Sunday May 8 2005 12:30pm WST
For Immediate Release
West Australian refugee advocates Project SafeCom launched their call for a Royal Commission into the treatment of immigration detainees and refugees by means of a petition sent out electronically to more than 15,000 people around Australia in the last few days.
The petition's concise wording, outlining a number of succinct Terms of Reference was formulated over several months in consultation with senior human rights advocates from Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.
Spokesman Jack H Smit commented this morning that he was delighted with last week's call for a Royal Commission by ALP Immigration portfolio holder Laurie Ferguson, which was repeated by Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, as reported by the ABC.
Mr Smit commented also that it would be appropriate now to also hear from ALP leader Kim Beazley, who has been mute on refugee issues and the treatment of the issue and the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees since he caved in and allowed to pass the second round of Tampa Bills prior to the 2001 Federal election.
"From the backbench Mr Beazley last year indicated his first interest in the Labor leadership with a major interview with Maxine McKew, as published in The Bulletin. He did not mention refugees and we were all deeply disappointed and also disturbed by it."
"When Beazley returned as the ALP's new leader when Mark Latham stood down, he did not mention the dire situation the Howard government had created with its refugee policies, although this would have been more than appropriate."
"And last month, in Mr Beazley's landmark 'Accountability' speech at the National Press Club on April 15, during which he announced major tactical revisions and said he was to revive and sharpen up the role of the opposition to hold the Howard government accountable, he did not mention refugees or asylum seekers or the devastating Cornelia Rau revelations. This was not only becoming a central issue, but also politically opportune for him. Beazley had the chance to transform himself in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people around Australia who had lost faith in him since the 2001 election."
"Time has come for the ALP to redeem itself from its weak-kneed lack of opposition with what amounts to a dire human rights emergency, and for Mr Beazley to break with his silence, which only seems to indicate he is terrified of the issue. Mr Beazley should make a landmark speech on the dark shadow of the Howard government's treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and it's total disregard of maintaining Australia as a leader in human rights issues."
"Either Mr Beazley has too many friends in the New South Wales Right, also known as 'the Sussex Street Gang', or he still suffers from their stranglehold on him since the 2001 election, which has muted his speech on what should be a decent and honourable treatment of those who seek asylum in Australia and arrive 'unannounced'. By wanting to be seen as strong on Border Protection, Beazley has shown himself unbelievably 'missing in action' on human rights."
"Beazley needs to indeed show Australians he 'has the ticker', in naming John Howard, Phillip Ruddock and Amanda Vanstone's gross human rights violations as a result of mandatory detention, and speak out forcefully against what amounts to a policy that makes people mentally ill for life. He can start with that today, and he should."
"He needs to come clean with what could now well be dismissed as off-the-cuff remarks by his immigration spokesperson Laurie Ferguson, and not leave the remarks to an MP who has not gained much credibility amongst refugee advocates since he became the spokesman for the ALP on these issues."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney
[phone number posted]
TEXT OF THE PETITION