In Overland 198, Mungo MacCallum examines Labor’s policies towards refugees:
The first duty of any government is the defence of its citizenry, and that is why border protection is vital to Australia.
It is easy to argue that the boat people are few in number, desperate and helpless, simple seekers of shelter; they pose no threat. But those who exhibit this misplaced compassion tend to forget one very elementary fact about Australia: it is girt by sea.
We are an island, with a mainland coastline some 36 000 km in length, and if you add in the offshore islands that nearly doubles to 60 000 km. Global warming and the consequent rise in sea levels may reduce this quite a bit, but we will remain horribly vulnerable, and only the most severe policies of deterrence can keep us from the hordes who see us, rightly, as the most desirable destination on earth. Pauline Hanson is absolutely right: we are in imminent danger of being swamped, being overrun, losing the Australian way of life forever. Only ceaseless and indeed ruthless vigilance can keep us safe.
Now the bleeding hearts, the latte sippers, the chardonnay quaffers in their elite little ivory towers scoff at the very suggestion. Nonsense, they lisp, it could never happen. But it could; in fact, it did.
The invasion of boat people that began in 1788 was not stopped and it destroyed the Australian nation – many hundreds of Australian nations, as it happened. There was resistance, but it was too little and too late. The Australians who survived the onslaught were reduced to fringe dwellers, their lifestyle and culture crushed by the sheer weight of the newcomers.
So it did happen once, perhaps even more than once, for there is some evidence that those who were invaded in 1788 themselves displaced earlier settlers. The fear of boat people is not a fantasy: it is based on history. It may be atavistic, motivated at least partly by subconscious feelings of guilt, but this does not make it irrational, far less unreal.
Okay, all the above is not meant to be taken entirely seriously. But it is at least an attempt to explain what is otherwise pretty much inexplicable. Why do Australians, normally a laid-back and tolerant, if not welcoming, people, suddenly turn in to foaming paranoiacs when a few leaky craft bearing the wretched of the earth appear off our shores?