neighbours. Allegations of cruelty and torture tarnished the reputation of the Navy somewhat, with a little of the mud splattering our venerable aunty – the ABC. And, of course, a large number of newspapers spent a few glorious weeks misidentifying RAN vessels and splashing pictures of ‘orange’ lifeboats, being curiously obsessed with the fact that they were orange (all lifeboats are orange).

Which is as it should be, I suppose. The task of the military is to enforce and facilitate government policy and, I guess, to absorb the blame along with the hard knocks. ¬†But it’s okay, because it’s been 180 days without boats. Which means what, exactly?

What it means is that due to the population voting for a policy of deliberately treating people so badly that they don’t attempt to seek refuge with us, the government has been able to combine xenophobia with the official secrets act to produce a situation where they can say ‘there are no boats’, when the truth is that there are boats, just not in our troglodytic, provincial, goldfish-brained and fucking stupid backyard. So, the number of boats hasn’t changed. We’ve just misused the military and the secrecy provisions designed to protect the nation in such a way that different rhetoric is now possible. And tapped into poisonous xenophobia in order to secure public buy-in. Which is a tactic as old as civilisation.

So considering that nothing has really changed, why not go the whole hog? The situation we’re in is as old as civilisation so I think that we can justly claim that it has now been 12000 years without boats.

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