Calls to solve the Middle East refugee crisis have been loud but vague; so here’s my guide to dealing with the situation compassionately and effectively.
Invite a refugee family to stay at your place: Contact the Refugee Council, Uniting Church or Red Cross to offer your spare room to someone in need. After all, just going to a rally or signing a petition is a bit vacuous. When you said ‘welcome more refugees’, didn’t that mean you would welcome them? Or did you think that someone else would do it?
Employ a refugee, or let someone else do so: Most refugees want to work. If you’re not in a position to offer a job, don’t prevent others from doing so. Many lack the language or skills to jump straight into a $17.29 an hour gig, yet would gladly take a job that pays more than welfare. Exempt refugees from the minimum wage. Many Australians who dislike welfare-dependent refugees would be more welcoming if they paid their way via employment.
Cut foreign aid: Doubling our refugee intake would cost a billion dollars, but if we cut foreign aid by the same amount, taxpayers who worry about the cost of helping foreigners would have nothing to complain about. We’d still fund short‑term humanitarian assistance, because cutting a billion dollars from foreign aid still leaves billions more. And we’d do more good for foreigners by bringing them here than channelling cash to corrupt local elites.
Think global, act local: While there are millions fleeing the Middle East, there are also millions fleeing trouble spots closer to home – Burma, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China. Taking refugees from our region would do as much good as from Syria. And realistically, we have more capacity to assimilate Buddhists, Hindus and Christians to our way of life and liberal democracy than we do Muslims.
Let economic refugees pay to get here: Plenty are fleeing their homelands because of mayhem and poverty, not persecution. Instead of them paying people smugglers to get here, and our Government then paying the people smugglers to send them back, we should accept economic refugees for a fee – to prove to sceptical taxpayers that economic refugees need not be a budget burden, and would ensure those most able to hit the ground running in the workplace are the ones who choose to make Australia home.
Let people in as 2nd-class residents:
Australians would accept a much higher intake if migrants did not have the same access to taxpayer‑funded welfare, healthcare, housing and education as citizens. They would also accept a much higher intake if the hurdle to obtain citizenship were higher. Some will argue that they don’t want a two-tiered system in Australia, but if we ask potential migrants if they want to come even without access to our social welfare system, I’m pretty sure what most would say.
Reduce our CO2 emissions: Just kidding. Climate change is clearly not the greatest moral challenge of our time.
Unleash the dogs of war: Australian military and national security forces are almost certainly cooperating with the PKK to attack Islamic State – at the same time as we list the PKK as a terrorist organisation, starving it of support. This is nonsensical. Yes, bloody conflict between the PKK and Turkey continues, but this involves violence on both sides and is the result of the PKK’s reasonable desire for Kurdish autonomy. The PKK are the most effective and most moderate force fighting IS. Take them off our terrorist list.
Stop bombing for peace: We’ve been training Iraqi soldiers for a decade for no benefit. Bombing raids will always generate collateral damage. And any degradation of IS will lead to other thugs filling the void. Our bombing won’t make a material difference and possibly apart from helping the Kurds, it’s time to pull back rather than double down.
Be the best we can be: Economic development and growth isn’t just in our own interest. It means we can afford to be the most altruistic country on the planet. So listen to those who want to approve developments, cut red tape, remove industry protectionism, and get resources out of the public sector into the private sector: they’re the most compassionate Aussies around.
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