Who’s really rotten?

An email, sent out to the Liberal Party’s mailing list, claims that there have been “40,000 illegal arrivals under Labor”.

According to the email, “that’s more than the population of Kalgoorlie-Boulder (30,900), Wodonga (31,600), Gladstone (32,100), Queanbeyan (35,900) and Tamworth (36,200).”

Some facts about asylum seekers:

  • Under the Universal declaration of human rights everyone has the right to seek asylum. Doing so is not illegal.
  • Asylum seekers, no matter their mode of arrival, are considered by Australian law to be ‘unlawful non-citizens’, however, the term ‘unlawful’ does not mean they have committed a criminal offence.
  • There is no offence under Australian law which criminalises the act of arriving in Australia without a valid visa or seeking asylum.
  • Developing nations take the vast majority of the world’s refugees.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, when UNHCR wrote its Global trends paper, the five countries which hosted the highest number of refugees were Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Germany and Jordan.
  • Australia was ranked 47th in this same report, taking just 0.2 per cent of the global total

The Opposition found itself in trouble a few weeks ago for using similar terminology, when Opposition Leader Tony Abbott travelled to Western Australia to address the media. He stood in front of a billboard which read, “How many illegal boats have arrived since Labor took over? 639 illegal boats”.

While he was taking questions from journalists Mr Abbott was heckled by a member of the crowd, who took issue with his use of the word ‘illegal’.

“When you’ve got the illegal arrival problem that this government has created (Background heckler) They’re not illegal, you’re lying! (Abbott) You can say…(heckler) you know it’s a lie! (Abbott) You can say your piece in a sec, let me say my piece and then you can say yours sir.”

Within 24 hours of the billboard going up, it had been vandalised. The number 641 was replaced by a zero and the vandals had added the words: no crime to seek asylum.

You can read more about Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s speech on the SBS website

Find out more about asylum seeker statistics at the UNHCR website

View the email from the Liberal Party online. 

Opinion: Misinformation and scare-mongering

40,000 asylum seekers sounds like a lot, especially when you compare it to the populations of some of Australia’s rural towns. But when you look at it in the bigger picture, 40,000 is only 0.17 per cent of Australia’s population – less than one fifth of one per cent. And we aren’t taking 40,000 every year – that’s in the six years since the Labor Government took power.

The email in which this information was published goes on to say, “it is a failure that has cost lives, damaged our country’s reputation, cost over $6.6 billion in Budget blowouts and resulted in tens of thousands of people dumped into the community.”

Nowhere does the email mention that it is not illegal to seek asylum, or that those who arrive by boat have not committed a criminal act in seeking asylum.

I think this counts as misinformation and scare mongering. How has Australia’s reputation been damaged? Is agreeing to take our fair share of refugees such an embarrassment? And which lives have been lost? The lives of the same asylum seekers the Opposition would like to turn away?

I would also be interested to see a breakdown of those costs and how the Liberal Party came up with the figures, but that information has not been provided.

I understand that the idea of opening our doors to so many people is scary. I myself found the numbers quite daunting until I put them in perspective. But turning away those is need is such an unAustralian act I’m surprised we’re even considering it.

What do you think? Should the Federal Government stop the boats to first look after the Australians who need their assistance, or should we continue to help those seeking asylum?

Fun fact: in the top left had corner of the email from the Liberal Party, written in very small type, are the words ‘Labor’s Rotten’. The childishness of whoever wrote it made me sad.