Part 6 transcript

Belinda Probert:

Well,  I’d like to thank our speakers for being so incredibly punctual, timely, all of  them. I’ve never had that happen before, usually had to tick something or bang  a glass. Now we have some time for ... I suspect there might be some  interesting exchanges between participants because they have come at this from  very different angles and I think that would probably be interesting to hear,  so I’ll make sure at the end ... before the end there’s time for that. In the  meantime we have a central microphone here, and we would like ... if anyone  would like to ask a question, respond, could they come up and preferably be  fairly brief ‘cause then everybody will get a go. And if you ... if you’re ...  and could you identify who your question is for, ‘cause ideally it is a  question not a speech at everybody and if you could speak slowly and clearly  ‘cause Ghassan doesn’t hear so well.

Audience member:

My  question’s probably addressed to John Hirst and Henry Reynolds. The current  asylum seekers in relation to the Sri-Lankans strongly correlates to Tampa and  also towards a steam ship called the Afghan which in 1888 was ... was prevented  from disembarking Chinese passengers, both in Melbourne in Sydney. Rudd’s  statements ... recent statements last week in relation to having a no apology  approach on his hard‑line stance is very similar to Edmund Barton, which in  1901 I quote, as he states in relation to the Immigration Restriction Bill, I  need make no apology for calling this one of the most important matter with  regard to the future of Australia. Such statements represent a cultural anxiety  of white Australia, something which I believe is ingrained with the wider  Australian national consciousness. This cultural anxiety is not just about race  but in the more complex and profound way, about space. The space of territory  as Australia as a nation. As such immigration has been viewed as fundamentally  implicating a cultural integrity and political sovereignty of the nation, White  Australia from its inception as official policy was a matter of national  survival, do you think that this is true on an historical context? And is  culture and anxiety relating to race and space prevalent in Australian society  today?

Henry Reynolds:

That’s  a very long question (audience laughing). I think the paradox is that, as I  remarked, we behave quite differently in relation to the Vietnamese. Now I  suspect that one of the reasons for that is that the right-wing in Australia  felt obliged to accept refugees from communism and that was very, very  important. It didn’t matter, for whatever reason you left the communist state,  you were accepted as a legitimate refugee. Now, that disappears after you know  the end of the Cold War but the paradox is why ever on earth a country like  Australia with a very, very large migration program, very diverse as John has  pointed out, one which has very, very large numbers of illegals, who are here  because they flew in on visas and temporary visas, why is it that we are so  distraught about arrivals by boat? Now one of the answers is that was clearly  originally a political, purely political. I mean, I think the Tampa was  political, it was found to be a useful thing and I think now it has been used  quite irresponsibly by the present opposition to quite deliberately make this  seem to be a great threat, which I don’t think it is.

John Hirst:

Yes  I think there are some continuities but some differences and as I said in my  paper, if you look at the concern about border protection as an indication of  cultural anxiety, then you are left, as I said with some difficulty in  explaining why a huge migration program continues. The society that was very  anxious, it would the simplest thing to do, we’ve just heard Henry say you know  there’s ... politicians can make hay with this issue. But no mainstream  politician is saying we should cut back our migration, the only ... the only  people sort of in the mainstream doing that are the Greens for environmental  reasons. The part I agree with may be that Australians have a deep memory or  fear of being invaded from Asia, but just as paranoids sometimes do have real  enemies, I think situated as we are, it is not good for the world at large, or  for the people in our part of the world to come to the view that you can just  sail here and be accepted. I mean we could run an immigration program that way  and some people have seriously suggested it, put up some hurdles, still make it  illegal but anyone who comes here and passes is okay. And as they did that, we  would cut down the quota that we set every year, 12,000 for refugees, 180,000  skilled and whatever. We could run a migration program that way and the people  who say these are only a few who are coming to the border, seem really to be envisaging  that because of course, if we allowed people just to come, more would follow.  We are told, you know how many Tamils there are, they could all come and may  not be a bad thing but then the whole way we did migration would be different  and I think the people who misunderstand that are putting at great risk the  whole migration program and Paul Kelly in his recent book says this very  clearly, there’s a sort of compact between the Australian people. They might  may not particularly want mass immigration, and that doesn’t make them unusual,  they accept it on condition that the government’s in charge of it and when they  see the government losing control, that’s when you see this high passion, which  many commentators put down as racism but if that was so, you can’t explain so  much else about modern Australia, the things I’ve highlighted and things that  Judy has highlighted.

