So apparently I need to write about asylum seekers after all

I realise that the appropriate response to the news that the Australian Government plans to turn asylum seekers living in the community out onto the streets with no income is not exasperation, but rather horror, fury, or grief, but I have to say, exasperation was what I went with on reading the news yesterday.

I mean, is it too much to ask for the government to only be appalling on one front at a time?

Seriously, guys.  *Either* you get to destroy the Great Barrier Reef, *or* you can find new ways to pick on poor people, *or* you can waste $122 million on a divisive, non-binding postal survey about marriage equality which will do absolutely no good to anyone, *or* you can continue to pursue counterproductive policies that worsen the situation for indigenous Australians, *or* you can do horrible things to asylum seekers while calling the people who help them unAustralian.  But you have to choose.  You don’t get to do all of them.  It’s not fair, and it’s just being greedy.  What are the other politicians going to do when they want to be terrible, if you’ve already done everything?

You need to learn to share.  Pick one horrible cause, and leave the others for someone else to play with.

Actually, no, don’t pick one horrible cause.  Pick none of them.  All of those things are disgusting, and I can’t honestly believe that everyone in the Coalition is as awful as those policies make them sound. There must be someone in there with a heart, surely…

Anyway, for me, the five stages of dealing with politics are exasperation, anger, depression, writing letters to politicians, and blog posts.  I’ve done the first four, so here we are with number five.

Here are a couple of quotes from the letter that was apparently sent to asylum seekers:

“You will be expected to support yourself in the community until departing Australia… If you cannot find work to support yourself in Australia you will need to return to a regional processing country or any country where you have a right of residence.

“From Monday 28 August you will need to find money each week for your own accommodation costs. From this date, you will also be responsible for all your other living costs like food, clothing and transport. You are expected to sign the Code of Behaviour when you are released into the Australian community. The Code of Behaviour outlines how you are to behave in the community.”

In short:

Basically, the government is giving asylum seekers who came to us for help the choice of starving on the streets, indefinite imprisonment in circumstances which they know to be abusive, or returning to a country where they were in danger.

And yes, I’m exasperated, but only because if I stop being exasperated I start crying.  This is so needlessly cruel, and I just don’t understand how someone can think it is OK to do that to people.  (And that goes double for someone calling himself a Christian – has he actually *read* the Bible?  It has quite a lot to say about asylum seekers, actually.)

The difficulty is that I am really and truly running out of ways to say the same things, and it is so very disheartening to write letters to Dutton and Turnbull and co – or even to Shorten and Neumann and get the usual form letters in return.  It’s pretty clear that none of them are listening, which makes it very hard to apply leverage.  (Though at some point, I may write a letter to the Treasurer about the sheer economic stupidity of all of this.  $200 per fortnught plus accommodation is peanuts compared to what we pay to house people on Manus Island.)

Anyway.  I was at a marriage equality rally on the weekend, and one of the campaigners there made the rather sensible point that our energy would be better spent not in trying to turn ‘No’ votes to ‘Yes’ votes, but in making sure the people who were ‘Yes’ voters actually turned up and voted.

It seems to me that the same thing applies here.  I’ve rung Dutton’s office plenty of times in the past, and sent letters and emails, and get the same line in return every time, and the only thing that changes is my blood pressure, and not for the better.

I’ve also written to my local member, Peter Khalil, whose emails in return have always been quite heartening.  He’s a member of Labor for Refugees, and I think that’s the first time I’ve ever had a letter back from a politician that acknowledged that their party’s policies were not good enough (though naturally, Mr Khalil informed me, they are better than those of the Liberal Party and the Greens.  Well, he is in the ALP, after all…).  Melissa Parke, Lisa Singh, Jill Hall and Sue Lines have also spoken publicly of the need to improve Labor’s policies in this area.  Parke and Hall are no longer in Parliament, but Singh and Lines are still there.

On the other side of the aisle, Liberal MP Russel Broadbent made a speech in Parliament a couple of weeks ago calling for asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru to be settled in Australia.  Presumably, his plan was to allow them food and housing, too.   This is not the first time Broadbent has stood up for refugees.  In fact, he’s had form on this since the Howard era.  (Marise Payne was also part of this group saying in 2002 that ‘detention centres are no places for women and children‘, but seems to have voted consistently with the government in favour of off-shore processing in recent years. The other MPs who opposed Howard on this issue in 2005 have since retired.).

Independents are also a possibility.  Cathy McGowan said that her office was ‘flooded with letters, with phone calls’ about asylum seekers, and she has spoken in Parliament about the need for Australia to have a more compassionate, sustainable policy.

So perhaps the place to put pressure isn’t on the Duttons of this world, but on the Khalils and the Broadbents and the McGowans.  They clearly have their hearts in the right place – and I can’t imagine it is at all easy particularly for Broadbent to advocate from within the party room for more humane treatment of asylum seekers – but asylum seekers need more than words right now.

