Today I want to write about stopping the boats—not the annual event that results in spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars to rescue supposedly well-trained crewmembers of high-tech, ocean-going yachts that make the voyage on the treacherous waters of the Tasman Sea and Bass Strait from Sydney to Hobart—the illegal trade in smuggling people seeking refuge from their homelands to find a better place elsewhere; the euphemistically-termed "irregular maritime arrivals".
While every person who participates in the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race is well aware of the risks involved, and our rescue operations are geared to assist people and vessels that get into difficulties on the high seas, the issues for asylum seekers are very different. In the case of asylum seekers, we Australians are not so "accommodating". For the most part, our politicians seem more concerned about political points-scoring rather than having a more genuinely sympathetic understanding of the need to address the real concerns of those fleeing persecution, seeking asylum in Australia—a land of opportunity for those willing to contribute to it.
It is unfortunate that, in this discussion, the victims are the asylum-seekers (or the taxpayers who have spent—perhaps wasted would be a better word—billions of dollars) whose welfare is hardly the primary concern of our Government. I'm not suggesting, of course, that the Government is unconcerned about the welfare of taxpayers. I'm also not suggesting that there isn't a willingness by Government to look at ways we can accommodate the tens of thousands of people who want to migrate to Australia, either. The real question is more about whether we, as a country, understand what's at stake.