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If You Want An Honest Answer, Ask An Immigrant

I'm an immigrant.

21/06/2016 9:42 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

There are a lot of political analysts, editorial columnists, radio and TV show hosts, wise elders, shamans, and racists aunts telling us what's important in the upcoming election. Everyone has an opinion, and they aren't afraid to assault you with it. Except, they aren't the ones you should be listening to.

Most of them, after all, get paid by the word, and therefore can't be trusted. The rest, well, they've lost perspective. When the universe is shrinking, it's those inside the universe who are usually the last to know, because they're shrinking as well. What you need is an outside perspective. To whit, Americans don't know their gun laws are crazy, but those outside America know it.

This is why you need to ask an immigrant. I'm an immigrant. I came here from Pakistan four years ago. My reason for migrating to Australia was wanting to live in a country with political stability. After all, Australia had just had the same Prime Minister for longer than most countries have dictators, and when I was moving there was a new PM who was a feminist, atheist, progressive woman.

Boy did that not last long. Since then, there have been five Prime Ministers in four years, with the potential of a sixth one in a few weeks. The things that make Australia great -- like the welfare system that offered poor people enough money to keep their dignity, the sick enough help to maintain their health without bleeding out financially, and an education system that meant everyone got to study for free -- those are the very things that are now being carved up and sold off.

And I know why it's being done. Because when the system works, when everything is in place and everyone is happy, no one cares about politics anymore. Politicians need our attention, they starve when confronted with apathy. So, by wrecking the system, by polarising debate, they get everyone to care again, to be involved again.

If this sounds alarmist, I'm glad. Because it's intended to be so. I'm an immigrant from a country that has had political upheaval. Real political upheaval, not the Netflix-vs-Stan type that most Australians are confronted with. As a result, I know where the fault lines are. I can see the fraying edges. And it's not just me -- most immigrants from developing nations have the same mutant ability. It's not great for fighting off Apocalypse and Magneto, but it's handy in predicting what public policy a government will enact, and how that will effect the country in the long term.

See, the one thing racists and nationalists don't realise, is that no one loves Australia more than the immigrants. You were born here. We sacrificed to get here. Many of us left behind family, friends, culture, identity, and important traditional recipes, all so we can make a new life in a country far superior to the one we left behind. We want Australia to remain great, or become greater still. And we know how easy it is to lose that greatness. So the next time you don't know quite what to do, or what's going on, ask an immigrant.

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Sami is a guest on this week's episode of Insight at 8.30 pm tonight on SBS, which speaks to new Australians as they vote for the first time.

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