Thursday, 6 October 2011

Comment on the ALP Draft National Platform

The ALP Draft National Platform is here.

My comment was somewhat limited (700 words max, trying to be pithy).  I realise this does mean anyone from the Party who is totally obsessive can work out who I am.  But I'm sure they are far more busy doing much more meaningful things.  Like counting numbers.


The provisions relating to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers are contradictory and illogical.

The language implies that the obligations placed on us by our signatory status as members of the appropriate UN conventions are voluntary adoption on our part and did not enter into legal force following the adoption of the said conventions. This is incorrect.

We claim to maintain our adherence to these obligations and to ensure that asylum seeker claims will be processed by Australians in Australia and under Australian law. Yet the current Labor Government continues to excise certain proportions of our territories in order to prevent these obligations from being met in all cases. Why should we adhere to any obligations in only the ways we choose to do so?  It's like saying we will obey the law, but only when we feel like it.

The National Platform does not clearly state that seeking asylum is not actually a crime and that those who are considered refugees should find sanctuary.  It does not address the use of security concerns or the lack of documentation which can be assessed by intelligence agencies to refuse to let people who have been declared as 'genuine refugees' into the community.  This speaks to a backward assumption of terror, paranoia and scapegoating, remembering that the lead terrorist attacks have been undertaken by 'home grown' activists or long-stay non-humanitarian arrivals.  It speaks to policy and assumptions brought in under the previous LNP Government, which were not based in evidence, research or a fair understanding of our international obligations.

It is completely understandable that our policies have died in the public's view and our polling is so dire, with the Party unable to get traction or cut through Opposition criticism. As we've continued to scapegoat refugees, to say that it's fair to not help out sometimes, that we can only afford to look after our own, why shouldn't the miners say the same? or the coal producers? or big business?  Why should we consider the needs of low-paid workers, Indigenous Australians, or sell pokies reform?  Vested self-interest has become the norm and we utterly failed to change the basis of this 'national conversation.'

Should this platform be adopted at conference as is, I will no longer be able in good conscience to be a member of the Party, to undertake activities to promote Party candidates or policies, or to honestly consider my vote to be rock solid for the ALP.  As a gay male I understand the disgusting Howardism that has crept into the party and our failure to combat it, but if we fail to treat fairly with some of the most vulnerable in the world, then our definition of 'fair go' becomes meaningless, vacuous and self-interested. It also will fail to hold water in the long term: what makes union members or low paid workers so special?  why should we look out for the environment, or women's rights, or learning, or culture against self-interest, consumerism, profit and need, if we won't consider refugees?  Either everyone deserves fairness or we all don't, and if we all don't, let's just declare it a dog-eat-dog country and join the LNP.

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