Monday January 26 2003 - 9:00am WST
For Immediate Release
Refugee Advocates launch 2004 Election Strategy
"WE shall determine who governs this country, and in which way they govern..."
website link: http://www.safecom.org.au/platform.htm
In close collaboration across Australia, refugee advocates will launch on Australia Day the first phase of their election challenge to the Australian government and opposition parties in preparation for the 2004 Federal Election - under the motto: "WE shall determine who governs this country, and in which way they govern..."
West-Australian based refugee action group Project SafeCom, in close consultation with especially members of Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR), goes public with its challenge to sitting members of parliament in Canberra - with a listing of all MP's as well as Senators on a website, and linking their names to statements about refugees they have made since the last Federal election in November 2001.
"The Howard government snatched victory in the 'Tampa Election', using the most vulnerable group of world citizens - refugees - and embarking on a concerted campaign of lying to the Australian public about the status of refugees under Australia's agreement as a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention," Project SafeCom's spokesperson Jack Smit said.
"The most serious lie is perhaps not whether children were thrown overboard from the vessel rescued by HMAS Adelaide on October 2001, but the labelling of asylum claimants as 'illegals', 'illegal immigrants' and 'unauthorised arrivals, in defiance of the privileges reserved for them under the UN Convention."
"The Howard government used a very serious misrepresentation of the facts - where instead of respecting and honouring their privileges under the UN Convention, asylum seekers who expressed to seek asylum have been denied their right of entry into Australia, and consistently vilified as if they arrived illegally to Australian shores."
"Using this misrepresentation, which amounts to a serious lie to the Australian public, Howard and most of his senior ministers launched a successful campaign of seeding vilification and erroneous concepts in the minds of millions of Australians. There was also a great deal of drama about "the refugee queue", but the government has never revealed to Australians what it did or did not do with our "regional" queue, the queue in Indonesia, our most appropriate queue."
Safe and Unsafe Seats
"Many of those who are on the record of using this language, are already marked by us - and their seats are indeed "unsafe seats" in the lead-up to the next election. In the next few months, more information from letters and emails to parliamentarians will be added to the online repository".
Results of the letter-writing campaign by human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC, launched a few months ago, in which Burnside urged Australians to ask simple, one-line questions in letters sent to their local and other parliamentary representatives, forms part of the repository of information. Many members of RAR have written to their local members seeking a position, or seeking support.
"The results cut across party lines", said Mr Smit. "We see that Liberal members such as Petro Georgiou, Member for Kooyong, the Hon Bruce Baird, Member for Cook, and the Hon Judi Moylan, Member for Pearce, are clearly dismayed with the Howard policies, while Labor leader Mark Latham is on notice for his continuing attempts to justify mandatory detention."
Labor, Lawrence and Latham
"The ALP is very much on notice", Mr Smit said. "While in the last two years five State ALP Conventions have passed motions condemning mandatory detention, last year's revised asylum policy as launched by former leader Simon Crean and immigration spokesperson Julia Gillard clearly ignore these motions. With the arrival of Dr Carmen Lawrence as the ALP President and the upcoming National Conference in January, we still hold off on targeting Labor MP's for blacklisting, but we do not wait endlessly."
"Our first priority, in the words of ALP's member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek is that 'the Howard government must be removed as soon as possible'. We endorse this, but depending on whether Labor can be honest and do what urgently needs to be done, Labor members who put political expediency before honouring Human Rights and International Conventions may also be targeted for replacement by candidates who are willing to put themselves on the line for a platform which intends to restore Australia's decent standing in the international community and undo the untold damage to hundreds of men, women and children, systematically inflicted by the current regime, while wasting close to a billion dollars of taxpayers money. Mandatory detention - even if softened by Latham under pressure - clearly contravenes the UN Refugee Convention."
Call for Independent Candidates
"Today's launch is only the beginning of a campaign. After consultations at the Albury-Wodonga National RAR Conference in February 2004, a Guide to How to Stand as an Independent Candidate will be developed, and refugee groups will be calling on people to come forward as independent candidates on a 'refugee platform' using for example the RAR 'Ten Point Plan' as an election template."
"First, these candidates will target current Liberal marginal seats, but they may also be wanting to oppose ALP candidates who fail to be loud and vocal about what amounts to a policy of human rights crimes and a breach of international law."
website link: http://www.safecom.org.au/platform.htm
Tour: On the road to Gundagai
Project SafeCom today starts its tour around Australia with presence at events scheduled to promote the strategy and share resources with other refugee groups, culminating in the central media launch at the Rural Australians for Refugees Conference in Albury-Wodonga on 6 February. Schedule: Adelaide (26/1 to 28/1), Melbourne (29/1), Sydney (30/1, 31/1), Brisbane and Sunshine Coast (1/2 to 3/2) and Albury-Wodonga, MAIN MEDIA LAUNCH (6 February). Complete schedule posted at http://www.safecom.org/ontheroad.htm
Media inquiries: Project SafeCom: Jack H Smit, phone 041 70 90 130 - Interview opportunities in Adelaide (26/1 to 28/1), Melbourne (29/1), Sydney (30/1, 31/1), Brisbane and Sunshine Coast (1/2 to 3/2) and Albury-Wodonga (6/2).