That's me on an early training run in Byron Bay when I weighed over 100 kg.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Voting for Human Rights

It is election day here in Australia. Asylum Seekers, yet again, are highly politicised and one of the tabloids' favourite 'folk devils'. On the good ship Oz, facts are being thrown overboard like Tampanese Children

Before casting my vote I thought I'd remind myself of a few facts:

1. There is no such thing as "illegals". 

People arriving in Australia are not breaking any law. As Julian Burnside, one Australia's most prominent QCs, says:

"The Coalition’s rhetoric is calculated to make the public believe that asylum seekers have broken the law.  The only way to test that is to ask what law they break.  The answer is: None.  
If Morrison [Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship] was honest about this, he would have to admit:
  • that boat people do not break any law by coming here, without papers, and asking for asylum;
  • that calling them “illegals” is calculated to make the public fearful of boat people;
  • that making the public fear them makes it possible to promise to mistreat them.
Incidentally, the word “illegals”, used as a noun to refer to refugees, was first used in the 1930s in reference to Jewish refugees.  It had the same disreputable purpose then as now: to give governments an excuse to treat them badly."

2. 90% of Asylum seekers are legitimate refugees. 

The majority of "boat-people" arriving on Australian shores are Afghan Hazara fleeing from deathly persecution. They are not, as many claim, "economic migrants". These people are fleeing for their lives and have few places to go.

Each grave is a story, and a unique one. Some were killed while going to work, while others lost their lives on the highways. One Hazara was killed commuting to his business and others on their way back from university. At one corner, five graves are built in a line. These belong to five cousins who had ventured out for a friendly cricket match and were fired upon at close range.

3. Australia is in breach of international law. 

The UN Human Rights Committee has found 143 violations of international law by Australia. This is the largest complaint ever made against Australia to the UN Committee. 

"This policy has subjected refugees to inhuman or degrading treatment in detention, denying effective judicial remedies such as legal appeals.
"It has seen some people detained for up to five years without being given detailed information regarding their detention or when they might be released, while others have been released after years of detention with no explanation, apology or compensation."

Prominent thinkers on all sides of politics are outraged by the refugee policies being touted by the major parties:

Malcolm Fraser, Former Liberal PM, says:

"The policies have become so unreal, so inhumane overall, it’s very hard to look at just one aspect, which increases the uncaring nature of the opposition. The terrible thing is that the opposition and the government both believe they can win votes by behaving in this way."

Barry Jones, Polymath and former Federal Labor candidate, says:

"The dehumanisation of refugees, who become faceless, nameless and rightless, is our greatest moral stain since the campaigns to hunt down and kill Aborigines."

Julian Burnside, AO QC, in his forthright article: How should we vote? says:

"This year has seen both major parties competing to outdo each other in their promises of cruelty to boat people.  If they were promising to be cruel to animals, they would be run out of town. If they were promising to be cruel to Jews, or to blue-eyed people, or to carpenters, they would be run out of town.  But they have demonised asylum seekers – by dishonestly calling them “illegals”, by dishonestly suggesting that they are a threat to us.  Having created a false sense of concern about boat people, they can now win votes by promising to mistreat them.  It is an old, and disgraceful, technique."

He also offered some pragmatic suggestions about saving money with a more humane response. 

"There are plenty of country towns which are slowly shrinking as people leave. Given that AgForce Queensland, a leading industry body, estimates that there are an estimated 96,000 unfilled full-time argicultural jobs in country areas"

Here are some resources on voting options around the Human Rights issue:

  • GetUp have produced a series of policy scorecards for each electorate, which includes a section on Human Rights
  • The Refugee Council of Australia have produced a summary (PDF) of the policies of major parties.
  • And well-researched Refugee Facts have a concise summary of key policy Similarities and Differences.

Well, its time for me to go and vote...

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