Henry Reynolds:

The  point is that in the 1970s, the Labor Party had it chose to make that a very  big issue with Malcolm Fraser’s government, then probably they could have  scored enormous political benefit by frightening the Australians about the  arrival from the Vietnamese, and they didn’t. Because there was still that  bipartisan support and now that broke down under Howard and I think it was  broken down deliberately.

John Hirst:

I  think there’s more continuity, Henry, even over the Vietnamese than you allow,  because certainly though to his great credit, Fraser let the people in but he  worked furiously, as Rudd is now doing, to stop them coming and the end of the  story is, that the people later in the queue just rotted in migration detention  centres in Thailand, Malaysia or wherever. So, Fraser was generous and I think  for the reason Henry said, I think he felt some obligation because of our part  in the war, but I don’t think you’ll get a prime minister, and fortunately now  we’ve seen Keating, Howard and Rudd operating in this way, so people now can  give up the fantasy that we’re going to get a prime minister who says boats can  come and we should welcome them, you’re never going to get that.

Belinda Probert:

Thank  you. In order to make sure that we have time for the questions, maybe I’ll ask  the next two questions to put their questions and then we can ... if we do them  one by one, and this kind of interesting exchange develops, the people at the  back won’t get to ask their questions. So, if we could have both and then the  audience ... the panel can respond appropriately.

Audience member:

Thank  you. My question I guess is to the whole panel. About 150 years ago this  country was populated by forced migration, a large number of those migrants  ended up in a state called Tasmania, can I tell you that about a year ago in  Reuters Worldwide, the world was told that Australian islanders felt they were  modern day convicts, we’ve talked about Tamils, we talk about civil rights, we  talk about freedom of movement. This nation connects every state with billions  and billions of dollars of federal funding and a transport link that allows us  all to communicate with each other. But when it comes to Bass Strait, we do  nothing, we throw money at Bass Strait, but we don’t make it a link between  mainland Australia and their island people that need boats to come here to the  mainland and participate in our country. We’ve sent these people to the ends of  the earth, the literally most remote island in this country and yet we as  Australians, for equity and fairness, it’s not racism, it’s not ... it’s not  human rights but where is justice in connecting our nation, Tasmania to the  mainland of Australia? We look to boats at the north, let’s look to boats to  the south. (Audience laughing).

Audience member:

[Unclear].

Audience member:

Maybe  that’s the problem and maybe it’s elitist Australia saying that to people who  can’t afford to leave an island.

Belinda Probert:

Could  we have the next question as well and then the panel can take up ...

Audience member:

My  question’s directed towards the second speaker, John Hirst. You said that in  Australia, all forms of racism are outlawed and closely policed. Do you think  that policing is effective in stopping racist behaviour, given the subversive  and often private nature of racism? And the uncontrollable reality of everyday  interactions between different types of Australians? And I’ll give a brief  metaphor, if I could? In Australia all forms of speeding are outlawed and  closely policed but is it not true that most of us still exceed the speed limit  regularly?

Belinda Probert:

Speak  for yourself (audience chuckling).

John Hirst:

As  Judy said, there is a limit on what governments can do but we are fortunate to  live in a society where officialdom, both in formal institutions like law and  human rights and equal opportunity commissions and so on is very definitely  antiracist and that those bodies have real bite. So, really blatant stuff can  come under public scrutiny. Of course there are going to be informal racial  feelings, expressions and behaviour which is hard for governments to control.  It’s controlled by an official culture, that is every primary school kid is  drilled in anti-racist behaviour, we aren’t telling children to hate other  people at school, which happens in some societies when they do history, the  very reverse happens in Australia and though I’ve ... I’m stressing  Australian’s reluctance to accept migrants, the reasons we did, I agree with  Ghassan, it’s instrumental, we didn’t bring them because we like them, because  we want to build up our population which I think is one reason for the success  of the scheme, I’ve been stressing that. But I think in time as Judy’s work  shows, Australians have now internalised this achievement and so very  widespread in the society is the sense that we’ve got something valuable and  that it behoves us all to protect it and we watch ourselves, as Judy reports,  we watch ourselves so we don’t let you know our worries and our anxieties get  out of hand. So, what more can be done? I think when there’s blatant racial  behaviour that’s attacked and people go to court for it, and I think that’s  pretty good, we could do better but I think we’re set up to go on doing well.

