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Refugees have right to have claims examined

October 21, 2009

Eureka Street: Stop Sri Lanka, not its refugees

Michael Mullins, 19 October 2009

In 2007, then opposition leader Kevin Rudd outfoxed prime minister John Howard in a game of political one-upmanship that was dubbed ‘me-tooism‘. Copying popular government policies was arguably the decisive factor that took Labor to victory in the federal election.

Once the election was over, Rudd moved on and proceeded to implement policies based on principle. We had the ratification of Kyoto, the apology to Indigenous Australians, and more. But now his government has been caught by surprise with the rapid upsurge in the number of refugee boat arrivals, and political instinct is once again determining how it acts.

Rudd said last week: ‘Our job, and I make no apology for it, is to take a hardline approach in dealing with the challenge of illegal immigration.’ The media juxtaposed this with Howard’s infamous hard line from the time of Tampa: ‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.’

In intercepting refugee boats on the high seas to prevent them reaching Australia, the Rudd Government is pursuing the unprincipled strategy for which it criticised the Howard Government. Further, it has co-opted Indonesia. The people on the boats have a right to have their claims examined, and it should be a source of pride for us to honour them by listening to their stories.

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