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Issue #1572      7 November 2012

CPA statement

Asylum seekers and the legal excision of the Australian mainland

The intention of the Gillard government to excise the Australian mainland from the country’s migration zone deserves the strongest possible condemnation. This cruel act – a clear breach of the letter and the spirit of UN Convention on Refugees to which Australia is a signatory– was rejected by the Labor Party when it was in opposition to the Howard government. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on August 10, 2006, speaking against the Howard government’s legislation, said:

“This is a bad bill (Excision of the Mainland) with no redeeming features. It is a hypocritical and illogical bill. If it is passed today, it will be a stain on our national character…. If it is passed, it will be repealed by an incoming Labor government. Decency and self-respect as a nation would demand nothing less.”

They still demand nothing less today.

The backflip has arisen from the opportunism of the parliamentary Labor Party on the question of boat arrivals and is the next “logical” step following the reintroduction of mandatory detention and the restoration of prison-like detention centres associated with the Howard government’s “Pacific Solution”.

The CPA rejects the cynical claim that these measures are motivated by concern for the safety of asylum seekers coming to Australia aboard boats from Indonesia. It is motivated by political opportunism and capitulation to the hysteria whipped up by xenophobes in the political sphere, in the media and on the margins of the community. The contrast between the treatment of very wealthy applicants for business migration and those desperately seeking peace and security could not be clearer.

The CPA supports the demands of the majority of the Australian people for an end to Australian involvement in US-led military engagement in wars such as Afghanistan. It calls for a new approach to relations between developed and developing countries based on respect and mutual benefit; not aggression and exploitation. Only measures of this nature will prevent a growing global refugee crisis. It is folly to think a “fortress Australia” can be built that can ignore the suffering of people caused by policies and intervention supported by Australia, the US and other imperialist states.  

Next article – Letter to the Editor from Asylum Seekers on Nauru

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