Op Ed colum on the government now not accepting bone fide UN recognisecd refugees.

by ray goodlass

My Op Ed column about the Abbott government’s about face on accepting refugees recognised by the UN in Indonesia published today in the Daily Advertiser. I began the column with a brief reference to the government’s broken promise cuts to the ABC, and unfortunately the paper used that as the headline. Perhaps the Sub Editors only read the first sentence!

Anyway, here’s the column in full:

Government going back on its word

This past week there have been two glaring examples of the Abbott government going back on its word. The first was a clear broken election promise not to cut ABC and SBS funding, which, very damaging though they will be to both organisations, seem to be driven by an anti-public broadcasting ideology rather than economic sense, given that the dollar amounts are proportionally not significant in the big picture of the Abbott/Hockey phantom budget crisis.

Though some National Party MPs have spoken out against these cuts, Michael McCormack, at the time of writing, has been silent on the issue. Your colleagues know the importance of the ABC to regional and rural Australia. Don’t you?

However, disturbed though I am by the prospect of getting my news and public affairs commentary via Rupert Murdoch and his ilk, this week I also want to comment on something else equally disturbing, which is the news that Australia has taken its stand against boat arrivals to a new level, saying it will no longer resettle asylum seekers found to be refugees by the United Nation’s refugee agency in Indonesia who registered after July 1.

There are also rumours that the decision could be wider than this (SMH, 20 November), and may be applied to all asylum seekers found to be genuine refugees recommended by UNHCR in transit countries such as Syria, Iran, Malaysia and Iraq.

But human rights advocates were appalled at the decision, questioning the real motives behind it. Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power said the decision was “absolutely outrageous.” “This will put Indonesia under even more pressure,” he said.

It is understood Labor will be seeking answers and clarification on the impacts of the decision, whilst Greens spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young, ever a gutsy spokesperson for the rights of refugees, said the decision was “narrow-minded” and “hard-hearted”.

“This is the exact opposite of what the government should be doing,” she said.

“We should be working with our neighbours, accelerating refugee processing and increasing Australia’s intake from the region so that people are given a safe way to reach protection. That’s the only way we can save lives at sea while caring for refugees.”

Elaine Pearson from Human Rights Watch said: “If Australia really cared about saving lives at sea, then it would take more people from Indonesia, not less, because it would want to prevent people taking perilous boat journeys.”

What really troubles me is that for many years the Liberal/Nationals coalition has been arguing that asylum seekers who have got as far an Indonesia should ‘Join the queue and apply for UN refugee status. Now Captain Abbott’s team is contradicting itself by cutting off even this tenuous lifeline.

And to compound their sin, surely they are as aware as the rest of us, that there are no UN refugee offices in places where most of the asylum seekers are fleeing from, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Pull the other one, Mr Morrison.

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