Fifty people rallied outside the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on July 9 in response to the Gillard Labor government's proposed new "East Timor solution" for processing asylum seekers. The protest was organised by the Refugee Action Collective.
Aboriginal rights leader and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson told the protest: “[Opposition leader Tony] Abbott and [PM Julia] Gillard are creating the atmosphere for another Tampa election, targeting the most vulnerable people.
“The country deserves a much higher level of leadership than this. Today is NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Day. Aboriginal people welcome the refugees, and reject racist policies.”
Andrew Bartlett, Greens federal candidate for Brisbane, said: “We are sliding back into the racist years of the Howard government. Tony Abbott is going even further than Gillard in abrogating the international treaty on refugees by proposing to turn the boats around, threatening death on the high seas.”
Father Pan Jordan, Tamil community representative and priest, said: “Sri Lanka is not safe for Tamils. The UN report confirms this. Let us fight together for truth, justice and fairness for all asylum seekers.”
In Perth, 30 people protested for two hours in the rain outside Gillard's July 9 speech at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, chanting "open the borders, close the camps, free the refugees".
Sue Bolton reports that in Melbourne 70 protesters gathered to voice their anger less than 24 hours after Gillard’s July 6 announcement of her “East Timor solution”.
Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Margarita Windisch said Gillard was fanning the flames of racism. Windisch cited racist former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s support for Gillard’s new policy.
In Sydney, 80 people protested outside the immigration department offices in Railway Square. Speakers included Tamil community activist Saradha Nathan; Iranian refugee Mohsen Soltany Zand, who was imprisoned in Port Hedland and Villawood for four years; Greens federal candidate for Sydney Tony Hickey; Jefferson Lee from the Australia-East Timor Association and Jenny Haines from Labor for Refugees.