Tuesday April 17, 2007 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"Human rights advocates from all over Australia are jamming the email Inboxes of ALP Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd and Immigration spokesman Tony Burke MP with hundreds of personally tailored petition letters, sent directly from the Project SafeCom website."
"The petition letters demand that Labor, in its preparation to take government, restore its human rights credentials and that it adheres fully to all International Conventions, in particular the UN Convention for the Status of Refugees."
"We timed the launch of the petition to get traction in the lead-up to the ALP National Policy Conference in less than two weeks at Sydney's Darling Harbour Convention Centre," WA Rights group Project SafeCom's spokesman Jack H Smit said, "and website visitors are brought to the petition from an information page about the $400 million dollar ultra-secure, microwave-controlled detention centre on Christmas Island."
Christmas Island Centre page: http://www.safecom.org.au/alcatraz-downunder.htm
Petition letter page: http://www.safecom.org.au/alp-petition1.htm
"Since the start of the petition campaign last week more than five hundred refugee advocates, lawyers, migration agents and activists have visited the page designed to send the double letter, addressing both Mr Rudd and Mr Burke, and they have composed and sent their own letter," Mr Smit said.
The petition demands that Labor comprehensively condemn the soon to be completed Christmas Island detention centre, that it repeal the so-called "Excision Zone" and that it process all future asylum seeker boat arrivals on the Australian mainland, and that a future Rudd government gives them full and unfettered access to legal reviews and appeals," Mr Smit said.
"The petition is clear and quite straightforward. Many advocates are sick and tired of a government that has left a long trail of damage to thousands of refugees who arrived by boat, a government that has damaged the lives of those who seek Australia's help as a signatory to the UN Convention."
"They tell Kevin Rudd that they are still ashamed to be Australian, and that the prospect of the proposed Labor policies under Rudd keeps them highly uncomfortable, or keeps them from voting for Labor: many of them tell Mr Rudd that Labor has lost their vote since the 2001 Tampa Bills and Kim Beazley's compliance over Tampa, and that this can only change if Labor treats boat arrivals fully in accordance with Australia's obligations under the UN Convention."
"While most petitioners have so far indicated that they are very pleased with the arrival of Kevin Rudd, and while they repeatedly remind him of his high ethics - many mention the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian social action in their comments as incongruent with the ALP policy of maintaining Christmas Island - they also indicate that their Labor vote at the next election is conditional on Labor's radical departure from the shocking treatment of boat arrivals as we have been doling it out since Tampa."
"In a consultation I had at Parliament House a few weeks ago," Mr Smit said, "Labor's Immigration spokesman Tony Burke made it quite clear that he supports the processing of so-called unauthorised boat arrivals on Christmas Island, that he supports a maintenance of the 'Excision Zone' as established by John Howard, where 4,600 islands are exempt from the application of Australian refugee law, and that he supports the notion of 'stopping the boats'."
"The fact that Labor refuses to condemn John Howard's Christmas Island centre outside the Excision Zone will also legalize a curtailing of access to independent legal guidance and advice and avenues for legal appeal rights."
"Before John Howard came to power Australia did not have a "stopping the boats policy". Now that Howard is almost gone, and Labor readies itself to take the helm, Australia will have in Kevin Rudd its next 'Official Underminer of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees', Mr Smit said."
"It seems that now "stopping the boats" has become Australia's official policy, also for Labor. This is purely John Howard's legacy, and Labor buys right into it - and they are missing out on an internal debate by not even questioning it."
"By composing some paragraphs of the petition, that can be deleted from being sent to the ALP MP's, we have reminded thousands of people by email, that there are old and dark shadows behind the fluff of Kevin Rudd's honeymoon, and we have woken up people to choose for real and just policies instead of voting for a nice man in Canberra," Mr Smit said.
"While Labor tries to portray itself as a "much nicer" party for refugees compared to the Howard government, they probably would like to forget that Bob Hawke's Immigration Minister Gerry Hand - who created the notion of mandatory detention - was the Pauline Hanson of the Labor Party at the time, in the context of Hawke coining the phrase 'human flotsam' to describe Vietnamese and Cambodian boat arrivals."
"What is clear, is that the sample of advocates so far, are the frontline of what may well be as many as 40,000 voters for whom a Labor vote is either out of the question since Tampa, or in serious doubt if Labor remains a look-alike to the Howard government in its refugee treatment."
PRESENTATION OF PETITIONS
A print-out of all petition letters sent to Mr Rudd and Tony Burke will be publicly handed to ALP party delegates at the Sydney Convention next week Saturday morning, 28 April 2007. Media representatives will be alerted of this media event closer to the time.
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]