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Given the one shared characteristic of the earliest English settlers down under, you might assume that a criminal record would be de rigeur for becoming a permanent resident. You would be wrong, of course. The peccadilloes of those who survived the voyage in leg irons are not, in fact, celebrated. Newcomers are even required to prove that they are as clean as a sheared sheep, that they have no criminal convictions for ten years prior to entry.

Fortunately, we are only required to obtain “police clearance certificates” from anywhere we have lived a year or more. Canada doesn’t count. The Philippines barely qualify. If we had waited eight months, Hong Kong would have dropped off the list. The U.S. is the one that will take forever and a day.

To get the process underway, we traipsed down to Melbourne’s version of”The World Trade Center.” It is a lot less imposing than the Twin Towers. We took the escalators up to a little office (just off the Food Court) where the police do their messy business. Much of it is internal. Anyone who works with children, for instance, has to have an Australian police record check.

It is still done the old-fashioned way, with ink and pink digits, one at a time. Tomorrow, I will send off the forms and the prints and the bank drafts and they will run them through their computers and eventually come up empty. One more hurdle will have been surmounted in our quest for legitimacy.

We are lucky. My wife has a good job and we are living in a lovely city in an amazing land. Some unscrupulous Australians are taking advantage of the same visa program to bring skilled foreign workers from low wage countries to do dangerous work in the outback. It has been compared to modern slavery.

In June, a thirty-five year old, University-trained, Filipino farm supervisor with three children was thrown from a pick up truck and killed. His Aussie supervisor was said to be driving fast over rough roads. Two days earlier, a man from Inner Mongolia was crushed to death felling a tree in Queensland. He had never before used a chainsaw.

The lives of skilled workers from other countries are being jeopardized for the profits of businessmen. To my mind, that behaviour actually merits the treatment given the unfortunates on the “first fleet.” That is criminal. Too bad there’s no “terra nullis” left.

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