Jan 8, 2014

Rundle: a maddening refugee problem we should have seen coming

David Kang saw it coming, when he accosted Prince Charles 20 years ago. So why didn't anyone else? Now we're in a cruel, awful mess dealing with boatloads of desperate asylum seekers.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Remember David Kang? Of course you don’t. He doesn’t want you to, either. He’s a lawyer in Sydney these days, but 20 years ago this month he climbed up the side of a platform in the newly opened wonderland of Darling Harbour in Sydney and aimed a pistol at a public dignitary, firing off two shots. The dignitary was Prince Charles, and the shots were blanks, from a starter’s pistol. He was tackled to the ground by a dozen or so people.

When the papers dug into his backstory, they had a familiar story. A depressed student, he had been writing to the royal family, presidents, the Pope. What he was writing to them about was barely mentioned, an obscure topic — the treatment of Cambodian refugees in the new system of mandatory detention that the Labor government had set up. That’s what he’d been depressed about — the fact that we could treat people that way.

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60 thoughts on “Rundle: a maddening refugee problem we should have seen coming

  1. CML

    All very well, Guy, but what do we do about it now? It is okay while a few thousand arrive each year, but what happens when a few hundred thousand to a million arrive each year? Surely we must have a concern for our existing social fabric? The environment in Australia (we are told) cannot support a doubling of the population, especially the availability of water.
    It seems an insoluble problem.

  2. Andybob

    CML our existing social fabric is the result of immigration. It may be that we will see numbers of refugees as you suggest, possibly environmental refugees as Bangladesh becomes uninhabitable. The only way to prevent the mass movement of such numbers would be military. What is it about us that would be worth saving if we were to do that ?

  3. Cathy Pace

    I’m VERY, VERY angry about the asylum seeker debacle and have written letters, signed petitions, etc – all to no avail. I am a volunteer who teaches English to refugees and help out where I can.
    But none of this is actually changing anything for those labelled as ‘illegals’ and some truly insane ideas have been running through my head: let’s get a mob of freelance mercenaries on Manus Island, free all the detainees and bring them to Australia; mobilise a very large posse of concerned Australians, sail to Manus, storm the gates, release all the people.
    I just don’t know what to do to help these sad souls. And, hasn’t anyone thought what will happen in, say, 10 years time, when some have been admitted to this golden land but are very damaged and then turn into terrorists, mad bombers or whatever as a way of saying, ‘thanks for what you did to my mind’.

  4. shepherdmarilyn

    A couple of brothers from Cambodia were in jail going insane for over 5 years in the beginning and still they did nothing.

    It was of course all started by the racist ALP because Gareth Evans with Thatcher and Reagan made a deal to make the Khmer Rouge into naughty boys instead of murderous thugs.

  5. maxcelcat

    I cannot tell you how depressing this is.

  6. Ian

    It makes me want to vomit and it is not as if all this cruelty will even be effective in the long run. We have become a mean-spirited country more ready to engage in wars than we are to seek humane and peaceful resolutions to problems facing the world…problems we have helped create in the first place.

    And CML if you are worried about population growth in Australia (as I am) then shouldn’t we be cutting down on all those 457 visas and the immigration driven by the business lobby before we get stuck into the vulnerable refugees fleeing conflicts in which some we have been a part and others to which we have turned a blind eye.

  7. CML

    @ Andybob. So everyone who wants or needs to come here does so? Surely in the end, Australia would be a worse place than the one these refugees departed from.
    What happens next? A civil war to see who gets to drink the diminishing supply of fresh water? The wealthy living in urban gated communities protected by armed guards, while the rest try to survive in our ‘plentiful’ desert areas? The complete break-down of law and order? Choose your own poison!
    And you wonder why the current inhabitants of this great land want to protect what they have????!!
    I don’t have any answers, but your suggestion of military intervention seems inevitable to me.

  8. ianjohnno

    We now live in a nation that, both politically and socially, neglects the welfare of its own at-risk children and other unfortunates.
    Perish the thought that people may have to pay a bit more tax to address this, and other, problems.

    What chance then the poor bloody asylum seekers.

  9. klewso

    Are there votes in humanitarianism?

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