11 May 2011

Andrew Catsaras on asylum seekers and political courage

On Monday 28 February 2011 fellow blogger Andrew Catsaras put up a fine post The courage of NO! on the subject of asylum seekers and the need for political leaders to have the courage to speak out against what they know to be wrong.

He says

The continual refusal by the vast majority of our politicians to deal with this issue, because they either don't want to give away an "electoral advantage" (as it is seen by the Coalition) or don't want to confront an "electoral liability" (as it is seen by the ALP) is a dereliction of their public duty and does nothing to rid the nation of this stain on its character.  In fact, their inaction makes the stain much worse and is in danger of making it indelible and permanent.

Worse, this focus solely on the electoral consequences of taking anything other than a "tough" stance on this issue not only reflects poorly on those politicians who can see the hypocrisy of this position yet refuse to do anything about it, but by legimitising the unfounded and irrational fears of the public these politicians are deliberately and wilfully directing the Australian people away from expressing what is a natural tendency for them - that is, to be compassionate and generous towards others in need.

He gives three case studies of real political courage, political leaders taking a stand even though the cause seemed hopeless. To quote from his concluding summary:

The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr. understood injustice all too well and when he came to realise that the Vietnam War was another injustice, he rose to the challenge and took a stand.

Ioannis Metaxas, when he was given an ultimatum by a much more powerful nation in Fascist Italy that he surrender or else, gave a clear and unequivocal NO!  And the Greeks' defiance played a crucial role in helping to defeat Nazi Germany.

Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, when he was confronted with what he saw as a draconian attempt to isolate and vilify a particular group (The Communist Party) fought the attempt, first in the High Court and won, and then in the court of public opinion, and won again.

Andrew then disposes of the key dangerous and damaging myths concerning asylum seekers – myths that politicians on both sides of the house should make it their business to demolish – the myths that asylum seekers are acting illegally in coming here; that they are rorting the system; that “we are being over-run with these people”; that they are “queue jumpers”; that they get access to benefits that ordinary Australians cannot get; that they do not fit into our society; and that they are terrorists.

This is a fine piece of research and advocacy.

Read Andrew’s complete post here.

No comments: