The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Some short election campaign 'evidence snippets' relating to asylum seekers by Australia's Conservative politicians
Mrs Sussan Ley, Member for Farrer
At a forum at the Annual Rural Australians for Refugees in Albury-Wodonga on 7 February 2004, four participating federal politicians were placed in a hypothetical situation, set in 2010. Questions from the public included the following:
(Mrs Sussan Ley has referred in her contributions to boatpeople as "illegal entrants" and "unauthorised arrivals")
Jack H Smit (Project SafeCom): "I have just returned to Australia from six years in exile after the Howard government won another term of government in 2004. Can the Prime Minister-elect Sussan Ley fill me in on the details of what happened at the court case initiated in the last couple of years against the Howard Government, initiated by refugees on Permanent Protection Visas and later on by refugees on Temporary Protection Visas, for vilifying them by continually referring to them as "illegals" and "unauthorised" entrants into Australia?"
Mrs Sussan Ley: "Are you referring to my use of "illegal" in the conversation today?"
Julian Burnside QC: "By what law is it true that asylum seekers are illegal?"
Mrs Sussan Ley: "Well, it's just part of the policy, it's part of the law of the land, of common law."
Mr Tony Abbott, Member for Warringah
"People who first fly from the Middle East and Central Asia to Malaysia and Indonesia and who then pay people smugglers to land in Australia or its territories are not asylum seekers however much they may fear returning empty-handed to their families or running the gauntlet of thuggish officialdom back home. People who destroy their identity documents to confuse Australian officials are undoubtedly desperate to stay but what kind of citizens are they likely to make?"
From: "Feeling Better About Australia", a speech at the Young Liberal Federal Convention, Melbourne, January 4, 2002
Mr Peter Lindsay, Member for Herbert
5 December 2003 8.30 am
Dear Mr Peter Lindsay MP,
Rural Australians for Refugees deplores the use of tear gas on men, women and children at the Port Hedland Detention Centre yesterday evening.
A disturbance began at 3pm (WA time) after a group of visiting schoolgirls who had travelled up from Perth to visit friends in the centre were told by management they could not visit because management feared they may be assaulted by detainees. The previous day the visitors were told they couldn't visit because they were too young. Four men got up on the roof to protest being denied visitors, and the allegations that they would harm them. By nightfall most people in the Centre were in the compound, or on the roof.
Children who attended primary-school in the community were not brought back to the centre, and yesterday evening their parents did not know where they were.
"When police started to use batons to hit people getting up on the roof, the detainees came forward to try to stop them," said one asylum seeker, who was tear gassed three times. "We started to throw plastic chairs and other things."
One female asylum seeker reported being hit with the baton across the back, and her teenage son being beaten badly around the head. Rural Australians for Refugees spokesperson Anne Simpson said "The use of physical force and tear-gas on women and children is apalling. The management of the detention centre began this disturbance by denying asylum seekers their visitors, and then exacerbated it by using violence."
This incident is the latest in a series of inappropriate behaviour by ACM. It follows the hand-cuffing of an asylum seeker to a hospital bed into Port Hedland hospital, and one asylum seeker removing a tooth with pliers because he couldn't get dental treatment.
For further information contact Anne Simpson.
From: Lindsay, Peter (MP)
Those in detention did not need to be there in the first place.
Dear Mr Lindsay,
The communication [above] reached me - privately, not publicly - from Rural Australians for Refugees. I'm a little unclear about what exactly you mean with your sentence: "Those in detention did not need to be there in the first place"
Could you perhaps clarify and expand a little?
From: Lindsay, Peter (MP)
The unauthorised arrivals came to Australia from countries where they were safe. Their object was to pay money to jump a queue and take the place of a refugee who is not living in safety. Australia quite rightly will not allow that.
Peter - so you believe that to seek refuge in Australia, arriving by boat, is illegal? Those people who do that are then not "genuine refugees"?
