In the areas of education, lower crime and respect for the elderly, to name just a few, Japan and South Korea far outpace Australia. On balance, Australia has a lot more to learn from these two Asian tigers than the reverse. I will even go so far as to label their societies superior to ours. Nonetheless, a defamatory double standard is regularly meted out to Australia on all matters refugee, race and immigration.
For every 1,000 Australian citizens in recent times, there has been one refugee. In Japan, by contrast, there have been nearly 50,000 Japanese for every refugee. Korea’s ratio is an astounding and hardly cosmopolitan 120,000:1. The disparity is even more vast when one considers the gargantuan levels of non-refugee immigration to Australia over the years. Close to 25% of our population is foreign-born and a significant proportion of it is non-white. What is the percentage in Japan and Korea? And if Canberra is heartless on refugee acceptance, how should we describe Tokyo and Seoul?
The juxtaposition becomes all the more ironic when we remember that the UN’s Korean Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has made thinly veiled criticism of Australia’s asylum seeker policies in the past. On refugee intake, his homeland is one of the most indifferent in the world. For every refugee rebuke the UN makes towards Australia, ten insistences for Korea and Japan to accept more refugees should be made.
In Japan’s case, some may argue its overcrowded territory (337 people per sq km) explains the drastic gap. Yet one glance at similarly land-starved (and more agriculturally intensive) Germany (226), which in recent years hosted one refugee for every 150 people, disproves such a theory. In 2011, Japan, with a population 50% bigger than Germany’s, played host to a mere 2,700 refugees, over 200 times less than the approximately 570,000 in Germany. This gulf has perpetuated itself over many years and is a shocking contrast between the two nations with the most controversial 20th century race records.
Other European nations, notably the Netherlands and Denmark, are minuscule geographically and significantly smaller in population but play current home to thousands of refugees. Added to this are their millions of non-European migrants. Denmark shames Japan on refugee acceptance because, despite having a similar GDP per capita and 25 times less people, it has had five times the raw number of refugees at any one time in recent years. So why is it defendable for Japan and Korea to maintain comparatively xenophobic admissions policies?
Even beyond raw refugee intake, Japan is excused for policies that would diplomatically torpedo Australia and European nations. Former Prime Minister Taro Aso once described his Japan as a “one race” nation. Though gaffe-prone, Mr. Aso’s comments still genuinely reflect a certain reality in Japan, where Japanese ethnic groups make up 98.5% of the population. While Germany, with an ageing population, accepts more and more Eastern European immigrants (and non-European migrants and refugees), no commensurate need is ever emphasised in even more elderly Japan.
Furthermore, if Australia kept its people about 98% Anglo-Celtic, or 98% white generally, as Japan and Korea keep their “native” populations, the global outcries would be deafening. So why do we cultivate diametrically opposed expectations for multicultural Australia versus homogenous Korea and Japan?
This is not to say that Australia, Japan or Korea should take more refugees or even accept more migration. The argument here is not to support either the Bob Browns or Scott Morrisons in Australia, or chastise the Koreas and Japans abroad. Rather, it is that Australia should not be judged by litmus tests that are never applied to its essentially homogenous – or even fractiously heterogeneous – neighbours. It has become all too easy to cast Australia as the perennially racist former White Australia Policy backwater. In reality, though, only Singapore and New Zealand rival Australia as the most inclusive societies in the Southern Hemisphere or Asia-Pacific region.
Until all developed nations are sternly told to take their share of refugees and migrants, and do, domestic or international attacks on Australia for its actions (or race issues) are narrow-minded and politically correct. Selectivity in criticism will not solve what is a much broader global issue.
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