Anti-racists protest tying up of migrants
By Peter Waits
YDNEY — On February 22, the Democratic Socialists and Resistance organised a demonstration to condemn the recent arrest and roping up of "illegal immigrants" in Victoria (see article page 8). The protest action was held outside a public forum on immigration at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre. The feature speaker at the meeting was federal immigration minister Phillip Ruddock, who supported the brutal treatment of the migrants.
The action began with the protesters being tied-up with rope outside the meeting venue. Many people going into the meeting signed a petition condemning the government's actions.
Democratic Socialist candidate for Parramatta in the March 27 NSW election, Kylie Moon, pointed out the government's racism. "The Coalition is silent about more than 200 years of genocide against Australian Aborigines, and the persistent atrocious living conditions Aboriginal people endure. Now, when people from Third World countries try to escape poverty, Ruddock agrees that they should be tied up like animals."
Inside the meeting, Ruddock reduced the issue of immigration to bar charts and line graphs. But when discussion was opened up, his reception was fiery. One migrant spoke of being held in detention in Australia for six months, after escaping persecution in Kuwait. Another asked why there were provisions which specifically discriminated against disabled people in the government's immigration policy.
Democratic Socialist candidate for Auburn, Shane Bentley, questioned the government's claim to have a "non-discriminatory policy". He told the meeting, "The policy requires migrants to put up a $4000 bond and $5000 for an application. This may be OK for many people coming from the United States or rich European countries, but for the vast majority in the Third World, who are earning maybe $2 a day, this is impossible. The policy does discriminate — against the coloured people of the Third World."
Bentley continued: "The government also demands a high level of English-speaking skills, which most people from the Third World find difficult if not impossible to obtain. On top of that, the Adult Migrant English Service has been privatised, making it harder and more expensive for migrants to learn English."
A Resistance member, Paul Benedek, told the forum that the government's two-year waiting period before migrants can access welfare payments, extended from the former ALP government's six-month wait, amounts to institutionalised racism. "A sick migrant child can't get public health care. A migrant who is thrown out of work could starve instead of getting the dole."
The Democratic Socialists are organising another anti-racism protest action, outside a One Nation party meeting in Penrith on March 6 (see page 27 for details).