Monday, May 14, 2007

Human Rights in Australia: For refugees it just goes from bad to worse

The Australian Democrats have attacked the 'draconian' refugee welfare changes being pushed through by the Howard Government. Punishment on top of punishment on top of bullying on top of...

In the increasingly combative electoral climate Howard is again ramping up the "tough on refugees" line. He knows its a winner with large slices of the electorate, accustomed to his brand of political correctness - its ok to be afraid of refugees and to treat them like social pariahs, but 'don't worry about that while I'm around!'.

Its classic Howard. Get the troops out to bash Labor on every issue that panders to our darkest fears. Set up the straw dog to fear, find someone or some group to blame & punish and then put yourself forward as the saviour of the day. The security man who sells you razor wire to keep out pygmy possums, and if they still get in, rounds them up and trains them to do your every bidding. Its always easy when the group you are hounding are defenseless, vulnerable and scared of being kicked back over the fence.

The ABC reports "the Democrats have attacked Federal Government moves to cut the amount of time refugees can spend in Australia before they have to start searching for work.

New arrivals have had up to 13 weeks of unemployment allowance without having to look for a job but the Government is cutting that to six weeks.

People who are learning English for at least 20 hours a week will be exempt but Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett says it is a draconian step.

"I think it's overkill with an eye on the political benefits of the perceptions from the general community, rather than a genuine desire to help refugees," he said.

"There's plenty of different ways you can encourage and assist and provide incentives without having to immediately resort to threatening people's income, particularly for a group of people who already have significant disadvantages."

Yes, but then that would mean treating refugees as human beings with the same needs and concerns as the rest of us. It would require moral leadership and compassion. Forget it - not on this Prime Minister's watch!

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