A few days before the National ALP Conference on July 22, Labor leader Bill Shorten announced that he would support a policy to turn back boatloads of asylum seekers at sea if it is elected to government. The announcement shocked and angered refugee rights advocates around the country, including members of his own party.
The demonising of asylum seekers is an elaborate exercise in racist scapegoating designed to distract Australians from the real causes of anxiety and insecurity in their lives. We need to be absolutely uncompromising in our resistance to this toxic agenda.
In breaking news, it seems that the Labor Party left cannot agree to oppose a “turn back the boats” policy. So there seems to be no chance that the upcoming national Labor Party Conference in Melbourne on July 24 to 26 will consider opposing the Coalition policy of turning boats back that are attempting to reach this country, so the passengers can claim asylum, a human right.
Remand prison riot over smoking ban First Nations Liberation organised an action on June 30 in solidarity with the inmates, at the Metropolitan Assessment Prison, colloquially known as Metropolitan Aboriginal Prison because so many of the inmates are Aboriginal, following the riot that took place there in response to smoking bans due to commence on July 1. The action included a smoking ceremony. The ABC reported that about 300 prisoners were involved in the disturbance, which included breaching a “secure inner perimeter”.
Asylum-seekers and their supporters have been dealt a cruel blow this week thanks to the shameful, bipartisan support for offshore detention within the Australian parliament. A High Court challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers has been undermined by an eleventh hour bill rushed through the House of Representatives and Senate, unamended and with ALP support, on June 24 and 25.
Early this month the federal government transferred its first infant back Nauru. The five-month-old baby girl known as “Asha” (not her real name), her mother and father were forcibly transported from Melbourne's detention centre to Darwin detention centre and then to Nauru. Refugee activist Siobhan Marren has been campaigning for Asha and her family’s return. She told Green Left Weekly: “Asha is the first baby to be transferred back to offshore detention since the amendment to the Migration Act last December.
The Tony Abbott government’s illegal “Turn Back the Boats” policy is under further scrutiny, following media revelations that in late May, Australian customs officials paid $US30,000 to six crew members on a boat carrying 65 asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, which was heading to New Zealand, from Indonesia.
Thirty refugee rights activists rallied outside Commonwealth offices in Sydney, to coincide with the June 17 presentation of a 65,000 strong petition to the Federal Parliament in Canberra, calling for the immediate closure of Manus Island and Nauru detention centres. The petition is here and can still be signed. Nicole Judge, Manus Island detention centre whistleblower, and Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) spoke at the rally.
A small symbolic protest in the rain was held outside the Commonwealth government offices in Bligh St, Sydney on June 16. The action marked the submission of a petition to the Senate with 65,000 signatures calling for the immediate closure of Manus Island and Nauru asylum seeker detention centres. These Australian offshore asylum seeker detention centres were disasters that could not be fixed, Nicole Judge, a whistleblower and former worker at both centres, told the protest which was organised by the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition.
Reports of physical and sexual violence, including against children, continue to emerge from Australian refugee detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Allegations have also emerged that Australian authorities had paid people smugglers to take a boat of asylum seekers away from Australian waters. But the government has continued to respond with secrecy, vilification of critics and increasingly draconian government measures to prevent information coming out.