Judith Brett:

I  just want to say the question about Tasmania, I don’t quite understand it but  there is ... just to say that through the Grants Commission, we do have this  thing called horizontal physical equalisation in Australia which I give  lectures ... used to give lectures on in first year politics, which does do  something about the redistribution of the federal income tax to country ... to  Tas ... well Tasmania’s always been one of the beneficiaries of that. So, I  don’t really quite know what else to say about that. Maybe Henry would like to  talk, he’s a Tasmanian, so ...

Belinda Probert:

He’s  made his point.

Judith Brett:

...  and probably doesn’t know whether he’s descended from the convicts or not.

Henry Reynolds:

Well,  the most recent book that’s coming out in March, terms that 75% of Tasmanians  have convict descent so, yes, but as many as half the convicts came to  Victoria. So, it’s a very, very strong continuing influence in Tasmania but the  idea that somehow Tasmanians want a bridge to the mainland I think is very  mistaken.

Audience member:

I  don’t think the issue was about a bridge, it was about an equitable ferry link  that allows all Australians access to their whole country, including Tasmanians  access to mainland Australia. That was the issue, it’s been subject of all  sorts of federal funding but that funding hasn’t been directed to ensure basic  equity for the people of Tasmania to access their country and their entitlement  to that because they’re Australians just as everyone else is, whether they’re  black, white or yellow.

Belinda Probert:

If  you’re not careful, I’m going to join in. My grandmother was born in Tasmania,  hang on. If we could have the next two questions too, please.

Audience member:

Okay,  well my question was particularly to Henry, but I guess anyone could field it  if they want. Around what ... well a great ... well most of the speakers  brought up the concept of structural racism, the way that you know it’s not  about people’s individual ideas whether people are more or less racist in the  population but about things imbedded in either in policy or the structure of  the country and so on and the way they see that playing through today because I  would have thought, for instance that the Northern Territory intervention, the  way that seems to be the same content with a different form as all the other  attempts to drive Aboriginal people off the land and so on and even to a greater  extent, the treatment of international students and many of the public  demonstrations in the city around racism there, a lot of people at those would  join the links with government policy and the way students are treated as being  a thing pushed from the top. So, I was hoping if some of the speakers could  elaborate more on what they meant by structural racism and the instances they  see that in today or in that today.

Henry Reynolds:

Oh  sorry, yes it’s two questions, yes.

Belinda Probert:

Can  we just take ... sorry yes take another question? Can I just say, I think  probably after the next two that will be ... you know that will take up our  time from the floor to allow for a bit of response here so, it’s good that  we’ve got the queue there but maybe not any more in the queue before we see if  we’ve got time. But please.

Audience member:

My  name’s Walter Philips, I used to teach history here and teach my students the  things that Henry Reynolds and John Hearst have talked about and sometimes I  had students of non-Anglo background if we can talk like that who felt a little  superior that they weren’t part of the original theft but I told them they were  the beneficiaries of it, just as the rest of us are. But what I want to tell  you is the other day I read an article in a magazine The Spectator Australia, Britain  no longer racist, this was written by an Asian who’d gone to Britain at the age  of seven, but he had got on quite well in British society and he was making the  point that now, in Britain you’ll see at the upper echelons, people who are  white, brown or black and you will also people at the bottom of the heap who  are white, brown or black. And what he was arguing is what prevents equality of  opportunity in British society today is not race, but culture. And he finished  up his article by saying; it’s not the colour of your skin that makes a  difference to your position in society but the cut of your jib. Now what I’m  asking really is, are we moving towards a position like that in Australia? I  realise that the question of the Aboriginal people creates a different element  from British society but I was tremendously interested and stimulated by this  article.

