A possie in Aussie

February 24, 2010

In which I painfully admit that a Liberal government was better for asylum seekers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nayano @ 3:46 pm

Last weekend some Chinese students studying here and hoping for PR asked me which government is best for migrants. After some painful thought I had to say ‘Liberal’. And followed that with ‘But not that I would ever vote for them!’

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has just released his memoir: Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs (by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons), and in an interview on the launch said that there ‘maybe’ was a racist culture within the immigration department. Immigration dept is racist: Fraser

I think he’s wrong about the department, but his record gives him some right to criticise.

Fraser blamed the immigration department for policies such as remote detention centres, but it was in fact the Labor government under Paul Keating that introduced mandatory detention.

At the end of the war in Vietnam, the Hawke Labor government accepted Vietnamese refugees but on strict conditions. Prime Minister Whitlam’s personal prejudices played a part in the parsimonious nature of the response. Some of the few who made it to Australia were required, as a condition of their entry, to sign an undertaking that they would not engage in political activity. A recently released departmental file records that Prime Minister Whitlam advised: ‘Do not accept that a person claiming to be a refugee … is entitled to claim residence in Australia’, and warned against repeating the importation of fascists from the Baltic states after the war.

The Fraser government, however, admitted Vietnamese on the sole basis of legitimate claims to refuge, and refugees from Laos and Cambodia were also admitted. The positive stance of the Fraser government continued, and in 1978 Immigration Minister Michael Mackellar announced that it was not illegal to be a refugee, and that the ‘boat people’ were not ‘illegal immigrants’ nor ‘queue jumpers’.

The students I spoke to were probably ‘better off’ under Howard, because they came to Australia under that regime, and now have had the rug pulled from under them in their quest for permanency by the Rudd government’s reforms to student and work visas – but in the end, all international students  will benefit. Those caught in the changeover, however, suffer.

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