From: Lindsay, Peter (MP)
They may have been refugees when they left their original country. However they all travelled to a country where they were safe. They then paid a people smuggler to bring them to Australia .... of course this makes them unauthorised arrivals. If any other view was put on this it would open our borders to anyone who just wanted to come. There would be no order to our immigration policy. You surely must realise these people who were safe then try to take one of the 12,000 places reserved for refugees who live in unsafe countries. You must also accept that Australia takes 33 genuine refugees every day of the year .... a very proud record for our country.
I won't take your time any longer. But it seems to me you need to do some study on refugee issues. On your salary, with your position, just "following government spin" may get you entrapped.
Below some remarks.
Enjoy your Christmas break. - Jack
Myth 1 - Boat People are Queue Jumpers
Fact: In Iraq and Afghanistan, there are no queues for people to jump. Australia has no diplomatic representation in these countries and supports the International coalition of nations who continue to oppose these regimes and support sanctions against them. Therefore, there is no standard refugee process where people wait in line to have their applications considered. Few countries between the Middle East and Australia are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and as such asylum seekers are forced to continue to travel to another country to find protection.
People who are afraid for their lives are fleeing from the world's most brutal regimes including the Taliban in Afghanistan and Sadaam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq. Antonio Domini, Head of UN Humanitarian Program in Afghanistan, states that Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places in the world in which to survive.
Myth 3 - Australia Already Takes Too Many Refugees
Fact: Australia receives relatively few refugees by world standards. In 2001 Australia will receive only 12 000 refugees through its humanitarian program. This number has remained static for three years, despite the ever-increasing numbers of refugees' worldwide. Australia accepted 20 000 refugees each year at the beginning of the 1980's.
According to Amnesty International 1 in every 115 people on earth are refugees, and a new refugee is created every 21 seconds. Refugees re-settle all over the world. However, the distribution of refugees across the world is very unequal.
Myth 9: Australia is second only to Canada in the number of refugees it takes
Fact: This is incorrect. This claim is based on the fact that Australia is one of only eight countries whose immigration program actually specifies an annual quota of refugees and at 12,000 Australia's quota is the second highest on a per capita basis. However, as UNHCR reports indicate, many more than eight countries take refugees and asylum seekers - but unlike Australia they do not set a fixed number. These are the facts:
Myth 5 - They're Not Real Refugees Anyway
Fact: 97% of applicants from Iraq and 93% of applicants from Afghanistan seeking asylum without valid visas in Australia in 1999 were recognised as genuine refugees. Therefore, under Australian law they were found to be eligible to stay in Australia. Generally, 84% of all asylum seekers are found to be legitimate refugees and are able to stay in Australia.
Myth 6 - They Must Be 'Cashed up' to Pay People Smugglers
Fact: It is alleged that people who have the resources to pay people smugglers could not possibly be genuine refugees. The UNHCR disputes claims about 'cashed up' refugees saying that payments made to people smugglers in fact range from $4000 - $5000 AUD. In reality, many families and communities pool their resources in an attempt to send their relatives to safety. People smuggling is a crime that the international community needs to combat. However, this does not negate the legitimacy of asylum seekers' claims, nor their need to seek refuge. The international community, in eradicating people smuggling, is also required to address the growing numbers of asylum seekers throughout the world. As a Western nation, Australia has a role to play.
Myth 11: Refugees should stay in the first country they come to and 'join the queue'
Fact: Australia has not taken a single refugee from the UNHCR in Jakarta - from the so-called 'queue' - for more than three years. This is despite the rhetoric from Australian politicians for asylum seekers to be processed in Indonesia. It should also be noted that UNHCR centre in Indonesia was set up by Australia with Indonesian support. Refugees cannot stay in Indonesia because Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.
There is no requirement in international law for refugees to seek asylum in the first country they come to. Some developed countries have made this an additional requirement in order to avoid processing claims, leaving the large numbers of asylum seekers in camps in Third World countries. International law requires that asylum seekers should not be penalised according to the way in which they enter a country. Australia's current policy does not accord with this requirement.
Some people have given up on the 'queue' and resorted to coming by boat. 24 of those who recently died when their ship sank off the coast of Indonesia had already been granted refugee status by the UNHCR in Jakarta. Many more had relations in Australia who had been provided with asylum but were not allowed access to their wives and children. Simply, the 'queue' does not work.
