Successive Australian governments have turned their backs on national values and embraced policies that are inherently selfish and self-serving. From shrinking aid budgets and reduced refugee intakes, to processing of refugees in prison-like conditions, long gone are the days where Australian politics embraced egalitarianism, giving a fair go, and being a responsible global citizen.
In 2022, the Australian government risks polarising countries into friends or enemies. The current brand of divisive politics is neither humanitarian in spirit, nor based in values everyday Australians expect from their leaders. We have forgotten an important part of what it means to be a global leader: a willingness to assist ALL people fleeing violence and seeking shelter, regardless of where they are from.
The most visible example is Ukraine, where the Australian government committed to taking in thousands of refugees and pledged 50 million dollars in aid. Yet at the same time, thousands of Afghans are still waiting for their humanitarian visa applications to be considered, and over 100 refugees and asylum seekers remain held in hotels in Australia, or on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, victims of Australia's cruel and repressive offshore processing policy. Meanwhile, the government continues to shut out people from Eastern and Western Africa fleeing violence and persecution, who don’t have the same media coverage as Ukraine.
At the upcoming election, Australians can and must vote for candidates and parties who look at refugees seeking asylum as a humanitarian issue first, and not a burden or a security threat.
Australia’s refugee policies thus far have been costly and cruel. As a direct result of punitive offshore policies designed to deter people from reaching Australia’s shores, refugees and asylum seekers have languished for almost nine years while being held in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Australia. It took tennis player Novak Djokovic being detained in a hotel that’s held refugees for years to draw attention to this national shame.