Thursday, March 18, 2004
Refugees… and the Politics of Fear
Tanya Plibersek MP (Federal Member for Sydney)
Mark Goudkamp (Refugee Action Coalition NSW)
Sally McManus (Executive President: Australian Services Union)
Monday April 5 – 7:15pm
Rooty Hill Uniting Church
86 Rooty Hill Rd North, Rooty Hill
During the 2001 election, the Howard government demonised and criminalised refugees fleeing from oppressive regimes. Ironically, many of them were fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq.
Fears of massive hoards of foreign invaders at our borders were conjured up, despite the small numbers. The alleged terrorist threat was discussed, although no known terrorist has ever entered Australia this way. Attempts were made to dehumanise those who arrived with the sensationalist ‘Children Overboard’ allegation (later shown to be a lie), and the politics of fear successfully swept Howard back into office.
With him came the incredibly expensive pacific solution, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Along with the financial cost came the physical and mental suffering of people detained for four years without having committed any crime, the cost of children becoming withdrawn and suffering mental illness, the cost of desperate people without hope and without a future.
Mandatory Detention, an integral part of the Howard Governments response to refugees not only costs taxpayers, as well as those that undergo it, but it is excessive by international standards. No other developed nation on earth has a system that results in asylum seekers remaining in detention centres for years. Most nations set a short limit, of several weeks, to conduct identity and health checks before allowing refugees to live in the community while their refugee status is confirmed.
It is time we reclaimed the compassion, the generosity and the mateship that once marked Australian’s, and seek a better future for refugees.
Join the WSPG Peace Train - First Carriage 10:20 Penrith (all stations to Seven Hills), 10:31 Mt Druitt, 10:42 Blacktown, 10.53 Parramatta.
For more details call: Tim Vollmer on 0404 273 313
Global Day of Action on the Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq
12 noon – Saturday March 20 – Hyde Park North
JOHN PILGER (Writer, commentator, and celebrated documentary-maker)
ANDREW WILKIE (Former senior intelligence analyst who resigned over the Howard Government's decision to go to war)
KERRY NETTLE (Greens Senator)
SAIF ABU KESHK (Palestinian activist and resident of the West Bank, Saif is on a national speaking tour of Australia)
SUSAN PRICE (Vice-President of the UNSW branch of the National Tertiary Education Union)
JUDY DAVIS (Australian actor and outspoken critic of the war on Iraq)
Funky tunes by: URBAN GUERRILLAS / WIRE MC
Look forward to seeing you all there…
AT SIX o'clock yesterday evening (Saturday 13 March) a demonstration was called at the offices of the ruling Popular (conservative) Party against the government's news manipulation. It was called by word of mouth, by phone calls and by email.
At first there were about a hundred of us there and the police wanted to clear us from the street. They began demanding our identity cards.
But soon instead of a hundred we were 500 and they changed their approach. They told us the demonstration was illegal because it was a "day of reflection" prior to the elections and you were forbidden to discuss politics on this day.
We asked why what the minister of the interior said on television was "not politics".
Ten thousand people, maybe more, joined us. The police tried to block us in, but we were too many for them to charge against us.
People chanted, "our dead, your war", "this is the price of oil", "those in the government palace don't live in the poor suburbs", "liars", "still we say it, no to the war", "don't exploit the dead", and "get out".
People began arriving who were banging pots and pans and the great majority of people who did not have them joined in the noise by shaking their key rings.
People began to hand round handwritten bits of paper which said, "Demonstration midnight, in the Puerta de Sol. Copy this and pass it on."
In an electrifying atmosphere thousands of people began moving through the streets in that direction at 11.30pm. There were people waiting to join it.
We were many more than when we started, perhaps 15.000.
People chanted, "Everyone is not here, 200 people are missing", referring to
Thursday's dead. The Puerta de Sol (the historic centre of Madrid) was full of people.
There were minutes of silence for the victims and then we marched off again,
towards the Atocha station, one of the places where the bombs went off.
By this time (one in the morning) everyone already knew that al-Qaeda had
claimed responsibility for the bombing. They also knew about the arrest of the five suspects.
Madrid was brought to a complete halt by the demonstration going through the
main streets. People applauded us from their balconies, banging pots and pans.
Cars joined in, sounding their horns. Everyone was animated and would not stop chanting against Aznar and the government.