Asylum seekers are blocking the M4 freeway and clogging up our hospitals! John Menadue

Sep 5, 2013

On Monday night on 4 Corners, the Liberal candidate for Lindsay, Fiona Scott, said that asylum seekers’ cars were blocking the M4 highway. For readers outside Sydney, the M4 is a 40 km expressway connecting Concord and Penrith.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry that such ignorance could be expressed by a candidate who could very well be a member of parliament after next Saturday, if the opinion polls are correct.

The M4 carries over 50,000 cars in the morning peak per day in both directions. I have met many asylum seekers but I cannot recall ever meeting one who has a car.

Fiona Scott went on to say that asylum seekers were worsening hospital waiting times. It was another beat up. Asylum seekers can access Emergency Departments but very few have Medicare. However the Refugee Council says that the area surrounding the Nepean Hospital-Blacktown.the Hawkesbury, Penrith and the Blue Mountains-took in only 161 asylum seekers in the last year. The total population is 618, 000. My experience is that almost all asylum seekers have to rely on generous doctors and nurses who give their time freely as volunteers.

Her outburst is the most manipulative and appalling I have seen for a long time. Traffic congestion and hospital waiting times are two sensitive issues in Western Sydney. Fiona Scott chooses ignorantly and deliberately to target and scapegoat asylum seekers for both problems.

In other circumstances one would expect the leader of the Liberal Party to intervene to sack Fiona Scott, but that is unlikely because Tony Abbott has been the cheer leader in the demonization of asylum seekers for years.  Even in the press reports of Fiona Scott’s comments, Tony Abbott continued to talk, as he has done for years, about ‘illegal’ asylum seekers. They are not illegal. From the time that Robert Menzies ratified the Refugee Convention in 1954, asylum seekers are entitled to our legal protection. They may be ‘irregular’ entrants but they are not ‘illegal’. Tony Abbott’s dog-whistling is designed to convey the impression that somehow these ‘other’ people are not entitled to our protection and are akin to criminals. It is disgraceful the way he behaves. “Caring for the stranger” is not part of his lexicon.

Fiona Scott is showing all the signs of being a soul mate of Scott Morrison who demonises asylum seekers for “bringing disease” and ‘wads of cash’.

Lebanon with a population of just over 4 m people has taken in almost one million Syrian refugees. Sweden has just announced that the 8,000 Syrian asylum seekers in its country will all get permanent residence. Pakistan is host to 2 million refugees.

What a selfish and sorry country we have become.

History is full of the stories of unscrupulous people who scapegoat the foreigner and the outsider. The Liberal Party is making the demonization of outsiders an art form. And the problem starts at the top.

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