It occurs to me that as an impassioned democrat I should, perhaps, draw on that great democratic resource: impassioned letter writing.
Next week the Australian Senate will discuss the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas. I encourage you to contact your Senators and ask them to exercise compassion. Queensland’s Senators are:
Senator the Hon Ronald Boswell – The Nationals
(07) 3001 8150
Senator Sue Boyce – Liberal Party
(07) 3862 4044
Senator the Hon George Brandis QC – Liberal Party
(07) 3001 8180
Senator Mark Furner – ALP
(07) 3881 3710
Senator the Hon John Hogg – ALP
(07) 3843 4066
Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig – ALP
(07) 3229 4477
I sent each Senator the following email and will be calling their offices on Monday. Please join me.
I am writing to you in the hope that you will support the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas. In the hope that you will, together with your fellow Senators, reaffirm the values that make this country great: a fair go, mateship, support for the underdog. This is not a country that turns its back, slams the door shut, closes its heart.
But it is not only compassion that should convince you TPVs are a bad idea. They have no deterrent effect: it is well-established that their introduction simply led to increased numbers of women and children risking their lives on leaky boats. If they are not intended for deterrence, one imagines the intent is to punish those who have arrived by boat: a breach of international law, which prohibits the punishment of refugees for their mode of arrival, and an intent unworthy of this nation.
But perhaps it is not intended to punish, but merely to prevent refugees from putting down serious roots in this country, in the hopes that they will, one day, be able to leave. It is difficult to comprehend the value Australia gains from this policy: indeed, the Department of Immigration and Border Control, on page 5 of the Community Programmes Service Providers’ Newsletter #8 recognises the benefits refugees can bring to Australian businesses. “They provide employers with unique skills, international experience and diverse cultural perspectives”.
Knowing that these refugees are liable, every three years, to have their TPVs revoked makes investment in these unique skills less attractive to potential employers. It robs the Australian economy of a source of growth and may, in some cases, contribute to welfare dependency.
But perhaps this is a national security issue. In that case, I fail to see how keeping an often traumatised and certainly vulnerable refugee community on the margins of our society – discouraging them from integrating into the community, from embracing our liberal democratic values – can possibly make us more secure. Why breed discontent and resentment where we could embrace different perspectives and a demonstrated determination to survive and thrive?
For me, though, this is not about economics or national security. It is about compassion. Please, Senator, try, for just one moment, to imagine a world turned upside down. A world in which Australia is no longer safe for you and I, a world in which torture and hunger and persecution are suddenly a part of our day-to-day, a world in which we are forced to flee. A world in which the only sanctuary we find is temporary.
I would be consumed by fear.
But we were lucky, you and I, to be born into the Lucky Country. Please, remember the arbitrariness of this luck. We did nothing to deserve it. But we can, through our actions, earn it, and extend that luck to the most vulnerable among us.
Support the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas.