SCENE: A BOMBED OUT TOWN IN AFGHANISTAN. ONE MAN IS SQUATTING IN THE DIRT LOOKING AT VARIOUS BITS OF PAPER BEFORE HIM. ANOTHER MAN JOINS HIM.
MAN 1 – Mohammad, my friend how are you? May Allah bless your family and bring you many sons!
MOHAMMAD: Abdullah! May your daughters be chaste and honour your name! Where is your house?
ABULLAH: (Picks up dirt; runs it through fingers) Right here.
MOHAMMAD: Oh. The infidels?
ABULLAH: May the fleas of one thousand camels infest the genitals of their mothers – yes, the infidels.
MOHAMMAD: But why?
ABULLAH: They thought my father to be a Taliban fighter.
MOHAMMAD: Your father? He does not fight for the Taliban!
ABULLAH: He does now!
MOHAMMAD: So what will you do?
ABULLAH: I have no choice. I must leave.
MOHAMMAD: Leave? But this is the land of Allah! Why would you leave?
ABULLAH: Allah has blessed me with many, many sons and daughters, and those sons and daughters who still walk upon this earth have also been similarly smiled upon, and these sons and daughters and their sons and daughters do not deserve this life of dodging bombs in the dust.
MOHAMMAD: Allah be his name! So where will you go?
ABULLAH: Well, that’s what I’m trying to work out.
MOHAMMAD: With these? (Holds up piece of paper) What are these?
ABULLAH: Ah, they are brochures?
ABULLAH: Yes, by Allah, brochures from people smugglers!
ABULLAH: The latest ones, fresh from Indonesia!
MOHAMMAD: Ah yes, a country with many a million Muslim! You will be happy there…
ABULLAH: No no no, by the all the flies in the ears of one thousand dead donkeys, I do not want to go to Indonesia!
MOHAMMAD: No? But why?
ABULLAH: Mohammad! You know less than the infidels! Don't you know that Indonesia is not a signatory to the UNHCR Treaty on the Rights of Refugees?
MOHAMMAD: Of course! May Allah grant me more wisdom! So where DO you want to go?
ABULLAH: Well, these fine gentlemen say they can take me to…Australia!
MOHAMMAD: Australia! Of course! The collection of former British colonies that federated in 1901!
ABULLAH: The very same!
MOHAMMAD: Australia! The nation that claims independence yet failed to renounce the British royal family at the 1999 referendum!
ABULLAH: By all the full stops in the Koran, that’s the one!
MOHAMMAD: Australia! The country that…
ABULLAH: May the seventy-six virgins of heaven preserve us! Your knowledge of Australia! It barely exits!
MOHAMMAD: Forgive me Abdullah, but now that the coalition of the willing has flattened our town back into the desert from which Allah himself created it, the reception from my cable TV satellite has been somewhat compromised and I cannot access the History, Discovery and National Geographic channels as before!
ABULLAH: That is no excuse for ignorance, Mohammad. However, I admit that I, since the complete destruction of my home and all that I own on this earth, am somewhat blind to some of the more recent domestic policy decisions made by the new Labor government, which is why some of these brochures are so helpful and informative.
MOHAMMAD: Is that so? And why is that?
ABULLAH: Because, according to this pamphlet at least, some recent domestic policy decisions have resulted in a softening of conditions for asylum seekers and refugees!
MOHAMMAD: Really? Woo hoo!
ABULLAH: Yes! It seems that by the all the hairs on the goats of my many uncles, Kevin Rudd, the new prime minister, has gotten rid of the Pacific Solution! No more being sent to Nauru!
MOHAMMAD: Praise be! And tell me, what of those accursed places of torture Woomera and Baxter?
ABDULLAH: Gone, by Allah! Closed! Shut! Being overcome by the desert sands as we speak!
MOHAMMAD: Mohammad be praised! There was a wandering goatherd who told me something similar but I thought that maybe he had been misinformed.
ABDULLAH: No, I fear he merely had been reading some out-of-date promotional literature!
MOHAMMAD: But are you sure about the reputation of these smugglers? Are you sure they are honest?
ABULLAH: Indeed Mohammad, I have great faith in these brave men, for many a Muslim sings their praises to the heavens! Listen to this:
‘From when I left Iraq to being found on Ashmore Reef, Bong Bong & Son’s smuggling service was second to none! I would recommend it to any Muslim fleeing a war zone!’ - M. Ali, Bankstown.
MOHAMMAD: My my! Praise indeed!
ABDULLAH: And this:
‘I thought that when our fishing boat caught fire, capsized and sank in international waters we were in big trouble, but the Bong Bong representative stayed with us every step of the way – in fact, I now live in Shepparton and the former Bong Bong employee has just become Mayor!’ – A. Mohammad, Shepparton.
MOHAMMAD: Such service!
ABDULLA: Listen to this one:
'When Cleopatra's Restaurant in St Kilda closed in 2006, a niche in the market opened for the superior kebab and felafel that they once served. I knew that I could service that market in a cost effective and delicious manner if only I could make landfall in Australia which, thanks to Bong Bong & Son, I did some months later.'
MOHAMMAD: So he was not detained by the authorities?
ABDULLAH: Of course he was! Who, in the name of the prophet, would travel kilometres overland before boarding small fishing vessels of dubious safety and not expect to be detained by the authorities? Who, in the name of Allah himself, would make this commitment without being fully abreast of changes in the Australian government's domestic immigration policy?
'Although the time spent being detained by the authorities was a setback, I had allowed for this period as I had kept myself fully abreast of changes in the Australian government's domestic immigration policy by monitoring the Austraian Government's Department of Immigration website on my computer that was set up under the tarpaulin I called home in the refugee camp, despite the dropout when my son, Mustapha, stopped pedaling.'
MOHAMMAD: But did he...?
ABDULLAH: Forbearance, my brother, forbearance – Allah blesses the patient.
'However, I understand that my stay in Baxter detention centre, and the more than reasonable rates charges by Bong Bong and his associates, was merely part of the costs of doing business. These were offset by selling both my tarpaulin and the deeds to the irradiated patch of desert that has been in my family for sixteen generation, and now my restaurant, Nu Cleo's, is about to start serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine to the people of Melbourne at affordable prices. – Hussein Hussein, St Kilda.'
MOHAMMAD: May the prophet Mohammad bless those who praise him! How much does it cost to go to Australia, the great southern land claimed for the British crown by Captain Cook in the year of Allah 1788?
ABDULLAH: According to these pamphlets, the prices are most competitive and there are many plans to choose from, and many purveyors of freedom willing to help!
MOHAMMAD: Well then! What are we waiting for?
ABDULLAH: You’re coming too?
MOHAMMAD: Why not? It says here that there is a discount for whole boatloads!
ABDULLAH: By the time we’re finished, Christmas Island will be called Ramadan Island!
MOHAMMAD: & ABULLAH: Allah Akbar! (MEN GET UP AND LEAVE.)
MEANWHILE, IN A SRI LANKAN CONCENTRATION CAMP:
GUARD: So how are you enjoying your stay?
MAHATMA: Look, I will be most and absolutely frank – some of the amenities could with a little tweaking.
GUARD: (WITH A SMALL SOB) You ungrateful bully! When we’ve done all we can to make you happy!
MAHATMA: We’d have been happier if you had not attempted to subject us to genocide!
GUARD: Oh, don’t split hairs! Picky, picky, picky! You’re still alive, aren’t you?
MAHATMA: Only just.
GUARD: Well, we don’t want you to stay where you’re not wanted so why don’t you just…why don’t you just…leave!
MAHATMA: OK! Where would you like us to go?
GUARD: As if I care! Hang on though…I’ve got these…(RUMMAGES IN POCKETS)…I’ve got a brochure somewhere…ah, here we are! It's the latest from Indonesia!
‘Bong Bong & Sons! International people smugglers! Antipodes a speciality! Call for low, low rates! Special deals for Xmas! Take advantage of the touchy-feely bleeding hearts now in power! Offers can’t last!
MAHATMA: Wow! A left-wing government wouldn’t DARE let us sink!
GUARD: Off you go then!
MEANWHILE, IN AN INDONESIAN FISHING VILLIAGE.
BONG BONG SNR: You know what, son? I’m over that bloody Kevin Rudd!
BONG BONG JNR: Why, Dad?
BONG BONG SNR: All his recent domestic policy decisions!
BONG BONG JNR: What about them?
BONG BONG SNR: I can’t keep up! First off he’s all Bornhoffen and ‘They came for the communists’, saying that asylum seekers are legitimate refugees until proven otherwise, but no sooner do I get my new brochures printed up than he’s all ‘Illegal immigrants have no place in our land’ or some such.
BONG BONG JNR: What a dick!
