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ASYLUM SEEKERS June 14, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The place of Malcolm Fraser, former prime minister, is assured in Australian History as one of the principals in the Constitutional Crisis of 1975.

His humane approach to the question of the treatment of asylum seekers, or refugees, suggests an alternative to the bipartisan politics of fear and cruelty. I am not sure that this issue has ever been put to the people at large, but is one of those policies decided by focus groups, whose importance has increased as membership and participation in political parties has faltered.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Malcolm Fraser writes:

With the popular debate revolving around queue jumpers, people smugglers, our ”asylum seeker problem” and boat people, we have lost focus on the real issues. There is no asylum seeker problem – the only problem is how we, as Australians, treat asylum seekers when they arrive.
We have chosen this ”problem”. We have chosen to leave people in limbo for years, languishing in detention centres or forced to live in poverty and uncertainty.
The choice we make as Australians to either punish or protect people fleeing for their lives has profound consequences for the strength of our national fabric. Punishment sends a message that we follow fear rather than a fair go. Protection embraces the potential that affirms us as Australians and shows that we don’t turn our backs on those in need.
We need to start a new conversation about how, as a country, we respond to what is a moral, not political issue. The hysteria about and fear towards asylum seekers is not only unfounded but should have no place in our country. We are better than this as Australians.

Fear and suspicion, promoted by the rhetoric of the war on terror, not only leads to dehumanization but undermines the possibilities and fundamental processes of democracy. We are not immune. This phenomena is not just something that happens to others.

Postscript:

Without giving details, I was very impressed by one of our local businesses employing an illiterate, refugee woman from Liberia. Her husband had ended up in the same refugee camp, which she had just left, and it was then he learnt she was still alive. I take this an example of kindness.

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