Friday, July 04, 2003

Outsourcing and people smuggling

With Australian parliaments apparently now so bereft of leadership abilities as to require the external assistance of a multinational consultancy, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock is sure swimming against the outsourcing tide when it comes to his suppositions about Wednesday’s boatload of Vietnamese refugees:

Mr Ruddock said he believed the boat was not part of a major smuggling enterprise, but rather a small group of economic opportunists.

"Our experience with Vietnamese up until now . . . has been we're dealing with people who are looking for economic outcomes," he said.

Here’s me thinking that vulgar Marxism – and with it, categories like “petite bourgeois” – was dead! Vietnamese refugees apparently notably differ from, say, Afghani refugees in being DIY home handypersons when it comes to travelling thousands of kilometers on a wooden fishing boat.

Rather than use travel agents, especially those of the, ahem, unaccredited – even though most-definitely multinational – variety (such as those lazy Afghans use), thrifty Vietnamese refugees simply scour their neighbourhood garage sales for sextants et al, buy a pre-loved boat on eBay, and then set sail for Australia, in full-spinakerred, entrepreneurial self-righteousness.

You’re right, Philip: true “economic opportunists” are scarce indeed. The rest of us mostly float along on pre-packaged tours, usually following someone else’s itinerary. DIY trancontinental travel is for the experts – and for deluded Oz backpackers carrying Lonely Planet guides. The latter somehow always seem to end up in the same bars, singing Khe Sanh. Eh tu, Philip?

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