BONG BONG SNR: Too right! Now I’ve got 20 million leaflets advertising the end of the Pacific Solution and Temporary Protection Visas while Rudd works overtime to put in place the Indonesian Solution! It’s just not fair!
BONG BONG JNR: No!
BONG BONG SNR: I mean, I understand that we’re not a signatory to the UNHCR Treaty on the Rights of Refugees here in Indonesia or anything – we’re no mugs! – but Australia? Right on the dotted line! So what’s with all the ‘bugger off back to where you came from’ malarkey?
BONG BONG JNR: Um…
BONG BONG SNR: Look, either these agreements mean something, in which case we Indonesians are bastards, or they don’t, in which case it’s the western liberal democracies are that are bastards and hypocritical bastards at that!
BONG BONG JNR: Total bastards!
BONG BONG SNR: I mean, after John Howard I was really hoping that trade might pick up a bit ‘cause he just about killed me! I couldn’t get any testimonials – in fact, quite the opposite! The Tora Bora broadband server was overloaded with people trying to warn warn the locals of John Howard’s meddling with Australian immigration law! The SMS network completely keeled over! It was madness!
BONG BONG JNR: Bloody Howard!
BONG BONG SNR: Bloody Howard's right! All that Tampa stuff – how was I supposed to build brand loyalty with anti-business behaviour like that? I nearly reported Howard to the WTO for restrain of trade!
BONG BONG JNR: Yeah! Reported him!
BONG BONG SNR: And now, just when the customers are starting to return and business is turning around a bit…this! Rudd takes some Aussie government tub, fills it full of punters – MY punters – and sends it bobbing off across the Indian Ocean to land wherever!
BONG BONG JNR: Shocking!
BONG BONG SNR: Now, how is that fair? Huh? I mean, of course the government can provide a better quality ride – they’re the bloody government! The Australian opposition treasurer called it a three-star cruise if you don’t mind!
BONG BONG JNR: I don’t!
BONG BONG SNR: Bloody protectionists! I should report Rudd too, for anti competitive behavior!
BONG BONG JNR: Yeah!
BONG BONG SNR: I’m not in this just for the money, y’know – I take great pride in knowing that my customers are now picking stone fruit in the Riverina! And what about when the SIEV X sank? The victims would’ve been outraged! They would’ve wanted their money back if they’d have lived! My ‘Australia Guaranteed!’ gimmick would’ve looked pretty silly then, wouldn’t it?
BONG BONG JNR: Very silly!
BONG BONG SNR: I ask you, what kind of position does the Oceanic Viking put me in? On the one hand, if those punters get dumped in some third world hell hole –
BONG BONG JNR: What? Like here?
BONG BONG SNR: Yeah, pretty much – well, if they got dumped here there’d be a right ruckus! Those punters would moan, complain, text me, call me on their mobiles, get on Face Book, MySpace, twitter me, email, get on the cable news and YouTube – some might even write 'letters' – I’d never hear the end of it! But if they get taken to Christmas Island and Australia, well, everyone will be Skyping everyone else and their Auntie Nellie telling them to make sure they sink their boats so that customs will pick them up and ship them to Australia in comfort!
BONG BONG JNR: So? You still get the business!
BONG BONG SNR: So? So? Where does that leave me? I’m not made of boats! Where do you think boats come from? Trees?
BONG BONG JNR: Er...
BONG BONG SNR: And what about the return trips? I mean, I'm trying to build a little brand loyalty here! What if any of those refugees want to nip home for a couple of months? Hmm? I've got all these boat going out full and coming back empty, but if this Oceanic Viking bizzo keeps up I'll be stuffed! I'll have no boats al all! And how can I charge the full rate when they know they'll only be using my boat for half the trip? I'll be 'rooned!
BONG BONG JNR: 'Rooned! We'll all be 'rooned!
BONG BONG SNR: Look, governments have no place interfering in my business and trying to undercut me! I mean, these refugees are actors in a free market, people fully engaged and making well-informed decisions as to their destinations, and they should just be allowed to get on with creating their own destinies without the cold dead hand of the state getting in the way!
BONG BONG JNR: Yeah! In the way!
BONG BONG SNR: All I want is a little certainty! I don’t want to lose all my custom to British truck drivers crossing the English channel, do I? If Australia is to remain a viable destination then the Australian government has to leave it to the free market!
Especially with emerging markets like Sri Lanka and the low-lying Pacific islands coming online! How am I going to promise those refugees a rock-solid service if those bloody Aussies keep changing the rules and running their own service? I’ll go broke! The only winner will be the bloody printer!
