Should the refugees stay?

Issue 

BY NICK FREDMAN

LISMORE — The first public discussion organised by the Lismore branch of the Socialist Alliance on the theme "Should the refugees stay?" on September 29 was a resounding success.

A highlight of the meeting was a statement sent from NSW Member of the Legislative Council Janelle Saffin opposing not only the refugee policy of the Coalition, but also of the ALP, of which she is a member. It said in part "by definition a person claiming asylum cannot be illegal, and what is the difference between paying an airfare and arriving on a student, tourist or business visa and claiming asylum, and paying a people smuggler to come on a boat ... mandatory detention is inhumane and silly". Saffin also sent her apologies for not being able to attend in person.

Greens candidate for the seat of Page, John Corkill, also emphasised how the Coalition and ALP policies broke international law, and said the Greens, as a "party of dissent" would campaign for democracy and social justice. He called for a system similar to New Zealand's, where asylum seekers could live in the community and receive health care, welfare and could seek work.

In discussion, a number of speakers raised disagreements with the Greens policy of "balancing" a "concern" with the ecological sustainability of increased population and a "humanitarian" approach to refugees. Such policy, it was argued, can lead to anti-refugee arguments. Corkhill did not disagree that ecological sustainability depends fundamentally on the nature of the social system rather than population levels. Some questioners, however, felt his position was not reflected in Greens policy.

The Socialist Alliance's Edda Lampis, who is also contesting Page, argued that capitalism in Australia has been built on racism, on the dispossession of indigenous people and the low wages paid to both indigenous and migrant people.

According to Lampis, championing the right of refugees to settle in Australia with the same privileges as other residents is an integral part of a socialist alternative to capitalism.

The meeting also heard from Greg Brown of the Brisbane Refugee Action Collective.

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