Asylum seeker karaoke


Fly me to Nauru

Fly me to Nauru and leave me dangle in the sun
though I fled from misery my pain has just begun.
In other words: treat me mean.
In other words: treat me cruelly.
History repeats, you Aussies did the same to Jews.
Running from the Nazis, with their pleas for help refused.

In other words: go away.
In other words: you can't stay.

Manus Island's hot, there's no protection for the weak.
Though you think you're kind, it's true asylum that I seek.
In other words: you don't count.
In other words: try New Guinea.
What's the point of difference between the church and state?
Why do Salvos validate a policy of hate?
In other words: contracts bind.
In other words: we are blind.

With apologies to Bart Howard


Fled the sword

People get ready, there's a boat a-comin'
it took desperation just to get on board.
Cause the world-weary passengers are
leaving slaughter. They couldn't get visas.
They fled the sword.

People get ready there's a boat that's sinking
It's keeping on keeping on, from day to day.
How will we treat those poor asylum seekers?
Can we afford to leave them in dismay?

Time to decide ... they come on the tide.
Can we retrieve our souls?

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner,
who would hurt refugees for the bottom line.
Have pity on those who tread on their neighbour
there's no hiding place when you fail to shine.

people get ready people get on board
people get ready people get ready people get ready people get on board

People get ready, there's a boat a-comin'
it took desperation just to get on board.
You will need a heart, you hear that diesel hummin'?
They don't have a visa, they fled the sword.
People get ready there's a boat that's sinking
You turn it around, it may not reach shore.
If you close your eyes, pretend you can't hear cryin',
you just might be able — to hide ...
hide from your soul.

With apologies to Curtis Mayfield

Thin edge of reason

How to meet the needs of refugees ...
all those pesky people drowning in our seas?
We could trivialise their plight, unless they arrive by flight;
yes let's blame them to put our minds at ease.

If they need a refuge that's bad luck,
'cause Australians won't acknowledge that they're stuck
in a world of hate and pain, we will treat them the same
if not worse, depending on how they came.

I'm at the thin edge of reason shunning
folks on their knees in desperation at the welcome that they find.
Keep your woes to yourself and avoid that coral shelf
maybe out of sight will equal out of mind.

Both the major parties will agree
that our fears will equal votes, you wait and see.
Though the UN will bleat we will punish the fleet
of the half-drowned sunburnt damaged refugees.
NGOS and churches may oppose
the choice to punish babies brought on boats,
but the kids, Mums and Dads cop the same Oz jihad,
we will warp their minds until they crack the sads.

I'm on the world's biggest island
and I'll keep on denying you
your basic human rights, your well-earned tears.
Yes we'll treat you like foes, we'll ignore your tales of woe
cause your presence plays into racist fears.

With apologies to John Bettis and Richard Carpenter


Head back

Koshan was a man who thought he'd take his family
to a warmer kinder land.
Koshan left Afghanistan and wandered over
to get an Australian tan.
Head back, head back.
Head back to where you once belonged
Head back, head on back.
Head back to where you can be stoned ...
Head on back Koshan.

Sweet Sanduni knew her baby was a'comin'
but she'd lost her Tiger man.
Got the hell away from angry-eyed Sri Lankans,
tried to find a safer span.
Head back, backtrack.
you're gunna be wounded and wronged.
Head back, there's flack.
you'll be Rudd-ed, Burk-ed and Wong-ed.
Get back Sanduni.

Australia's waiting for you,
waitin' to drag you back
or let you rot in hell.

Head back Sanduni,
Get back, get back to where you once were raped.
Head home, kiss foam,
or Abbott's gunna see you scaped. (goat that is) ...

On behalf of the bland, hope we've failed the human audition!

With apologies to John Winston Lennon and Paul McCartney


Catch you unawares

Hey refugee,
you floatin' there.
I've got a concentration camp
that's sure to send you spare
so go and bleed
away from here.

We don't hear your moanin'
from pain and all yer stuff.
Get out of our line of vision,
'cause refugee you ain't pretty enough.
We's absentee jailors, yeah,
put a chain around your neck
and lead you here and there
Pacific-ly —
but just not here.

We just don't want you bleedin' here.

With apologies to Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe


Flotsam jetsam

They climbs aboard a patchwork boat
and drift towards our shores.
But refugees don't get a vote,
they're all just curs and whores.
And who's to say that terrorists
aren't working at the oars?
We've even heard they drown their little tackers.

They're always on the telly
standing around and looking glum.
They burn and break things, protesting,
their eyes are always numb.
I hate to have to say it
and I know it sounds quite dumb:
we've no longer got a market for kanakas.

You'd think there'd be a reason to exploit ...
at that we are adroit ...