The Hon Larry Anthony, Member for Richmond
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs...
On Friday July 11, I called Larry Anthony's office to request an interview time with him. Michelle, an Electoral Officer, answered the phone.
I told her I wanted to talk to Larry about a friend of mine who is a refugee living in Australia on a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV). This man fled to Australia after his entire family was slaughtered in his home country. He was detained for seven months then given a visa and released.
He has just had a baby with his new partner, an Australian citizen, however his three-year temporary visa is being reassessed and he lives in daily fear of being forced to return to his home country.
I am concerned for the welfare of his child, who will be growing up with a father who has not only lost his whole family once, but risks losing his new Australian family every three years under Australia's unique, and cruel, temporary visa system for recognised refugees.
Michelle informed me that the situation wasn't Larry's problem, because refugees shouldn't come here and start having children. I couldn't believe my ears. 'So refugees can't have children?' I asked, thinking that this might be some new government policy I hadn't heard about.
'They shouldn't be coming here and having children with Australian women if they're on a temporary visa,' Michelle responded. I was (for once) speechless. Larry Anthony has no responsibility for the refugee father, but the little baby is an Australian citizen, and Larry is Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
Australia is the only developed country in the world to impose this sys- tem of temporary protection on people who have been determined to be refugees. It was installed as a kneejerk reaction to the small number of people who arrived in boats to seek asylum, but will have terrible repercussions for Australian children born to refugees who are forced to live in uncertainty on three-year visas, potentially for the rest of their lives.
Throughout my conversation with Michelle she attempted several times to tell me that this wasn't an issue I could talk to Larry about. At the end of the conversation it transpired that she wasn't even the person who made phone bookings! Her comments were ill-informed, offensive, and inappropriate. Is she acting as Larry Anthony's spokesperson and 'minder' with his consent?
I may never know, because I was told that someone else would ring me back later in the day to arrange a phone appointment - but no phone call came.
This story can be found at [NOTE - a PDF file!]:
Liberal: Jim Lloyd, Federal Member for Robertson
From: Lloyd, Jim (MP)
Thankyou for your email. I fully support Australia's generous and compassionate Refugee program which welcomes the most vulnerable from all over the world.
I also support our strong border protection policy and mandatory detention policy for those who choose to try to enter Australia illegally.
26 August 2003:
"The vast majority of constituents who contact my office are concerned with local issues, not the Iraq War, refugees or human rights issues."
"Obviously, if you or anyone else wish to have a Federal Representative who concentrates more on international issues, important as they are, than local issues, they will have an opportunity to have a say at the next Federal election."
Lloyd full of praise for Govt's 'compassionate' refugee policy
Central Coast Sun Weekly
In response to the letter from Mira Wroblewski (SW, 27/11) claiming that I was misinformed about the Central Coast's view on illegal entrants and refugees. Ms Wroblewski admits that she has only recently arrived on the Coast and now claims to be an expert on our region. Having lived on the Coast for more than 35 years, raised my family here, and represented the area in federal parliament for more than eight years, I feel more than qualified to comment on such important issues.
The Central Coast is a compassionate community which welcomes people from all over the world but at the same time expects the Government to protect our borders from those who try to come to this country illegally. I am proud to be part of the Howard government which has implemented a very generous and compassionate refugee policy which welcomes the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people to our country. Many of these people have successfully settled on the Central Coast.
In 2002/03 Australia granted 12,756 refugee, humanitarian or on-shore protection visas, which is approximately 35 new Australian residents every single day. At the same time we must take strong measures to stop the evil people-smuggling trade. The successes of these measures is shown by the fact that only two boats have arrived in the past 18 months compared to the flood of illegal arrivals in previous times.
The Labor Party and other minority parties have continually tried to undermine the Government's efforts to protect our borders and their recent actions in the Senate show again that they are weak on border protection.
Independent: Peter Andren, Member for Calare
From: "Andren, Peter (MP)" <Peter.Andren.MP@aph.gov.au>
Independent Member for Calare Mr Peter Andren was the only Member of the House of Representatives who voted against both Tampa Bills in 2001. Project SafeCom developed a highly respectful relationship from there on with Mr Andren, and co-ordinator Jack Smit met him shortly before he suddenly passed away as a result of pancreatic cancer in 2007. We remember him with awe and deeply felt fondness.
