No we don’t. We foot the bill for Labor’s failed policies.
Fraser and his ilk share the blame for the insane, genocidal Â invasion of this country Â by the soldiers of allah.Â Fraser is the Jimmy Carter of Australian politics.
Open our hearts, and our doors, to refugees
On the front page ofÂ The AgeÂ last Monday, we were given an authoritative account of what is happening on Nauru. The despair, the disillusion, the self-harm, the attempted suicides are all testimony to the brutality of the current Australian government’s policy – a policy that was initiated by the Liberal Party.
We need to realise that the government is doing these things in our name, in the name of every Australian. Every Australian carries some part of the guilt for asylum-seeker policies that are inhumane and brutal.
Every Australian carries some part of the guilt for asylum-seeker policies that are inhumane and brutal.
There is so much misunderstanding on this issue. Ever since the Tampa incident in 2001, government ministers, both Liberal and Labor, have sought to demonise boat people and make Australians fear them. Such claims are wilful, designed to justify a policy of brutality, and reminiscent of the actions of tyrannical dictators, not of a democratic government in Australia.
Earlier in our national history, when large numbers of people fled Indochina, both the government and the opposition took a different view of these issues and, as a result, we have a thriving, vigorous, vital community of Vietnamese Australians who are contributing enormously to this country.
I had hoped the days of racial discrimination had been put aside and that Australia had developed into a more humane society. I want to deal with one of the false claims that are so often made: that boat people are queue jumpers who are being unfair to those who have spent years in United Nations refugee camps.
In earlier times, the number of boat people who came here were additional to the number we committed ourselves to take from those camps. It was the Howard government that linked the two by determining that for every boat person, the number coming from camps should be diminished. That does not have to be. That was a decision of government that could be undone.
If you lived in a country governed by a tyrannical regime, and your parents had been killed, and family members had been brutalised and put in prison without trial or in some cases shot without trial, what would you then do? You could not go to the government and ask for papers. That would immediately get you into trouble. So people travel without papers, something recognised in the 1954 Refugee Convention, to which Australia was one of the first signatories.
With regard to Australian policy on Nauru and on Manus Island, ask yourself this: are we prepared to allow our government to establish a regime so brutal that the terror it creates would rival the terror from which people flee?
Remember this: the Immigration Department’s most recent figures show that about 90 per cent of those who arrive by boat, once they are processed, are proved to be genuine refugees.
I know in Australia many people now have a fear of Muslims because they believe that terrorism is synonymous with Islam. Our government knows that is false. The largest Islamic country in the world is very close to us, to our north. The Islamic movements in Indonesia are overwhelmingly peaceful and exhibit values of humanity which Australia and its policies seem to have put aside.
Someone said to me only two weeks ago: ”We departed from the White Australia Policy too early.” Is that the nub of the problem: a different religion and a different colour? Our politicians won’t put it like that, but is that the truth of the matter? Where is the common humanity?
Tony Abbott wants all Australians to be taught about Christianity, to be made to read the Bible. Does he not realise that our founding fathers decided that Australia should be a secular state? It was a deliberate act to reject the English idea of an established church. By that decision, there was a recognition that religions and different sects of religions should all be treated in the same way.
I would have no problem with religion being taught in schools, as long as children were taught about all the world’s great religions and the common thread of humanity and of humane values that runs through all those religions. A wider knowledge on these matters would be a good thing.
We also have to recognise that, on occasions, ideologues from every religion have exploited their faith and, in the name of their faith, have preached hatred, brutality and terrorism. Wherever they come from, such people should be condemned.
Since Abbott has introduced the question of Christianity into public debate, it may be worth asking ourselves also where he can find any justification for Australia’s refugee policies within Christianity or any other religion. How has it come about that the political party that has the toughest policies believes it will win the most votes?
A worldwide campaign to find homes for those who are in UN camps, led by Australia as a new member of the Security Council, would be worthwhile. So, too, would greater efforts by the West to examine its own policies, to see where they contribute to peace or where they contribute to the continuation of terrorism. We don’t have to look further than the West’s one-sided policies relating to Israel and Palestine to know that that is an abscess which breeds terrorists and will do so until there is a viable two-state solution.
There is a federal election in Australia later this year. I have met so many people who don’t want to vote for either party. If Australia had been led in a humane direction, I am sure a majority would have followed.
These policies go to the heart of the core values which we believe are important as a people, as a nation. Although our politicians will vigorously deny it, they have done Australia grave and serious harm among all the countries of east and south-east Asia. Alternative policies are available, as the government well knows, but where is the will, where is the leadership from either party?
Malcolm Fraser was prime minister from 1975 to 1983.