How do you solve a problem like the Tampa?
Can you out-Howard Howard in the end?
How do you find the means to put a damper
on asylum seekers' hopes before they drown?
Many an obstacle you've set before them.
Many a trick they ought to understand.
But how do you make them stay
at length out of our harm's way;
how do you keep a firm and bloody hand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like the Tampa?
How do you sacrifice your fellow man?

When I'm confronted with the mess
of rights and wrongs and woes
(reminded of our soldiers
and their guns and bombs in rows).
Unpredictable as our allies
reffos flee beneath our nose.
They're obnoxious! They're just demons! They're our foes!

They agitate our lefties
and make us feel quite gauche.
They paint us as the Huns, as the Nazis, as the Bosche.
We are noble! They are ill!
We are loving! They are fell!
They're a headache! They're a hindrance!
They are wild!

How do you treat a child who needs asylum?
How do you treat the mum and dad as well?
How do you rationalise your acts of cruelty?
Bastardisation! A mental bitchslap! Death knell!
Many a rape you'd pretend not to notice.
Many a bullying or travesty.
But how do you make them stay
the hell of a ways' away?
Perhaps genocide's an act of mercy?

Oh, how do you rid yourself of moral fibre?
Surely we're free to act as hate demands?

How do you treat a child who needs asylum?
They are but flotsam, jetsam on the sands

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein


You've paid your fare.
Smugglers ahoy;
you've sought your share
of freedom and joy.
But what bad mistakes
for you to choose
the land of knockers and
three-mortgaged haters
with harbour views.

And we mean to keep you down and down and down and down

We are the losers, you frails.
We'll keep eviscerating
your entrails.
We are the losers
we're pick-and-choosers,
we will out-source
but we're the abusers of y'all.

Yo, refugees,
your guts are mine.
An open-ended sentence
for committing no crime.
So you're dehydrated,
on your pleasure cruise.
It's our challenge to hurt you and lose you
and we won't refuse ...

we mean to keep you down and down and down and down

You are survivors it's true
but just try surviving on
Nauru (and PNG too).
We are the losers,
shufflers and foolers,
No life for you
'cause it might confuse us, make us yearn.

We are the true refugees,
your innocence drives us
to our knees.
Curse you, you hopers
we'll rope-a-dope youze
No time for mercy
'cause we are the champions of your hell.

With apologies to Freddie Mercury


In the sticks

On the way to power —
gettin' closer now with ev'ry hour;
as yer human rights I readily devour,
I just can't wait to see your sweet dreams sour.

I love politics,
it allows us to be total dicks.
As fer y'all victims, you can kick against the pricks;
but prison islands means you're in the sticks.

Wonderin' where this ends?
Separatin' you from family and friends.
Little refugees, yer presence simply lends
a target for my kicks and blows and fends ...
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

Bein' tough and mean.
Keeps the other parties mighty green,
sendin' y'all to places that I've never been;
growin' voter polls I may never see again!
And I can't wait to brutalise again.
Girls or grown men,
little babies, mummas, all go down the dire way
until the bitter end.
We're insistin' that yer sufferin' paves our way.

And I can't wait to screw y'all again.
I'll lock y'all up and take y'all down again.

With apologies to Willie Nelson



Barry Gittins headshotBarry Gittins is a communication and research consultant for the Salvation Army who has written for Inside History, Crosslight, The Transit Lounge, Changing Attitude Australia and The Rubicon. He co-writes the Book Chat column in Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Barry Gittins, Nauru, asylum seekers, Willie Nelson, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury



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Existing comments

Inspired, Barry! I wonder which individual song Messers Abbott and Rudd will choose to warble to their cheering throngs on Election Night Karaoke?
Pam | 19 August 2013

So many Australian companies are happy to make money from the suffering of refugees they make me ill
Marilyn | 19 August 2013

An amazing performance, Barry, thank you. The sheer force of numbers of songs drives home the irony to even the most resistant listener. In fact such a long list starts sounding like the endless pop music we hear in malls and train stations and cafes, only with one big difference, they're all about asylum seekers - a subject that even our politically aware musicians won't touch, it seems. Do we hear Paul Kelly making noises about SIEVs? Is Midnight Oil about to regroup for a new album using these lyrics? You have made a very perceptive connection here, the neutral bland apolitical nature of our current pop music environment.
CLOSE READING | 19 August 2013

nice one Barry. i have to say that I think "Losers" is my personal...err...favourite. Freddy would be turning in his grave.
Jen V | 20 August 2013

My first aid courses taught me that the main purpose of the heart is to keep the brain working. Your heart is in the right place and it's doing the right job.
Jim Jones | 20 August 2013


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