the great wall of australia
It looks as though Australia’s newest Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is moving to the Right on the issue of Asylum Seekers.
Nothing is certain at this point, but Ms. Gillard has given a deadline of July 8 for Labor to announce their new asylum seeker policy. In the meantime Gillard has encouraged Australians to express their opinions and vent their fears to open up frank national debate about the issue;
“For people to say they’re anxious about border security doesn’t make them intolerant, it certainly doesn’t make them a racist, it means that they’re expressing a genuine view that they’re anxious about border security.” (Article here)
Unfortunately such a comment is implicitly directed at those who have been conned by fear-mongering rhetoric, such as the insidiously deceitful use of the phrase “border protection” (Protection from whom, may I ask? From the most oppressed and persecuted kinds of people in the world? Given that over 97% of asylum seekers are granted asylum status, such rhetoric is utterly senseless). Such debate is, of course, necessary and a part of democratic freedom of speech. The problem comes, though, when freedom of speech is used to say things like;
“Take the lead from Singapore – fine them, flog them and send them home. End of problem…” (Posted by “John” at 8:08am on July 5th here)
The issue is not helped by the Right’s continual bombarding of the Australian public with their inhumane policy;
“The Coalition has a policy. It’s a policy that has worked in the past. It will work again in the future and I would invite her (Gillard) to adopt our policy immediately.” (Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader, Sun-Herald, July 4)
“If Julia Gillard is serious about border protection, then she needs to restore the Coalition’s policies that were proven in Government and the Coalition stands ready to introduce today” (Scott Morrison, Shadow Minister for Immigration, article here)
I take issue with the Coalition’s statement of the fact that their policy “works.” What does it mean for them to say that their policy “works?” That it has been proven to “work?” Does “working” mean that asylum seekers are shut out and left to suffer while Australians enjoy prosperity that all-too-often exploits the people they are shutting out? How is that the definition of a policy that “works?”
Some will no doubt argue that the issue is that boat people are “jumping the queue.” Indeed, it is true that thousands wait for asylum while living in refugee camps overseas. But let’s not be naive and assume that the “queue” is a perfect system for justice either. Lindy Edwards, a political scientist at UNSW and a research fellow with the Australian Prime Minister’s Centre, writes;
“The international community has limited and inadequate systems to cope with this humanitarian disaster. Many refugees have no choice but to try and make their way to safe havens under their own steam.” (Article here)
It is true that though there may be a queue, it is not able to help all refugees. Moreover in Afghanistan and Iraq Australia has no diplomatic representation, and thus there are no queues at all! What then do we expect such forgotten refugees to do?
In addition to all of this is the policy being pushed by the Coalition in which they promise to turn boats around – how is a policy which encourages the turning around of boats back to their place of origin just, humane or good? The Coalition’s case in which they claim to want to stop boats coming for the safety of the “illegal” refugees is utterly contradicted by the notion of turning those same people around, forcing them to cross the sea again!
The issue of open national discussion mentioned above is also clouded by the claims (lies?) of the Right. Here I quote Julian Burnside, who summarises it well when he says Tony Abbott has been;
“…lying to the public, creating an utterly false impression about the number of people who come by boat seeking asylum and the reasons that they come seeking asylum … He talks about a flood coming: the arrival rate, although higher than it’s been for a while, is still incredibly low … We haven’t got a flood, we’ve moved from a drip to a trickle.” (Article here)
In regards to Christians in Australia I will state briefly my disgust at some of the comments that have come from people who claim to follow Jesus (himself a refugee). A comment on The Age website will suffice to summarise my own thought on the issue;
“Apparently every single refugee is either a “terror suspect”, someone who will steal our jobs or steal our women.
I especially love seeing “Christian” groups rant against refugees. I guess none of them feel very charitable on the topic.” (Posted by “RobbieM” at 8:48am on July 5th here)
At the end of the day, it looks as though both of the major political parties in Australia are playing with the lives of real people fleeing real oppression just for the sake of political gains. It is this kind of Machiavellian game-playing that causes us swing voters to shift our support. While I can never support the Coalition and their policies on issues like asylum seekers, I’m afraid that I can neither support this new-sounding Labor government. I was truly excited by the prospect of having a female Prime Minister. However if Labor continues to move in the direction they seem to be going on asylum seekers, attempting to put a wall around Australia, then come July 8 Ms. Gillard will lose my support along with those like me.
P.S. You can find a previous post on the issue of asylum seekers here.
Posted on July 5, 2010, in Advocacy, Current Events, Politics and tagged ALP, Asylum Seekers, Boat People, Julia Gillard, Labor, Refugees, Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.