Friday, December 23, 2011

The Balt Report

IS ANYONE else drawn to opportunity shops? You can certainly turn up some very interesting things, like the Gould platycercus excimius print (aka the eastern rosella) which the Professor found some years ago in a shop run by ladies from a hospital auxiliary, who wanted only $10 for a picture worth considerably more than that. Last week, a bit of a potter in another op shop produced a further gem, a copy of Sailing To Freedom by Voldemar Veedam. The spine is cracked, the paper has yellowed and the book must be handled with great care, but what can you expect for a buck?  A quick little lesson in the real meaning of the term “asylum seekers”, actually.

Published in 1954, it recounts the story of 16 Estonians who bought a leaky old tub, fixed it up as best they were able and fled the Soviets’ occupation of their country. They headed for America and made it, where it seems the author and his companions rebuilt their lives so successfully that they vanished entirely from the record. No mention of plots to blow up US military bases, no denunciations of their new homeland’s religious heritage or infidel mores -- they seem to have given no trouble whatsoever, at least that is what a little googling suggests.

It is one of those little cosmic coincidences that today’s Fairfax press also touches on the story of a Latvian in a new land. It is a column penned by octagenarian author Betty Birskys, who in 1951 wed another of the many brave souls who escaped Russia’s tyranny. She recounts her late husband’s adventure, how he paid his debt to the country that took him in by accepting without protest the assigned chores of cutting cane and laying sleepers, work that must have been hard for an educated man but was part of the compact that produced first a residency permit and, after that, full citizenship. Mrs Birsky is right to take pride in her hubby’s achievement, as may all Australians in the success of what was the largest and most peaceful integration of migrants and strange cultures anywhere in the world.

Trouble is, Birskys must have been having a bit of a senior moment when she sat down to lament how the current problem with uninvited and undocumented arrivals is “tearing the country apart.” If that is the case, it must be in precincts  far removed from the Billabong, where no one has been burning crosses and racist mayhem has yet to roll over the back fence and knock down the bird bath. What there is, however, is the thought that much opinion page space, the efforts of innumerable social workers and massive expenditures of public monies could be put to better use if only the latest crop of boat people was more like her husband. People, in other words, who are grateful, accepting, industrious and, best of all, never become a charge on the public purse.

If Mrs Birskys believes we need to put the current divisions behind us, more arrivals prepared to work for their happiness would do much to soothe a restive public. Policies that recognise  Australian residency as a precious gift, one that needs to be earned not merely claimed, might help too.


  1. I'd have an open borders policy. However any one who comes here does not get access to any public goods or benefits. No medicare, dole, training nothing. They would have to work or die or leave. As some sort of compensation I would reduce the tax they pay by an amount equal to the services they are not permitted to access. After ten years they would be entitled to obtain citzenship and the gain access to those services denied till that time.

    I reckon it would work, we would get people who wanted the opportunity Australia offers and would be prepared to pay their way. As for the rest send them back to whence they came. Check out the unemployment rates for middle east and africans. Many of them are content to live here on the taxpayer. If you remove their benefits most of them would leave and look for another sucker country to support them. Pity we would be stuck with the native born dole bludgers, but there is nowhere to send them.

  2. Native born useless mouth's could be put to work on projects to improve infrastructure, paid the dole ,less keep and be trained for menial ultimately become taxpayers.

  3. It would be good to have a reasonable conversation about asylum seekers, and at least have the opportunity to formulate some reasonable laws regarding their treatment.

    But such a conversation would require 1) an acknowledgment that supposedly humane policies (eg, abolishing of TPVs) could lead to bad outcomes (eg, an increase in boats sinking offshore) 2) a common agreement to leave political accusations and moral grandstanding behind - this is not a policy that should be used to demonstrate the virtues of one side of politics over another. Both left and right are to blame here.

    There's no reason at all why we could not have a simple and just system by which we treat asylum claims. But then again, reason seems to have very little to do with this debate in Australia at the moment...

  4. Practical idea, sfw. Unfortunately, this country suffers from Hanson-Young, Rintoul, Manne and Marr blight. They have managed to carefully infect other bleeding-hearts, so your proposal, no matter how sensible it might be, would never grow legs. Besides, the ABC and Fairfax press would never sanction such a notion no matter how many times you waved the Professor's examples of fair dinkum asylum seeking under their snouts.


  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.December 23, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    I bought a very pretty little Tiffany & Co mug for a dollar in one of these places (my breakfast at Tiffanys), dragged in by a friend who is an avid collector of desirable old vinyl records, which apparently abound in these domains of cast-off cuisine, entertainment and fashion. What treasure troves such shops can be if you are in the mood for them. Which in exploratory mode I sometimes now find I am.

  6. My wife's maternal grandparents arrived after the war from Hungary. They did the 2 year placement. They assimilated, they were European, Christian etc.
    There was work back then; probably more jobs than people to fill them, back in the days before career women and off-shore manufacturing.
    As for these newer arrivals, apart from being a different hue and religion, they are never likely to assimilate because they aren't exposed to 'Australia', or asked to be.
    Your side of the Yarra, the Leafy Green, is Australia, Prof. Out where I live in the country is definitely Australia. Where these folk get dumped aint. And that's how they like it.

  7. Tim T, 99.9% aren't 'Asylum Seekers' they should be called what they are illegal immigrants. After all 99.9% leave countries such as Indonesia where they are safe from persecution to come here. It's all about the money, benefits and future possibilities. We want the ones who want the future not the money and benefits.

  8. Josephine Piper of Miranda,writing in the SMH Letters page today,bemoans the fact that while both Political parties(I think she's probably referring to the Greens and their junior Coalition partner,Labor) squabble over "desperate boat people" there is no fuss over 2500 Greeks who have come to Australia this year or over the 40,000 who want to come.Well spotted Josephine, now I wonder why that is.

  9. It's a bit late but I saw this post at Marginal Revoloution - it does give some support to the idea that welfare and migrants are a bad combination.