Indigenous activist slams major parties' 'race to the bottom' on refugees

July 8, 2010
Sam Watson, Indigenous leader and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for Queensland. Photo by Dave Riley.

Brisbane Murri activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson made the following comments on July 8 on the anti-refugee policies of the two major parties.

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PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott are involved in a headlong race to the bottom of the political pile with their policies on asylum seekers.

There is no sign of humanity, no compassion, no generosity of spirit.

Asylum seekers and refugees on these boats represent less than 2% of those who arrive on our shores seeking visas to stay. Since the days of Pauline Hanson and John Howard, these people have been demonised and presented as “threats to our national security”.

It appals me to see the calibre of leadership of our two mainstream parties. Gillard and Abbott have betrayed the principle of a “fair go”.

After the Vietnam War, thousands of Vietnamese refugees were received with open arms in this country. There was no razor wire, no armed guards. That generation of “boat people” were assessed in an orderly manner.

Now, we have many of these families well integrated into Australian society. They have made an enormous and ongoing contribution to our community, in Brisbane and around the country.

New generations of refugees and immigrants are constantly enriching our society. In light of this history, it is appalling to see the point-scoring between the major parties on asylum seekers today.

Tony Abbott has restated he will instruct the navy to forcibly turn the boats around. This is the cheapest, most vile form of political grandstanding, aimed at stirring up the lowest form of racism.

Right now, Australian soldiers are involved in conflicts such as the Afghan war, which are causing the refugees to come to our shores. Let Abbott and Gillard agree to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan before they talk about sending the boat people back to the oppression of their homelands.

As an Aboriginal person, I feel greater affinity with the so-called “boat people” than with cold-hearted people like Abbott and Gillard. They are both driven by a quest for absolute political power.

Let’s put the leaders of the major political parties in detention centres, and the asylum seekers in charge of the centres, to see how they would like it.

Our policy in Socialist Alliance is: Let the asylum seekers land, let them stay!

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