The Greens have also been consistently pro-asylum seeker, but again, asylum seekers in Australia need practical help at this point.  And yes, there are churches and secular organisations who are doing great work at present, but our Members of Parliament are supposed to be leaders of their communities.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask them to show some leadership in this arena.

Maybe it’s time we did ask them for that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ACTION TIME!

Support the people supporting asylum seekers

I started making a big list of organisations who are doing great work in this area, and then I realised that I make one of these big lists every six months or so, and it’s usually the same list.  So here, have a brand new page full of organisations who support asylum seekers in Australia.

How to find your MP or Senators

And, in the hours since I started writing this post, GetUp! has created a tool so that you can contact your MP directly.  I”ll leave my links up above, in case you are reading this post in a few weeks and the GetUp! campaign is over, because it’s always nice to know how best to bother your MPs, don’t you think?  But the GetUp! link is very handy if you are short on time, and even has some tips on things to say.

Contact details for MPs and Senators who have spoken recently in support of asylum seekers

Note 1: Closing the camps, increasing our refugee intake, and shortening processing times for asylum seekers are all part of the Australian Greens’ platform, so I haven’t listed all their Senators and MPs individually.  I do think it’s still worth contacting them, however, so follow this link to a list of current Greens Senators and MPs.  Once you find a Senator or MP in your area, click through for their contact details.  If that link fails at some point, this one, which goes to the Greens website directly, lists their Senators and MPs and you can click through for contact details.

Note 2: There are bound to be plenty I’ve missed – please mention them in the comments, and I’ll add them to this list.

Contact details for the usual suspects

Some letters

As usual, these are far from perfect. But imperfect and *sent*, is better than perfect and still sitting in your drafts folder.  I encourage you to write

Dear Mr Khalil,

Thank you for work within the Labor Party towards a more humane policy for asylum seekers who look for refuge in Australia.

I’m writing in regard to the Government’s plan to withdraw income and accommodation support for asylum seekers currently living in the community.  I know that Shayne Neumann has decried this as a ‘new low’, and speaking out against this proposal is certainly important, but I would like to know what practical steps the ALP, if any, will be taking to help the people affected?

Realistically, asylum seekers in our community cannot afford to wait for a change of government for their situation to be resolved, and charitable organisations such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre are already overburdened.

I believe that there are many in the community – and particularly in your electorate! – who would be very happy to be a part of any practical solution, but it would be good to see some real, concrete leadership from the ALP on this matter.

Thank you again for your support on the policy front.  I don’t imagine that it is easy to be pushing for settlement of asylum seekers in Australia in the current political climate.

Kind regards,

Catherine

~~~~~

Dear Mr Broadbent,

I am writing to thank you for continuing to speak out against the Coalition’s harsh policies on people seeking asylum.  I don’t imagine that it is easy to be pushing for settlement of asylum seekers in Australia in the current political climate.

I hope that your example will encourage others in Parliament to take a more compassionate view of asylum seekers.

Best wishes,

Catherine

~~~~~~

Dear Ms McGowan,

I’m not a resident of Indi, but I wanted to thank you for speaking in Parliament against Australia’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers, and to add my name to the list of people sending letters to your office on this matter.

I hope that your example will encourage others in Parliament to take a more compassionate view of asylum seekers.

Best wishes,

Catherine

~~~~~~

Dear Senator Di Natale,

I’d like to thank you and your team for your commitment to a more compassionate, practical asylum seeker policy.

I’m writing in regard to the Government’s plan to withdraw income and accommodation support for asylum seekers currently living in the community.  I understand that you are opposed to this scheme, but I’d like to know what practical steps, if any, the Greens will be taking to help the people affected?

Realistically, asylum seekers in our community cannot afford to wait for a change of government for their situation to be resolved, and charitable organisations such as the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre are already overburdened.

I believe that there are many in the community – and particularly among your support base – who would be very happy to be a part of any practical solution, but it would be good to see some real, concrete leadership from the Greens on this matter.

Thank you again for your support on the policy front.  I don’t imagine that it is easy to be pushing for settlement of asylum seekers in Australia in the current political climate.

Kind regards,

 

Catherine

~~~~~~~

Dear Mr Turnbull,

I’m writing to express my opposition to the Government’s plan to withdraw income and accommodation support for asylum seekers currently living in the community.

It is unrealistic to expect people who have been prevented from seeking work or training to find employment and accommodation when many Australians who have access to these things are unable to do so.  It is cruel to take young people out of their final years of school and subject them to this stress.  And it is particularly inhumane to do this to people who came to us for help and were in many cases harmed in our care while on Manus Island or Nauru.

This is a brutal policy, designed to force vulnerable people back into situations where they have already been subject to abuse.

I urge you to disavow it, and to let the asylum seekers who are already in our community stay here in safety.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Catherine

One thought on “So apparently I need to write about asylum seekers after all

  1. The more this government pulls crap like this, the more I think that those of them who read the Bible came away with the idea that Herod was a role model.

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