Today Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison have announced draconian measures that will inflict enormous punishment on over 30,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia over recent years by boat. These draconian policies will apply not just to future boat arrivals but will be applied retrospectively to over 30,000 asylum seekers who are already legally here.
We can imagine the widespread protests if any Australian government announced retrospective changes in taxation or other important policies, but some of the most vulnerable in the world are fair game in Australian politics.
What a shameful country we have become. The poisoning of public opinion against asylum seekers which began with Tampa in 2001 is getting worse by the day.
Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison propose:
- None of these 30.000 asylum seekers will ever be granted permanent residence even if they are found to be refugees.
- They will be denied access to any appeal processes. Clerks in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship will exercise control over their lives.
- Persons found to be refugees will get a temporary protection visa which will deny them the right to sponsor family. The only way that they can re-join their family will be to return to the country from which they fled because of danger.
Amongst these 30,000 asylum seekers in Australia are many whose lives have been put at risk because of the actions of Australian Governments to intervene in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only has our involvement in those two wars been futile and cost many Australian lives, it has put at risk many Iraqis and Afghans who will now pay a huge price as the civil war in Iraq extends and the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan leaves more and more Afghans exposed to danger. But we show no concern that some of these people now in Australia cannot call on the Australian government or people for protection or decency.
This announcement today continues the demonization of asylum seekers that has been going on for years. Scott Morrison, who would be the Minister for Immigration in an Abbott Government, said in his maiden speech in 2008 ‘From my faith I derive the values of loving kindness, justice and righteousness”. Yet he has told us on many occasions
- That asylum seekers bring “disease, everything from tuberculosis and Hepatitis C to Chlamydia and syphilis”.
- He told 2GB talk-back radio that he had seen asylum seekers bringing in “wads of cash and large displays of jewellery”.
- According to Jane Cadzow, in the Sun Herald he told the Coalition to ‘ramp up its questioning to … capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment’.
- In early 2002, he complained about the cost of holding funerals in Sydney for asylum seekers who had died in a shipwreck off Christmas Island. He referred to funding for an 8 year old boy whose parents had been drowned as a ‘government funded junket’.
Senator Abetz, a migrant himself and apparently a devout Lutheran said that asylum seekers in the community should be registered in the same way as paedophiles.
Tony Abbott, the seminary-trained and student of the Jesuits, continually calls asylum seekers ‘illegals’ when they are not. He wants us to believe that they are criminals. He has never called Scott Morrison into line.
Who will call a stop to our inhumanity? In world terms, with 45 million refugees and displaced persons, the number of asylum seekers coming to Australia is miniscule. When will we get out of our parochial stupor and appreciate the real world beyond our shores? But history shows that it is so easy for unscrupulous politicians to exploit fear of the foreigner, the outsider and the person who is different.
Malcolm Fraser we need you now.