Comedians and human rights lawyers gathered on Thursday evening to satirically debate the next step in Australia’s border protection policy: should we build a fence around Australia’s territorial boundary?
Launching the affirmative’s case was prominent asylum seeker advocate Julian Burnside who declared that in fact, a fence is not good enough, we need a 50-metre-high wall built out at sea.
“Think of the jobs it will create,” Mr Burnside said. And with all the bricks needed to build a wall that size, “we could simply dig up Tasmania”.
The only hint at Mr Burnside’s true allegiance was in his closing line: “and we could put a big mirror on the inside [of the wall] so we can all have a good look at ourselves.”
— Hinton (@whoishinton) August 27, 2015
Not to be outdone, the first negative speaker, Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann, went for the extremist argument: we don’t need a wall or a fence, because our current policy is already better than that.
“We don’t need a fence, ladies and gentlemen, because we are white – *ahem* – because we’re alright! Alright!” Lehmo argued.
The affirmative’s team was rounded out by The Guardian’s Walkley-winning cartoonist First Dog on the Moon (aka Andrew Marlton) and Australia’s favourite New Zealander, Cal Wilson.
— Julian Wallace (@wallace1292) August 27, 2015
Wilson stormed home with some truly inspired fence puns (which sounded even better with the Kiwi accent), arguments about the Berlin Wall “working out so well” for Germany and a brilliant idea about turning the wall into the next series of reality TV program The Block.
The negative’s more serious arguments came from human rights lawyer Jessie Taylor, who managed to drop in a few harrowing statistics between jokes about Tony Abbott wanting to be just like The Rock.
“You are literally more likely to be murdered in an offshore detention centre than settled as a refugee… how are you enjoying the comedy?” Ms Taylor said.
Funny man Akmal Saleh brought home the negative’s arguments but as adjudicator Judith Lucy pointed out, “we’re all arguing the same thing”.
The debate was conceived by Dana Affleck, founder of community organisation Road to Refuge, which aims to educate people about the choices asylum seekers make and Australia’s current refugee policy.