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Andren supports PM censure.



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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare

M e d i

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R e l e a

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14 February 2002

Andren Supports PM Censure

The Prime Minister and Government were censured in Parliament today for dishonesty over claims made during the election campaign that asylum seekers had thrown their children overboard from a refugee boat off Christmas Island.

In supporting the censure, Mr Andren told Parliament that “there is absolutely no doubt that this government sailed home in the last election with its sails full of hysteria built up around the issue of asylum seekers.”

“They have been consistently dubbed as “illegals” by members of the Government, and the former leader of the House Peter Reith went so far as to suggest they were probably terrorists.

“This demonising of the refugee applicants began in earnest with the Tampa episode, I believe deliberately manufactured to exploit the fears and concerns within the electorate.

“I took on those fears and concerns during the election campaign, and the smear tactics of the National Party in Calare fell flat because the people were able to discuss them with me personally and in various forums and have facts instead of fear put in front of them.

“The October 7th incident involving the suspected illegal entry vessel … but not illegal asylum seekers … fitted neatly into the election program.

“The public and the media were duped. The emotive argument that asylum seekers had thrown their children overboard underlined the feeling of insecurity in the electorate about these people.

“The Immigration Minister said the events were “some of the most disturbing practices” he had seen in his political life. The Prime Minister said it was a sorry reflection of their attitude of mind.

“Yet all along these alleged practices had not occurred” Mr Andren told Parliament.

“It defies my belief that such an issue…such a powerful piece of election propaganda…was not checked and rechecked for its veracity.

“If it wasn’t but was still used with such devastating effect against the parents of those kids … indeed against all those seeking asylum in this country … if the veracity wasn’t determined … then all those involved … the Prime Minister, the former Defence Minister, the Immigration Minister deserve censure on that score alone.

“ The continuing demonisation of asylum seekers, who are NOT illegal until determined so after processing … is causing lasting damage to this country, and divisions within our community that may never heal.

Mr Andren reminded the house of the words he’d used during the TAMPA debate of August 29th last year.

“This event [is] being exploited to create the desired climate. If that is the way to win government in this country, then whoever exploits that way holds a poisoned chalice, and the victory would be political but certainly not moral.”

“I have no reason to resile from those comments,” Mr Andren told Parliament, “in fact they are being confirmed as each day passes. On the balance of the evidence available I reluctantly support this censure,” Mr Andren said.

For more information: 02 63 326 229 or 0419 612 891.