Belinda Probert:

There’s  no compulsion to ... they’re not compulsory questions.

Ghassan Hage:

Well,  I mean just in terms of the culture race issue, I think there’s this theorist  Etienne Balibar, who recently said racism no longer exists and never has there  been more racism. And what he meant by that is that if you stick to a very sort  of like traditional concept of race and racism, I mean it doesn’t exist anymore  that much. I mean the idea that some people believe like they are part of a  race that just scientifically sort of like proven that I belong to the white  race and they are scientifically proven to belong to and that hierarchy of race.  This ideas and phrases that are associated with scientific racism that emerged,  yeah it’s a very tiny minority of people who would take it seriously. But at  the same time, if you are looking at cultures of demeaning people on the basis  of their identity, if you’re looking at ... I mean one important issue today is  that often racism is associated with inferiorising people and extermination and  it’s a very interesting triangle because from an anthropological  classification, it doesn’t make sense. We humans don’t exterminate what we  consider inferior, you know there’s lots of things that I consider inferior  without wanting to exterminate them, including people with some political  persuasions but we exterminate threats and what constitutes a threat such that  I classify a threat as needing extermination. And so ... so if you look at  something like Cronulla riots and you don’t want to look at whether the people  who were racialising the Lebanese on the beach had a racial conception of the Lebanese.  It’s enough that they essentialise their identity, demean them, consider them a  threat of some sort or another and that’s a good every day racism.

Judith Brett:

I  was just going to say about two things. The structural racism, why ... I mean  think about it, it seems to me it either has to be embedded in the practices of  the state and we’ve talked about that, but there can also, I think be  structural racism where embedded in other non-state institutions there is  perhaps informal discrimination against people of different races and that  becomes then an empirical question and I didn’t ... you know and there may be  in some areas like stockbroking firms, but not in other areas. You know  generally so that is how I understand structural racism, that there are  processes perhaps of informal instit ... discrimination embedded institutions.  On Walter’s question, I think that ... I mean I read that article and I think  it was raising a whole range of questions which have really got to do with, I  suppose where I ended up with my paper, to do with cultural forms that are  associated with particular ethnic groups and ... and the ... and modernity  actually and the ways in which different immigrant groups sometimes ... some of  whom have ... because that ... that article was written by a ... an Indian  South Asian who was busily explaining how the Pakistanis weren’t doing very  well because of various aspects of their cultural practice. So, you know I  think that people are coming from many different societies with many different  sort of cultural forms and that that’s what the interesting questions are and  that in a way race has become too crude a category really for people to think  about I think, that it doesn’t really ... it doesn’t have explanatory power at  a theoretical level and I don’t think it has a lot of explanatory power for a  lot of people in their everyday lives. But the sort of thing we got were people  ... for example there were some people we interviewed in Shepparton who were  talking about the Iraqis and what would upset them about the Iraqis was  actually to do with ... it was a man working on a building site, it was to do  with their treatment of animals, they would go on and on about you know them  throwing ... they had goats into concrete pours, now I don’t know if they threw  goats into concrete pours but this was what was being reported and also the  ways in which animals were slaughtered because we interviewed somebody who  worked at an ... abattoirs. So, they were actually very specific things which  had much more I think with issues to do around modernity than anything to do  with race.

Henry Reynolds:

Yes,  if I could come in briefly. I mean I ... I’m rather surprised, this idea that  Britain, one it’s far more class bound than even Australia, it is far more  unequal, it still has an ... hereditary aristocracy who are think are largely  British, English and it has an active political anti-migrant movement, far more  so than Australia. So, it’s a rather ... I haven’t read the article but it  seems rather a distorted view of modern Britain. It ... some of what I’m going  to say reflects what Judy had just said. One of the most important ways in  which Aborigines were treated and viewed wasn’t just race but rather  development, they were backward, they were stone age people. Now that idea of  stages of development is still profoundly there and this is more than anything,  what affects the situation. And the basic question, I think, the fundamental  question is, whether Australia wants there to be a continuing people, the  Aboriginal people who may have quite different culture and we have to accept  that. Now that may not be what Aboriginal people choose but if they do choose  that, that’s what we’d have to accept and that is where there is structural  attitudes which are profoundly important, that is their practices are primitive  and they need to join us and get modern.

