“Stanhope for PM!” one attendee yelled as former ACT Labor chief minister Jon Stanhope prepared to let fly at Federal MPs from his own party during a Canberra Refugee Action Committee rally in Civic Square this afternoon.
Read Mr Stanhope’s full speech at Offshore detention policy ‘a source of deep national shame’
Hundreds had gathered at the Bring them here rally to express their anger at the Federal Government’s treatment of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, and to call for an end to indefinite offshore detention.
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Mr Stanhope, who was the keynote speaker at the rally, opened by saying no politician in Australia could possibly pretend that they didn’t know what was happening to asylum seekers “under our care and under our control on Nauru and Manus”.
“The challenge for members of the Labor Party, most particularly its elected representatives, is to do exactly what the doctors, the nurses, the childcare workers and school teachers who were working on Nauru and Manus have done, despite facing prosecution and imprisonment,” he said.
“Take a stand.”
The former Administrator of the Indian Ocean Territories (Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island) said Australia’s “draconian” offshore detention policies were now and would be in the future a source of deep national shame.
“The silence of our parliaments and of our elected representatives will not save or absolve them from their personal responsibility for the shameful things we’ve done to asylum seekers and refugees,” he said.
“It’s too late for that.”
He added that Labor condemnation of the manner in which the Federal Government was implementing the policy of indefinite detention without condemning the policy itself was not good enough.
“You either support the policy or you don’t, and the silence of Labor Party members in the face of the overwhelming evidence of the devastating impact of indefinite offshore detention can only be interpreted in one way. As support for the policy.
“You will all have heard the weak justifications and excuses they make, time and time again. I say, the time has come for all of us to demand of our elected representatives that they stop turning their faces away from the cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees which they are enabling in our names.”
The life member of the ALP said he was increasingly of the view that fellow members who opposed offshore detention needed to do more to ensure that the candidates they pre-select will share their view on the issue.
“If there ever was a reason to join a political party, there is currently none more pressing than in order to work from within the parties to have these unconscionable policies dropped,” he said.
“At the end of the day, if the current members of the Government and the Opposition, in lockstep as they are in support of indefinite offshore detention will not change the policy, then perhaps the only option is to change the members.”