BONG BONG JNR: Yeah! The printer!
BONG BONG SNR: Oh, shut up.
MEANWHILE, IN CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA, IN A PARLLEL UNIVERSE:
PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: On this Australia Day I would like to extend the country’s highest award for bravery to one of our Indonesian neighbours who have risked life and limb in service to liberty and freedom.
(MILD APPLAUSE FROM AUDIENCE)
Like the heroes of America’s underground railroad, the French resistance and admirable men like Oscar Schindler, Bong Bong Sinarto and his family have given their lives to spiriting oppressed and persecuted minorities away from the clutches of their enemies and into the welcoming arms of liberal democracies across the world, liberal democracies where wounds can be healed and lives rebuilt.
This work is no more poignant than when it involves those from places where the liberal democracies are, sadly, in conflict with the forces of repression and fear. We in the Australian government are deeply humbled and, it must said, shamed by Mr Sinarto’s continued efforts to rescue people from those very war zones where so much damage is being inflicted by us, and from those very tyrants we seek to destroy.
If we, the liberal democracies of the west, cannot find it in our hearts to throw a blanket of freedom across the shoulders of huddled masses whose lives have been destroyed, not through their own actions but through the actions of the very liberal democracies they are now begging for assistance then we, the liberal democracies, are surely not worthy of the name.
The Hippocratic oath says ‘First, do no harm’, and so doctors make sure that, whatever treatment they prescribe, they must be sure that the treatment does not make the patient worse off. In cases, however, where the treatment IS worse than the disease, a doctor will go to great lengths to make sure that the effects of the treatment are as temporary as possible.
And so, just as medical practitioners aim to make bodies whole, we, the liberal democracies, seek to do the same for the world. Cancers must be eradicated, be the malignancy in the body or the body politic and, just like the cure for cancer has to be aggressive - chemotherapy is nothing if not violent – so too must be the efforts to remove the tumor of tyranny.
But, just like we seek to ease the side effects of chemo, so too must we help, in anyway we can, those who are suffering the side effects of war – the homelessness, the loss of loved ones, of livelihoods, of lives – by inviting them into our communities to share the riches we are so lucky to have.
Sadly we cannot organize airlifts too bring everybody out of the hell we have created, but we can certainly welcome those with the grit, tenacity, determination, courage and love of freedom to make it to our shores no matter what, and salute those hardy souls who dedicate their lives helping them.
There are some miserable curs in our society however, who denigrate these worthy individuals and call them and the ‘scum of the earth’, who castigate them for ‘making money from the misery of millions’, but may I remind those naysayers that nothing happens in the darkness without money, that there is nothing wrong with making a living and that there is no more honourable way to make it than by helping others escape the crushing oppression of war and hatred by whatever means necessary.
The ‘people smugglers’ are not ‘human traffickers’ as their customers are not being sold on to any end user – the only end user is us, the Australian people, as we take advantage of all the skills and other benefits these people so doggedly brought with them from overseas.
In fact, those who cop such opprobrium are not even ‘people smugglers’ – they are, in reality, ‘freedom facilitators’ who don’t deal in misery so much as unabashed, glorious and unrepentant joy, as anyone who has seen the look on the face of a refugee as they are granted a permanent resident’s visa will attest.
We Aussies must never forget that we, too, are ‘boat people’, but we don’t call Captain Arthur Phillip a ‘people smuggler’ or a ‘human trafficker’, although the convicts were hardly willing cargo – but if we choose not to define him that way then we must also reject the efforts by our opposition to use such terms to define the likes of Bong Bong.
We are a compassionate people who will gladly divvy up what we have with those less fortunate, if only they can get here – as we sing in our proudest moments, 'For those who've come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share' – and we know that there is no ‘queue’ as such in a war zone, just people yearning to be free, and so in times like these we need champions like Bong Bong.
We need freedom fighters like Bong Bong to bring us the innocent lives that we are morally bound to rebuild with the bricks and mortar of the human soul, that of love and acceptance, in the hope that might receive the ultimate accolade – forgiveness for the pain we have wrought upon them.
We need noble men like Bong Bong to deliver to our doorstep the bitter harvest of our good intentions, we need people like Bong Bong to risk his life to do what’s right and we need heroes like Bong Bong to remind us that we have laid waste to someone else’s countries for no good reason – lest we ever, ever, forget.
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