John Hirst:

Noel  Pearson often sounds like that, doesn’t he?

Henry Reynolds:

He  does. He’s a Luther and Pastor (audience chuckling).

Belinda Probert:

Can  we perhaps have the last two questions and then that will give time for the  exchanges here.

Audience member:

My  question’s a little bit different. Ghassan Hage mentioned that well, here in  Australia we’re obviously living on stolen land, the ... Australia, its economy  and it, as a nation, is based on theft, the second speaker, I don’t remember  your name, said something along the lines oh well we know that the government  can’t ... people can’t expect the government to be able to just fix  inequalities in race but of course we know in the current contest that actually  it’s more than the government not doing enough, but that the government  actively imposes racist legislation such as we’ve seen in the Northern  Territory. So, I suppose in that context, you know like Ghassan mentioned, well  we’re all complicit in the theft of Aboriginal land and I suppose that includes  the continued theft and dispossession from Aboriginal people. So, what is it  that you propose we do to break from that complicity? Because for me I think  it’s about our fighting alongside our brothers ... our Aboriginal brothers and  sisters who you know make demands of the government, who ask ... you know  protest for an end to the Northern Territory intervention, who ask for land  rights, who ask for community funding, all these things. So, for me the way to  break with that complicity is to support Aboriginal people in their demands. So,  I wonder what, like you think we should do?

Belinda Probert:

And  the second ... the other question, then we can give Ghassan first go.

Audience member:

My  question is for Judith and John Hirst. Judith, I just want to ask you, you said  that you found in your research that there’s individualism and people tend not  to group people in stereotypical sort of racist ideas. Then how do you explain  Pauline Hanson and John Howard and people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones who  are success ... so successful and who sort of ... I mean Kevin Rudd now, is  saying that he won’t bow to emotional blackmail of the refugees, who use this  as political leverage, who use it to further their political ends or sort of  their journalistic ends. And my question to John Hirst was, do you think that  the inferiority of Aboriginal hygiene is responsible for the 20-year gap in  life expectancy between like Australians and first Australians? And I also want  to say that I’m Tamil, I’m a Tamil Australian and I want to ask you about human  rights and whether you think border security and the idea that if you let some  in, a whole lot more will come, that argument stands up in sort of the basic  human characteristic of helping people who are desperate, who have nothing but  the clothes on their back and the boat beneath their feet. Can we say to them,  this just like ... this is our border security, we can’t let you in, it doesn’t  matter if you have nothing? And also about Australia’s responsibility  internationally towards taking refugees, how can we say that we won’t take  refugees and sort of ... then who will? Will Indonesia have to take them? Will  ... I know Italy has about 35,000 people who ... who are refugees and  Australia, because of its geographic location, doesn’t have borders with  another country, so like how ... where does Australia stand in that  responsibility in terms of refugees? Thank you.

Belinda Probert:

Ghassan,  do you want to start?

Ghassan Hage:

That  ... with regard, I’m never good with these questions of what we should do, I’m  much better at getting stuck into people (audience laughing). But really, I  think at the same time, when ... when ... especially with regards to indigenous  questions, when people say what do you think we should do? One should always be  aware that Australia has no shortage of people with goodwill who want to do  things that ... who know the field much more than I do, as they are trying to  do, thanks. So, what I’m interested in… that’s why I am interested in the  culture in which things are done and I’m interested in the fact that when  people say for instance ... like, I remember when we were ... that’s a long  time ago now… we were having a discussion about the viability of an indigenous  tax and the idea that everyone should ... should pay an indigenous tax and the  tax should go to indigenous people, so that it’s not a donation, so it’s not a  ... then of course the question of well, can you imagine who ... which body is  going to receive the tax? And who will have the know-how to ..? And then decide  yes, well can indigenous people form a kind of like body that can help them to ..?  And in a sense, I would be happy with people who said, well at one level, it’s  none of our business. This idea of worrying about whether indigenous people  will waste the money or what have you ... at one level, I’m saying. It’s full  of contradictions but at one level I feel ... I feel there isn’t all the  interventions about making indigenous people part of society but there isn’t a  sense where what about the right of mucking it up? I mean the right ... I mean  I’m very interested in this right to be bad, right to mucking it up because  it’s how I perceive actually Cronulla. I see a lot of people who attacked the  racists in Cronulla, were going on about how wonderful the Lebanese boys on the  beach were, or something along this line. Well, I mean I’ve done a lot of field  work among these boys and I’ve never thought they were lovely. They were  seriously not nice actually. And I would be quite happy to challenge them about  the fact that they’re not nice. But at the same time, I would not like to  challenge them about the fact that they’re not nice by making it a national  question, and a question of their national belonging. That is, they have no  monopoly over sexism and macho modalities of behaviour: yes, they are sexist,  they engage in macho-ness and they are physically violent, all of these things…  But they have no monopoly over that in Australia, and they can be that without  their Australianness challenged. I mean one of the things that struck me was  that a lot of people who worried about these Lebanese actually integrating were  seriously hypocrite because what really worried them was that these Lebanese  boys on the beach were really over integrated, it was ... it was really about  how dare they be such a pain and so different and feel so comfy on the beach  (audience chuckling). How dare you feel so at home? Can’t you be a bit shy for  God’s sake (audience chuckling). This was really sort of like the ... the ...  and to my mind this idea of the right to muck it up, the right to be bad, the  right of the other, sort of like is an integral part of how we can start  conceiving of a relation with others in which we are not valorising them  because we want them to be either culturally or economically productive in our  national garden.

Judith Brett:

I’ve  been asked to explain Howard, Andrew Bolt, Pauline Hanson and Alan Jones  (audience chuckling), so. What I ... the point ... I think the big point I’d  want to make is that I believe in the autonomy of the political. That is I’ve  never ... I don’t believe that countries get the politicians they deserve and  that in ... and I don’t think that politician’s views are somehow a direct  reflection or expression of what ... of what people think and in fact one of  the things that was really striking with our interviews is the extent to which  people distance politicians and their own views from that. So, that being said,  people are ... there are plenty ... it was clear that people had anxieties  about a lot of issues and so it’s quite clear that these anxieties can be  mobilised and whipped up. What I suppose I was interested in, was the way in a  reasonably calm situation, people tried to calm their anxieties down. So,  that’s not to say that politicians don’t have the capacity to actually rouse  the anxieties and in some ways inflame them. I also think people think  different things at different times, one of the ... an interesting article that  I read many years ago on McCarthyism in the United States by Daniel Bell, it  was Richard Hoffstander, it’s called The Paranoid Style in American Politics  and it basically asked this question about how sometimes America would get  whipped up into a sort of phase of paranoia and then it would subside and then  it would come up again and there is a sense in which there are ... that  politicians do have a capacity to manipulate, I think anxieties but it doesn’t  mean that people aren’t also ... that there aren’t also other capacities there  which I guess was the point that I was trying to make.

Belinda Probert:

I  think John, you were fingered.

John Hirst:

