Treatment of refugees 'heartless'

Issue 

BY BILL MASON
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BRISBANE — Leading indigenous rights activist and Queensland Senate candidate for the Socialist Alliance, Sam Watson, on August 29 condemned the Australian government's refusal to allow refugees aboard the Norwegian cargo ship MS Tampa to land at Christmas Island.

"This government is heartless and is treating the asylum seekers with the same contempt with which they treat indigenous people. The asylum seekers are obviously desperate, why else would they be risking their lives, and the lives of their children, on the open seas. They need medical treatment and deserve a safe haven", said Watson.

Watson is a veteran campaigner for indigenous rights and an outspoken critic of the federal Coalition government. He believes the federal government is deliberately using the refugee issue to divert anger from itself.

"The Northern Territory election showed how much the [Coalition parties are] on the nose. Taking a hard line on asylum seekers is part of its re-election strategy. They're trying to divert people's anger at the decline in social services and the lack of decent employment opportunities. The government is scapegoating refugees in the same way as they scapegoat indigenous people."

Watson is also disappointed with the Labor Party's support for the government. "It's Labor's spinelessness on these sorts of issues that made me decide to run with Socialist Alliance. We need an alternative. Socialist Alliance takes a principled stand against racism and are not swayed by opinion polls", he said.

Watson was unanimously selected to lead the Socialist Alliance's Queensland Senate team at a special membership conference in Brisbane on August 28. Outspoken prisoner reform lawyer and Democratic Socialist Party member Karen Fletcher will also stand for the Senate.

Ashley Lavelle, a member of the International Socialist Organisation, will be the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Brisbane.

All three candidates are helping organise the protests against the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane in early October. For more information phone Sam Watson on 0401 265 106, Karen Fletcher on 0418 793 117 or Ashley Lavelle on 0412 563 921.

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