Dear Project SafeCom
Thanks for the information. I am appalled at this continuing bald-faced lies being told by Downer etc.
Perhaps the claims by the Kurds should be tested in the court ... I presume something is happening along those lines. Indonesia should tell us to take them back as our responsibility.
You are right ... the Daoed trial is vital. I have thought all along it could well reveal SIEV X for the tragic deception (on Govts part) that it was. When does it start? I'll give it some publicity through column, press release etc.
Regards, and keep up this vital role. Truth will prevail.
Liberal: Judi Moylan, Member for Pearce
From: "Moylan, Judith (MP)" <J.Moylan.MP@aph.gov.au>
I share your views in relation to the Afghan refugees and have consistently spoken to the Prime Minister and relevant Ministers.
Once health and security checks have been completed and there are no compelling reasons for returning people, I can see no benefits to the community from doing so.
People in Albany are not alone in their concern. Many communities have had similar experiences and are mystified as to why these people are sent back to countries still ravaged by war and lawlessness and poverty.
Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. You are not in the Electorate of Pearce and should address your concerns directly to your Member of Parliament The Hon Wilson Tuckey MP. As I have a request in to meet the new Minister for Immigration about these an other matters and I will pass on your email to her.
Please pass on my best wishes to your parents for their efforts.
JUDI MOYLAN MP
The Tampa legislation
"You know, especially when the Tampa legislation was going through, we were told in Caucus how to vote, we were briefed, and then we went into Parliament and voted. I abstained from voting, I mean I declared myself absent from the vote rather than crossing the floor: we had not even been given time to read through the Draft Bills, we did not receive a copy of the Drafts." (from a conversation with constituents, November 2003)
ALP welcomes Turnbull's preselection
ABC ONLINE NEWS
Malcolm Turnbull, a key figure in the Republican movement, has been chosen to represent the Liberals in the blue ribbon Sydney seat of Wentworth.
Labor candidate for the federal seat of Wentworth David Patch says he is pleased Liberal candidate Malcolm Turnbull has won party preselection for the seat because there is now a better chance of the ALP winning.
Mr Turnbull, who had the backing of senior Liberals including Prime Minister John Howard, won the preselection in a hard-fought contest with sitting MP Peter King.
Mr Patch says he has known Mr Turnbull since he was 19-years-old and they shared the same classes at university.
He says he beat Mr Turnbull in more than 15 student representative elections.
"He's interested in power and not representing his constituency and I think he's easier to beat," he said.
Mr Patch also says he feels sorry for Mr King.
"Malcolm Turnbull is unpopular, I believe he's not interested in representing the people of Wentworth contrary to Peter King," he said.
Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has expressed his commiserations to Mr King.
"I think it's a pretty stiff deal that he's been given after three years but the process worked and I think Malcolm will bring a lot of energy to the Liberal Party," Mr Costello said.
Mr Costello has told ABC TV's Insiders program he expects Mr Turnbull will make a strong contribution to the party.
"I think he'll bring a lot of energy, and I congratulate him on his win," Mr Costello said.
Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill has also welcomed the selection, telling Channel Ten Mr Turnbull will make a good MP.
"Peter's a personal friend and I also thought he had a lot to offer, but it's a tough business, the preselectors went for Malcolm and good luck to him," he said.
"He's very talented and very ambitious, he should do well," he said.
Meanwhile, New South Wales Liberal Party director Scott Morrison has rejected any claims the party has been tarnished by the bitter battle for preselection in the blue ribbon seat.
Mr Morrison says it has been an extremely democratic process within the party, despite accusations of branch stacking and huge membership drives from both candidates.
He says it has been a robust contest and they had two outstanding candidates.
"I think there's been a lot of examination of the candidates by the pre-selectors and they've made their decision and I'm very proud of the process that we have in the Liberal Party," he said.
"It's an open process; it's a vigorous process; it gives people the right to a secret ballot and the opportunity to really put their candidates under pressure and make the right decision."