'Minister for racism' confronted

Issue 

BY NICK SOUDAKOFF

DARWIN — Twenty spirited demonstrators chanted "Deport Ruddock, not the refugees" in protest at an appearance by the minister for immigration at a meeting here on February 1.

The meeting, attended by 100 people, was part of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs' consultations on the 2001-2002 Migration and Humanitarian Programs.

In his speech, Philip Ruddock sought to defend Australia's low refugee intake, claimed it was needed because of economic and environmental limitations on Australia's ability to absorb greater numbers of people.

Even though this was the first time Ruddock had spoken in Darwin, the meeting was shrouded in secrecy. A tiny notice in the NT Times revealed no details except a phone number. Entry to the meeting required people to sign a registration form, which included the requirement to declare the attendee's political affiliation and reasons for attending.

Ruth Ratcliffe, the Darwin organiser of the socialist youth group Resistance which called the action, urged protesters to rally every time Ruddock, the "minister for racism", and his ALP counterpart Con Sciacca make a public appearance.

"We need to be the 'coast watch' against racism!", she declared.