ONE of the former Mrs Bunyip’s deficiencies of character was an absolute inability to grasp the physics of floating objects. The wind would be on the beam, the boat heeling and going like the clappers and somehow, for reasons formerly attributed to suppressed memories of bath-time trauma, she would gravitate to the lee’s lowest corner. More than once, strong words, and sometimes a strong arm, were needed to get her up on the appropriate gunwale, where the merciful breeze often drowned the whine that stinky power boats with flash toilets are what civilised people get about on. Many times, late at night at the mooring, there was comfort in the thought that she was elsewhere and the Professor’s enthusiasm for splicing could be pursued without distraction.
Why an otherwise intelligent woman should have had this problem with water remained a mystery until this week, when the truth was suggested and, quite possibly, revealed entirely. Far from the undiluted Italian heritage she always claimed, it now seems a near certainty that the Moors and dusky types who visited Sicily and other bits at the boot’s southern end bequeathed a genetic predisposition to folly on the water. The Normans also passed through, of course, but their Viking heritage must have been obliterated by the dirt of the desert.
While still a theory, the capsize of the latest leaky boatload of illegal aliens off Christmas Island certainly suggests that waterborne idiocy is a distinctive trait of those from parts where the rigs are few and mostly lanteen. The details are sketchy and will remain so until the official inquiry, but one doesn’t need to stretch speculation too far to guess what happened: Having thrown away their passports, some half a million dollars’ worth of contraband human cargo spied the RAN’s approaching taxi service and dashed en masse to the hailing beam, probably port given the boat’s point of departure and intended destination. Simple physics asserted itself, the boat bottled, leaving many to splash about and adding two more bodies to our Prime Minister’s latest offerings on the altar of her wilful refusal to safeguard the nation’s borders.
It is a matter for some concern. The likes of Stuart Rintoul, refugee advocate and sexton of the watery graves his nostrums have helped to fill, are always saying that the immense effort to reach Australia is an indication that illegal aliens are get-up-goers who will do much for their adopted homeland. That the getting up and going is mostly to Centrelink appears to trouble him not at all.
But someone has to worry about the quality of our latest New Australians, for it seems they can do nothing right. Not only do they sink their wretched boats – accidentally or on purpose, the result is the same – they also seem incapable of topping themselves with anything approaching a reliable efficiency. It is a relatively simple matter to organise rope, chair and beam, but if press reports are any indication, aspiring residents of our Housing Commission towers prefer instead to guzzle detergent and Pine-O-Clean. Let us hope Draino is not made available, as suicide attempts might lead to accidental deaths.
John Howard was much maligned for suggesting that new arrivals should demonstrate a familiarity with Australian culture and history before being granted citizenship. A good suggestion so far as it went, it behooves us in light of recent events to expand the scope of questions beyond Donald Bradman’s batting average and the dimensions of our PM’s gusset. Some multiple-choicers about other notable figures -- water wally Harold Holt and point-blank marksman Adam Lindsay Gordon, for instance – would do much to assure newcomers that they already have something in common with those waiting to welcome them.