We’ve been made fools of for 18 years
FOR two decades, almost every federal election has been dominated by talk of border security as if asylum seekers are an existential threat to the soul of the nation.
Now, as another election looms, we're hearing all the old familiar rhetoric about boats, border protection, people smugglers and asylum seekers again.
So before the election is called, can we collectively take a moment to finally call bullsh*t on these scare campaigns?
An unlikely influx of asylum seekers on boats is low on the list of threats to our individual happiness, safety and prosperity.
Political fearmongering is nothing new. In 2016 Labor's "Mediscare" campaign gained traction with voters but before that, every federal election campaign from 2001 onwards was focused on stopping asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat.
We don't appear to have a problem with asylum seekers who arrive by air and there are about 76 of them every day, far more than ever arrived by boat.
The political obsession with stopping the boats all started with the Tampa affair in 2001 - the same year the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. National security became a key issue and politicians have used it to manipulate voters ever since. Political campaigners know fear and negative messages are more persuasive than hope and positive messages.
This year's scare campaign is a beat-up. The medivac legislation, will allow refugees and asylum seekers already on Nauru and Manus Island to ask for a transfer to Australia if two doctors recommend it, but it will not apply to future arrivals. There are about 420 people in Nauru, less than 600 on Manus.
Should we care about those 1000 odd people in detention? Absolutely. Should we fear them? No. Should they determine our vote at this year's election? Absolutely not.
In reality, we are more threatened by the fact that half of all Australians are going to get cancer, one woman is murdered every week by her current or former partner and eight Australians die from suicide every day.
What can the government do about these real problems? Well they could address the fact that people in regional areas are much more likely to die from cancer than urban patients.
They could get more lifesaving but unaffordable drugs for rare cancers on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and stop people dying horrid and unnecessary deaths simply because they can't afford expensive medications. That'd be a start.
I'm sick of hearing about the Prime Minister's plan for asylum seekers. Instead, I'd like to hear him talking tough on some other issues.
I want to know why a living, breathing woman in an aged care facility in this country had maggots in her mouth.
The leading cause of death for Australian women is dementia and Alzheimer's. The aged care royal commission proves we are disastrously ill-equipped to care for people with dementia.
Our elderly people are being neglected, abused and drugged unnecessarily. The government has a lot of work to do to fix our failing aged care sector.
For Australians in the prime of their lives aged between 15 and 44, the number one cause of death is suicide. Why, in this rich, young, lucky country are young people so under-supported that they are killing themselves at this rate? We must do better when it comes to mental health.
For women aged between 25 and 44, family, domestic and sexual violence causes more illness, disability and premature death than any other risk factor. Exposure to intimate partner violence causes depression and anxiety, early pregnancy loss, homicide and violence, suicide and self-inflicted injuries and alcoholism. If only we protected women like we protect our borders.
I want to see the government show some leadership when it comes to our toxic alcohol culture. In Australia, 15 people die and 430 are hospitalised by alcohol every single day. We're also becoming some of the fattest people in the world with two-thirds of adults overweight or obese.
Personal responsibility should play a part but our health system is overburdened by preventable illness. Evidence shows a sugar tax would help improve health outcomes but our leaders lack the courage to take on the powerful food and beverage industries.
I also want to know why this wealthy nation of ours continues to slide in world rankings when it comes to education. Don't tell me schools are the responsibility of the states. I want a nationwide plan to improve the quality of education for our children and I want to see it working.
It's not just health and education that need nationwide attention. Can we please redirect some of the political enthusiasm about border security and channel it into real plans for housing security, water security and energy security?
Rather than fret about potential boats in the ocean, let's talk about the lack of boats in our rivers - rivers that have literally stopped flowing in parts. What exactly is going to save the Murray Darling Basin because the current plan is not working. And our failure to protect the Great Barrier Reef is heartbreaking.
As we farewell another brutal and unprecedented summer, talk of the weather turns to talk of the environment. In homes and workplaces across the country, we take our recycling bins out every week and we wonder where it ends up now that China refuses it.
We talk about our electricity bills, which many people struggle to pay. We worry about blackouts in heatwaves. All this talk about border security is completely disproportionate to where the issue sits in the minds of most Australians.
People aren't lying awake at night worrying about the nation's refugee intake, they're worried about the cost of living. Australians are worried about how they're going to pay the mortgage or the rent. Some are struggling to buy a home. Others are homeless and struggling to find a bed.
If Australia's major political parties want to woo voters this election, it's time they stopped bickering about possible boat arrivals and spoke to us about our real problems.
- Libby Hill is a freelance journalist living in the Adelaide Hills with her husband and two children. Follow her on instagram @justadlib