Stone the Crows!
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AUSTRALIANS working or travelling overseas will be urged to return home by the Federal Government if a bird flu outbreak threatens to become contagious among humans.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it would alert Australians overseas if it appears there could be a sustained outbreak of the deadly virus among people in certain countries.
In its latest travel bulletin, DFAT said Australians would be urged to return home quickly in case borders are closed and they are forced to remain overseas.
All very dramatic isn't it? But you know I don't think this has been properly thought through...it is estimated that there are about a million Australian expats living overseas. That's quite a chunk'o'peeps for a country which has a population of only 20 million. And we aren't talking about people on the After Uni Tour here - most of the expats are actually living in other countries like real people! It's amazing!
Or maybe not. It seems that is this an issue which has been studied to quite an extent, even by the Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee. In fact they even have a 168 page report you can download or browse online all about it:
They still call Australia home: Inquiry into Australian expatriates
(Yes nothing like a Peter Allen quote to give a senatorial report credibility.)
Surprise, surprise most of us have a variety of reasons for choosing not to live in the home country. It's not cause we hate the country or want to hand in our Australian citizenships.
So let's look at this scenario of the whole lot of us packing up if the bird flu pandemic mutates and human to human infection is possible. One million of us go "oh shit" and rush back home. Those Qantas pilots will be working overtime. The airline catering...you'll be lucky to get a pack of peanuts (Caution: May Contain Nuts). The band aids required for the feet of the flight attendants alone will run into the thousands.
Ok let's see....3 flights from Tokyo to Australia a day - no worries mate we can probably fit at least 4 of us in the dunny, at a price likely to be 10 times higher than the normal! No wuckers!
And then we land. Where are we going to stay? Camped out on the Parliament House grounds? With Mrs Howard doing the tea and bikky round? Oh wait what am I thinking? Mum and Dad will take us back in. Crap I'm fucked - mine are dead. Looks like it's a tarp on Semaphore beach for me. After I build a raft out of used wooden chopsticks and make my way down there, seeing as the plane scenario will be a bit of a no-go.
Gee it's lucky also that there is no unemployment in Australia and stacks of budget surplus so that we won't have to worry about looking for work or getting some money to live on while we are back.
I'm afraid to say that I'm embarrassed by the attitudes of some Australians when it comes to immigrants. You don't have to look far to see scrawled somewhere "Asians Out". In the not so distant past it was "Wogs Out". What will it be if the majority of Australians pay heed to such a warning - "Aussies Out"?
The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (Home of the charming Immigration Dob-in Line) states that in the 2002-3 period 108,070 immigrants were accepted into Australia. With the scenario I've been ranting about you need to add another zero.
Yes just one zero. Because nowhere in the statement "Australians working or travelling overseas will be urged to return home" is it considered that some of us expat Australians may have married Johnny Foreigner and actually have a family who are not Australian citizens! Of course you know I can just pack up, wish the JFamily the best of luck and piss off back home. It's not like we have real ties anyway. We aren't from the same country.
Or I could try and pack 'em in a suitcase. Younger Brother's legs will stick out though. And they might get me at Customs for bringing in fauna from another country.
(BTW your sarcasm meter should be screaming by now)
Ranting vitriol aside for a moment, a friend asked me if I would stay in Japan if the bird flu came here. In all honesty - yes. I couldn't leave my JFamily to face it alone. Who would take care of JMum or JAuntie or my JBoys if they got sick? I know they would take care of me. I sneeze once and JMum is over my place in a Tokyo Second restocking the fridge, putting the rice cooker on for okaiyu and armed with a cornucopia of quack cold remedies.
So if the worst case scenario happens and the bird flu does mutate and start spreading among humans, a warning issued from the embassies to drop everything and get back home to face goodness knows what is going to be about as useful as tits on a bull. Being an advocate however of constructive criticism, I propose that the following items would be of more help:
Bilingual information (English and the main language of whatever country the Aussie Expat is in) on:
Preparations and precautionary measures
Symptoms of the flu
Basic care and treatment for patients
List of places to get help or other resources
Online forums to keep in contact with other expats and people back in Australia (which should be accessible by mobile phone)
And that's just off the top of my head. Think of all the more useful stuff we could put in place if we set up a committee about it!
In a related article on the news.com.au site today, Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott, was quoted as saying:
"For a human to catch the current strain of bird flu, you've got to be in very, very, very close contact with the birds.
"Or you've got to eat raw chicken meat or you've got to drink duck's blood or something that Australians just don't do."
Well thank bloody goodness none of us are in very, very, very close contact with birds. Well anymore that is. When I was growing up Nanna kept a couple of chooks in the backyard, Poppa bred budgies, and we ourselves used to keep 3 pet ducks. Must have been a ban on all those sorts of unnatural activities since I left.
As for the eating of raw chicken and drinking duck's blood - yeah none of us Aussies do that outrageous crap.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit I ate chicken sashimi last week. And it wasn't for the first time! Will my Aussie citizenship be revoked?????
As for duck's blood - well wielding my Google-fu - I discovered that non-Australians aren't generally in the habit of grabbing a duck, chopping off it's head, draining the blood into a cup and shouting "Cheers!". In fact most recipes featuring duck blood are traditional ones, some dating back to the Mesopotamian period:
Duck Soup (Czarnina) (Polish)
This is an old Polish recipe that was used at Easter time. This recipe is traditionally served with home made noodles. If desired the fruit can be removed, leaving broth to serve with noodle. If you do not know where to purchase a duck, contact a local farmer or butcher. If you prepare your own poultry be sure to add 1/2 cup vinegar to duck blood to prevent coagulation.
Duck Blood & Bean Curd Soup (Shanghai, China)
Hahaha look at the weird stuff those foreigners eat! Nothing like what Australians eat at all! We eat proper food as our forefathers did! Normal stuff from the Old Country, like mashed taters and Black Pudding.....
Abbott-san you xenophobic nong.....do a bit of research and you might be surprised about just where a lot of Australians come from originally. It may seem incredible - but some Australians come from Poland, French and China! Duck-blood feasting countries! Possibly my search talents are weak, but I couldn't find a ban on eating raw chicken or using duck blood in recipes in Australia.....some of the buggers could be doing it behind your back! Did you include it as a question on the last Census? Has there been a Dob-in line set up for it?
For all my ranting and sarcasm I do acknowledge that a bird flu pandemic is a serious issue. But we will need real, reasonable solutions to deal with it. Urging about a million people to dash home is not a solution. Fortunately for us, Shiseido's got our back!