We had a mandate!

Posted: June 16, 2015 in Ranting

We had a mandate!

History is a curious creature. It is full of interesting stories that reveal all sorts of lessons that with the benefit of hindsight seem to have been bloody obvious but apparently weren’t at the time.

SpartaThere was a mob called the Spartans. And they were the crème de la crème of the warrior classes in what became Ancient Greece. They were also arrogant sods who were isolationists, believing they were superior to everyone else. Interaction with other city states was discouraged. Trade was discouraged. Even city walls were discouraged. One of their kings had the city walls demolished, declaring they did not need to ever hide behind walls due to their far superior skill at arms. “Walls? We don’t need no stinking walls!” But as all good things do, their times came to an end. When the Roman Emperor Augustus went on a tour of Greece, Athens had a good haul of things for even Imperial Tourists to have a gecko at but all he found at the remains of Sparta was a handful of dirty people living in hovels.

Invaders, raiders and unwelcome visitors in general (hello Aunty Ethel) have long been a thing of tradition. The Danes and the Norse found sending off parties off pillaging and plundering to be a great way of grabbing rich hauls of goodies, a tradition still viking2alive in the modern concept of ram raids. Various places discovered that it was better for them to simply pay the Terrifying Tourists off.  “Here you go mate, take this pile of cash and leave us alone, will ya?” That became called the Danegeld, a tax levied on people to provide the funds to pay off the TTs. But that was an even better thing for the Vikings. “Sorry but the cost of battle axes, oars and everything keeps going up. Terrible thing, that cost of living, innit? So cough up an extra few thousand bits of gold or we kick the crap out of you again.”

Eventually groups of the said TTs decided to make life a bit easier. Instead of all that perilous travel over the dark and stormy seas, they would simply set up permanent camp in the areas they liked raiding. If nothing else, it cut down the costs of new sails etc. And it proved pretty hand for snatching up the Tourist Tax as well as trotting off to the medieval equivalent of the ATM, raiding the local churches. Until all the monies ran out and they simply took land instead, providing somewhere for them to bring the missus and kids over to live. Perhaps ironically, that turned them into land owners subject to that medieval equivalent of a bull bar through the shop doors in a spot of smash and grab. By the time of the Normans and Billy the Batterer, aka William the Conqueror, the Normans were themselves the descendants of Vikings who had simply settled in part of France rather than sailing there each season.

The bleedin’ blindin’ obvious point is that policies of isolationism and simply trying to pay off the unwelcomed visitors are ultimately self-defeating.

Jump forward in history to last weekend and we have news of the crew from a people smuggling boat admitting to being paid by the Australian government to simply return back to Indonesia with their cargo of those terrible, disgusting, smelly and in general unwelcomed Illegal Arrivals still intact.

Social media went ballistic. They what? Tony Bloody Abbott is paying off people smugglers?? Someone pass me that lynching rope! Jump forward to today, June 16, and we have Bruce Haig, political commentator and former diplomat, using Fairfax media to point out that no, this isn’t exactly a new thing. It goes back at least as far as the Howard government of the mid-1990s when they started paying the people smugglers to please, just kindly bugger off with your boats somewhere else. So it is hardly surprising that Tony Abbott would be continuing to ape his mentor, John Howard, in this matter as well as pretty much everything else. Nor does it seem that Labor were entirely guiltless in this modern form of danegeld. “What?” cried Bill Shorten, current Labor leader while admiring his shiny big knife that he used to help assassinate his two leadership predecessors, “well we never paid those smelly oiks to sail back.” Except as Haig points out, it now seems that may have been simply playing with words. While they might not have actually paid any people smugglers to actually turn loaded boats around to go back, that careful use of words conveniently does not rule out them paying the oiks into not sailing in the first place. Danegeld!

The bleedin’ blindin’ obvious historical lessons were that being arrogant isolationists does not save you from ultimately being run over and stomped into the mud and that paying off is a ridiculously short-sighted approach as the price of the danegeld keeps going up until the recipients simply decide to move in anyway. But our national leaders do not seem to have learned much history.

While the likes of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison pound their chests like demented versions of Tarzan, screaming ‘we have a mandate, we have a bloody mandate” their actions are just increasingly making us the isolated Spartans, insisting on our superiority in everything, while the pool of unimpressed malcontents outside the national borders keeps growing and becoming increasingly pissed off. Sure, boats are being turned back etc, but what is that doing about the growing pool of people trying to get to Australia? Not much. For some strange reason, people still prefer to try their chances at a better life over here instead of suffering all that inconvenient war, violence, persecution and other pesky things back home. Paying off the people smugglers simply means the pool of intending ‘illegal arrivals’ is still growing elsewhere.

When he was still our Border Protection Superhero, Scott Morrison pointed out just how silly all these people really were. It was really quite easy, he explained. All you had to do was find enough money to pay to live somewhere else for a while, enjoying lazy afternoon teas and cucumber sandwiches as you waited for your formal application to come over to be approved. Then if Borderman approved your application, you took the missus and kids off to the airport for a lazy glass of champers or two in the Qantas Lounge before flying over here as a Legal Arrival. And if you weren’t approved, then never mind, better luck next time old boy.

I cannot help but wonder if once Zorp the Surveyor* has returned to rule us all, he may then turn his attention to see what remains of that Imperialistic Wonderhouse that was once the Super Superior civilisation of the Pacific and Indian Oceans region, Australia. If our national ‘leaders’ keep on with their stupid, short-sighted games, everything will have collapsed and all that Zorp is going to find here will be a handful of people emerging from their mud huts clustered around the altar of the Holy Budgie Smugglers, pounding their diseased chests while moaning “they had a mandate, they had a mandate.”

Here’s an odd thought. How about we actually try something radical like working with our international neighbours to tackle the much bigger problems that resulted in the current situation. Or we could just continue to stand on the moral high ground such as screaming ‘foul’ when one of our neighbours executes criminals who are Australian citizens but otherwise largely ignoring the issue of execution provided it isn’t one of ‘us’ facing the firing squad.

Hey Tony Abbot – here’s ten bucks. Now will you piss off?

*I had watched a Parks and Recreation marathon before writing this

Ross is a disreputable author and stand up who hangs out at places like Ross’s Ranting, Words by Ross and RossyH.

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