Unhappily ever after

This cartoon is based on a true story and any resemblance to actual events is totally intentional, writes Josh Tassell.


A young mechanic in war-stricken Afghanistan dreams of a better life on Australian shores. Tearfully, his parents sacrifice their meagre savings so their son may one day have more to bequeath to his children in need. The exchange is painful, deliberate, and moving.

Thus begins the brochure that is the Coalition Government’s latest attempt to deter asylum seekers.

The Australian Government is utterly fixated on the issue of asylum seekers and border protection, and has enacted an extensive array of policies to “deal” with the issue. This initiative of distributing advertising material painting the journey to Australia as a treacherous and nihilistic fantasy is the most malevolent of the lot.

This pamphlet is the latest idea in the ongoing production of asylum seeker “deterrents”. The intention is, presumably, to excoriate the very concept of ‘illegal immigration’ from any potential future resident of Manus Island. It wishes to extinguish any flicker of hope that an individual seeking asylum will make it to our shores and participate in that technicolour dream.

Despite the pamphlet’s repudiation of Australia’s ‘boundless plains to share’, all it really accomplishes is the galvanism of the Australian public, and particularly the left, to more avidly disavow the government’s suite of inhumane and despicable refugee policies.

The brochure engenders enormous amounts of empathy for the asylum seeker by presenting him as the person who merely dreamed of a better existence. It’s a bizarre casting that doesn’t quite adhere to any authorial intention, like Colin Farrell in anything ever.

The only Australians depicted in the comic are naval personnel and SERCO employees. They lack expression and pathos; they appear as inhuman automatons, juxtaposed sharply against hysterically sad Afghans. The Australian Government manages to portray itself as downright evil.

That, in all honesty, is the only thing I can garner from it – that we are fucking dream crushers; a nation obsessed with making Afghans cry and sit in tents.

That image has some merit, considering that it is both factually correct and a successful method of dissuading potential asylum seekers from hopping on boats. This self-flagellating comic can only affect the Australian public in a manner completely inimical to the Coalition governments’ intentions. It tells the young refugee’s story so well – too well, in fact, acutely outlining the debasing cruelties asylum seekers must endure on a daily basis, and simultaneously reeking of unwitting self-aggrandisement when it depicts the Afghan’s dreams of Australia.

It has the opposite effect of what’s intended, on an unintended audience. Unless, of course, the intention is to show Australians how cruel and heartless their government is. That, in all honesty, is the only thing I can garner from it – that we are fucking dream crushers; a nation obsessed with making Afghans cry and sit in tents. Nobody wants a deliberately cruel government, much less one that will so arrogantly and simply portray itself that way.