Yes,  I was asked about Aboriginal health. Yes, I think in part the reason why  Aboriginal health is inferior to the rest of the population, is that they don’t  fully believe in Western medicine, which comes as a result of their being  Aboriginal and that’s a dilemma. It’s not the whole explanation of course, why  Aborigines are living in a degraded way takes us to the whole history of  exploitation and oppression but the point I was trying to make is, people who’s  simple mindedly think that Aboriginal health is as it is because we are not  doing enough, that’s ... that’s just wrong. It’s much harder than that. On  refugees, we do take refugees, the question was why don’t we take refugees, we  are not taking the people who are presently in Indonesia but we do take  refugees. We take 12,000 or 13,000 a year and on international terms, given the  size of our population that is quite a good record. If you want Australia to  take more you argue at that point. You say we take 180,000 for skill, why can’t  we double the refugee? It’s a greater cost because with refugees we may or may  not get people who are ready to participate in Australian society which has got  harder, because English language and skill are now much more important than  they were in the 1940s or 1950s. The point which I’ve made several times is,  Australia is committed to taking refugees but not taking those who happen to  show up and though I see the compassion in people who are worried about the  Tamils at the moment, and it is heart wrenching to see them, people seem to  lack imagination. They are not imagining two things, one all the other people  in sordid refugee camps round the world who are applying and coming to  Australia and the more we take by people just showing up, the government lowers  the number of the refugee intake. Perhaps they shouldn’t but that’s the present  policy and if you disagree with it, that’s where the argument should be, not  that Australian people are racist. And the other lack of imagination is, and  I’ve already said this, is if you allow people to come freely by boat, there  will be lots of people coming freely by boat. So, the question doesn’t depend  on the quality of the people we now see in the leaky boats, they may all be  good people and all genuinely refugees, but Australia has decided that that’s  not the way we’re going to do this business.

Henry Reynolds:

But  John, the problem with that, if I can just come in there, is we have infinitely  more people who arrive illegally by plane and we don’t worry about them. Now,  is that because they can afford the cost of the fare or because so many of them  are white?

John Hirst:

No,  I think it’s because it’s something we can keep control of.

Henry Reynolds:

How?

Judith Brett:

I  think it’s because it’s not visible. I actually think it’s because it’s not  visible.

John Hirst:

Maybe  that, but it’s something you’ve [unclear].

Henry Reynolds:

Ten  times more people arrive illegally by plane.

John Hirst:

Well,  they don’t arrive illegally do they? They overstay their visas.

Henry Reynolds:

That’s  right.

John Hirst:

They  overstay their visas.

Henry Reynolds:

Well,  they come on tourist visas and then ask for refugee status.

John Hirst:

Yes.

Henry Reynolds:

But  I mean that’s a far larger movement of people than the few people who get to  Australia by boat.

John Hirst:

My  point ...

Henry Reynolds:

Why  is it that we treat the boat people so differently? It’s a paradox. A mystery.

John Hirst:

Well  it may ... it’s better to speak of it as a mystery, sure rather than ... but  ... but ...

Belinda Probert:

[Unclear]  we’re going to have to wind up in a minute because the session ends and a lot  of people are going to go, but please if you ... perhaps I should say a last go  at anything that’s either following on or a last word on any of this.

Judith Brett:

I  was just going to say I think it’s actually because of what Howard did with the  Tampa. I think that he somehow politicised things that David Marr had a really  good article in the weekend papers which was just he said, that either there’s  some seated anxiety he was arguing about people on boats, it seems to me that  it was open for political leadership to actually behave differently in relation  to the Tampa and if that had happened we would be in a different position now  in relationship to the ... the Tamils.

John Hirst:

There’d  be a lot more people coming by that route, which may be okay ...

Judith Brett:

But  it’s ....

John Hirst:

...  you may choose that, but that’s ...

Judith Brett:

...  it’s the invisibility of the people arriving by plane and they provide ...  there’s no political crisis that’s involved, they’re dealt with individually,  nobody’s ever seen that, they don’t get into the media, barely know about them.

Belinda Probert:

I  think this is going to go on the fisticuffs behind when we get out of here,  this is clearly ... we’ve started something here. Would any of the panel like  to say anything else? Not an attempt to summarise but anything they feel that  really hasn’t been said? Because I would really like to say this has been the  most interesting and generous presentations by panels. This is a ... as I say a  very hot topic and important topic, and to have a group of people talking as  wise and as knowledgeable as we’ve had, talking about this is a real privilege.  And the questions were terrific because it clearly led to a very interesting  discussion, so thank you for the people who presented questions. But I would  like to very formally ... well not very formally, in an Australian way, thank  our participants, Ghassan Hage, Judy Brett, John Hirst and Henry Reynolds for  immaculately prepared presentations, there was no waffle, no piffle, each  stating a very clear position and the terrific debate that ensued as a result.  So, perhaps you’d join me in thanking them (audience clapping).