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"WE shall determine who governs this country, and in which way they govern..."

The 2004 Federal Election: Our election platform

1. Our election platform

We're not wanting to promote "our own" platform, but just offer some suggestions. Below is the Ten Point Plan by Rural Australians for Refugees, as well as the Democrats' Immigration Policy.

We do however, want to make some salient points, mainly as a result of the "immediate urgency" in the current policy failures. These points are:

Stop lying to the Australian people

  • peddles the illegal lieWhen people arrive at Australia's shores and invoke the UN Refugee Convention's protection claims, they stop being "illegal" from then on, for the entire duration of their processing and thereafter.

    This change of status does not cease, even when in the end protection under the UN Convention is not granted upon the claimant's assessment.

  • peddles the illegal lieBecause ALL boatpeople who arrived at Australian shores in the last decade or so, came to ask for asylum, a claim they are rightfully allowed to make under the UN Convention, calling them "illegal" is in our eyes equivalent to peddling lies on the part of the Howard government, and by others who parrot the current policies.

  • peddles the illegal lieWhen John Howard claims that he "will control who comes to this country, and in which way they come" he lies about the prior agreements in place, when Australia became a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Under this convention, Australia promised to provide free and unfettered (sovereign!) access to Australia's territories anyone who wishes to claim asylum.

  • Australian governments should stop invoking airspace exclusions (Tampa 2001, Melville Island 2003), should stop misusing the public service to prop up party-political policies (ADF, The NAVY, AFP), especially around the arrival and during the processing of asylum seekers.

  • Australian governments should stop the secrecy surrounding processing of asylum claims, and return to fully accountable government in Australia. We elect you, and we'll kick you out when we're sick of your dictatorial behaviour.

Stop accusing asylum seekers of "forum shopping"

  • There is no crime in skipping the many countries on the way to Australia, and to not seek asylum there - especially because most, if not all of those countries, are not "safe" for refugees in terms of the UN Convention. Indonesia is one of those countries.

  • peddles the illegal lieParliaments should stop falsely informing the Australian people by talking about refugees coming to Australia as "forum shoppers". Everyone who seeks asylum has the right to knock on the door of countries who are signatories to the UN Convention. Australia is one of those countries; Indonesia is not.

Governments have full Duty-of-Care obligations

  • Immediately release all children, together with their families, from detention;

  • Take the guardianship for unaccompanied children away from the immigration minister and place it in the hands of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commissioner or his/her delegate;

  • Stop torturing refugees through:

    • the issuing of Temporary Protection Visas;

    • the refusal to honour family reunion provisions;

    • the refusal to grant decent Visa arrangements, when an Australian court orders someone to be released from detention;

    • the issuing of cruel Bridging-E visas to asylum seekers;

    • the refusal by DIMIA and its minister to issue any form of visa when ordered to release someone from detention by Australian courts, thus creating a "non-person" class for many people who urgently need care and protection;

    • the refusal to make many refugees eligible for Medicare, education, job seeker assistance and government services.

  • Take the duties of the Refugee Review Tribunal away from public servants - who mostly on their own, play with life-and-death matters of asylum claims. Instead, place this review in the hands of the judiciary.

Demand an 'Australian Refugee Act'

  • peddles the illegal lieThousands of people call refugees, especially those who arrive by boat, "illegal immigrants". The use of the word "immigrant" is a seductive manipulation of public opinion when it is used by members of the elected government. Refugees are not immigrants, and they should be treated as refugees, not immigrants.

  • Australian governments should immediately, as a matter of the highest urgency, write an Australian Refugee Act - and define in this place policies that apply to refugees and asylum seekers.

  • This Australian Refugee Act should separate issues pertaining to asylum seekers and refugees from the current Act, the Migration Act. Migrants are not refugees, and refugees cannot and should not ever be treated as if they are migrants.

2. The RAR Ten Point Plan

Rural Australians for Refugees call on the Australian Government to:

  1. Receive all asylum seekers in accordance with our obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees, which Australia signed in 1954. After being assessed, asylum seekers would either be accepted as genuine refugees or deported, according to long-established criteria.

  2. Grant amnesty and permanent residency in Australia to all those asylum seekers currently in detention in Australia and in "Pacific Solution" centres.

  3. Abolish existing holding centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea and abandon any further plans for new off-shore centres including that on Christmas Island.

  4. Stop military intervention against boat people. Using Australia's military against the victims of oppression is totally inappropriate.

  5. Abolish the Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs), and give the right to permanent residence to all those assessed as refugees so that they can rebuild their lives. TPVs leave people in limbo, denying them the possibility of secure settlement in Australia, preventing reunion with spouses and children and denying access to critical services.

  6. Close all detention centres in their present form. Asylum seekers should be held in detention only to establish their identity and for criminal clearance, along the lines of the Swedish model. As in Sweden, children should only be held in detention for a maximum of six days.

  7. Take any detention facilities out of the hands of private enterprise. Such facilities should be publicly accountable and open to scrutiny, rather than be left to the mercy of the profit motive.

  8. Recognise that there is an international humanitarian crisis of huge proportions which Australia cannot ignore, involving the mass migration of refugees and displaced people. Australia should lead an international search for co-operative solutions and support a world-wide increase in aid for refugees.

  9. Promote the establishment of an international conference to review the International Conventions and revise current inadequate procedures for resettlement of refugees.

  10. Recognising how small our current quota of 12,000 refugees per year is, Australia should double the quota to 24,000 per year.

3. The Democrats: Immigration Policy

Australian Democrats - Official Democrats Immigration Policy as balloted 1 July 2001

Objectives

The Australian Democrats believe in a non-discriminatory immigration program, which gives priority to refugees and family reunion, the total number of which when included with overall population trends will not impede sustainability of the nation's natural resources.

Principles

  1. all areas of Australia's immigration law meet our international obligations;

  2. departmental resources will be equitably distributed to ensure equal access to immigration posts;

  3. application fees will be adjusted to take into account variations in national average earnings;

  4. Qualifications will be linked with the right of reciprocity for Australian qualifications and based on careful assessment of education and work experience;

  5. all migrants including refugees will be eligible to the full range of welfare benefits and employment assistance available to other Australians;

  6. all people accepted into Australia as refugees will be granted permanent visas;

  7. non authorised arrivals will not be automatically subject to detention unless there are compelling security or public health reasons for doing so;

  8. incentives will be provided to encourage settlement in regional areas;

  9. settlement services for newly arrived migrants will be adequately resourced to maximise the opportunities for migrants to participate fully in the Australian community;

  10. all refugees and asylum seekers will be provided access to the Australian legal system equal to that of any Australian resident.

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