This week we ask you to write a letter to the editor of one of the state or nation newspapers on an issue of your choice. In your letter, use one or more of the rhetorical devices described in the lecture. Remember, your main goal will be to persuade others to agree with your position. Post your letter in this thread for other students to read and give feedback or discuss.
John Smith claimed in his letter on February 5th that asylum seekers coming to our shores by boat were “jumping the queue” and entering Australia illegally. This is ludicrous. If one examines the United Nations’ Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in detail, this stance can easily be considered incongruous.
Mr Smith’s opinion stems from Australia’s history of xenophobia, where foreigners of any kind are considered dangerous and not to be trusted. The increasing proliferation of words like terrorism and declaring war on ideologies in Western societies today has further exacerbated this issue.
The fact that many more asylum seekers are arriving in Australia by plane than by boat seems to have completely bypassed Mr Smith’s radar. If Australia is to abide by the UNHCR’s Convention, does it not follow that we should accept these people and recognise that “the seeking of asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules” (p. 5), as the Convention states? We are a signatory to it, last I heard. In fact, it was Menzies who signed this Convention in 1954, which marked the beginning of the phasing out of the White Australia Policy.
Australia can lead by example, starting with recognising and empathising with those that are less fortunate than us, who are trying to escape situations in their countries of origin that are endangering their lives and those of their families. We have done it before, when, in the 1970s, we accepted the refugees from Indo-China and those affected by the Vietnam War. Even though this was motivated by political gain at the time, it has allowed Australia to inch forward as a nation. Again and again, such refugees have shown that they can make worthwhile contributions to Australian society and are hard workers who can show us new and innovative ways of doing things. They are all people, just as we are. What gives us the right to treat them as worthy of any less?
If one takes a moment to imagine what these people are going through, perhaps more compassion can be exhibited. We, as Australians, have not had to flee for our lives from our home. How would we react if the government of the day were to make our political, religious or sexual persuasions a crime, punishable by torture or death? Fathers, mothers, families would run to protect those they love, wouldn’t they? Imagine being so desperate that you would risk isolation, facing the unknown, or an inability to express yourself fluently in the language of the country you arrive at. What would happen to your hopes and dreams for you and your family if you had to uproot your life to save it? These are fundamental human rights that, alas, not everyone has. We seem to conveniently forget that we, as a people, do not have to make such decisions when we speak of asylum seekers as the invaders of Australia.
If we are to practice what we preach in our own national anthem, we’ve boundless plains to share for those who’ve come across the seas. Furthermore, as signatory to the Convention, we must engage in “a true spirit of international cooperation in order that these refugees may find asylum and the possibility of resettlement” (p. 13) within our country.
The only reason that people like John Smith call for other Australians to take a “fortified stance in protecting our borders” is because he is equating the exhibition of compassion and empathy with emanating signs of weakness to the world. This is an anxiety that has influenced the national psyche for too long. Unfortunately, it continues to inform asylum seeker policy today. We should not be confused as to which human requires our care and understanding more than those who seek asylum. If we are indeed “the lucky country” as Mr Smith emphatically states, we should spread some of that “luck” around and permit entry into Australia for those seeking a safer and more peaceful existence.