LEST WE FORGET … the lies of the ‘Children Overboard’ affair

Children and their parents rescued after the sinking of SIEV 4 – ‘The Olong’. These are the well-loved children who were supposedly thrown overboard.

The recent offensive and divisive comments by Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison (and his colleagues) has once again stirred the cesspit of racism in this country.

I say once again, because ex-Prime Minister John Howard did the same thing back in the days of the so-called ‘Children Overboard’ case, when he as Prime Minister and his ministers (including Immigration Minister at the time, Peter Reith) accused asylum-seekers of deliberately throwing their children overboard so the Australian Navy would be forced to rescue them. Their lies were exposed when top Navy personnel spoke out at an Inquiry and when a set of electronic photos taken on that fateful day by Australian Navy sailors were given to the media anonymously. They show the whole sequence of events. The one I’ve used is from the set captured that day – proving children were not thrown overboard deliberately.

And were you aware that these photographs photos were kept from public knowledge by Prime Minister John Howard’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s office – which stipulated explicitly (so as to) ‘not humanise the asylum seekers’. (!)

Senator John Faulkner, Labor’s Senate leader and chief questioner at the un-thrown children/SIEV-X inquiry said (in part of his speech, reported by journalist, Margo Kingston July 23, 2003) …

“The response to boat people or asylum seekers was the main focus of the Howard Government in the lead up to the last federal election. The Government’s strategy was based on politicising the asylum seeker issue for electoral advantage. It wasn’t just the Tampa episode, or the bald-faced lies about children being thrown overboard, it was a systematic campaign to engender public fear about asylum seekers and the need to protect our borders against them at all costs.”

John Howard’s scare tactics appealed to the sort of people who don’t think for themselves, or who are swayed by ill-formed talk of terrorism and by the rattling of right-wing and narrow-minded shock-jocks in this country.

Last week, after a Sri Lankan man, an asylum seeker was arrested for the indecent assault of a university student on a campus in Sydney’s north. The man was not one of the asylum seekers on bridging visas who were residing at the campus during the summer break, nor was one of the clients of the Red Cross whose task it is to look after them (and their behaviour) in the community.

Scott Morrison MP – Liberal Party (image from the Mamamia blog site).

MP Scott Morrison called for special ”behaviour protocols” for those released into the community and the mandatory notification of police and residents in areas where they were housed.  He knows full well his remarks will stir up the ignorant, the racists and the xenophobic in our community he also knows that asylum seekers living in the community on bridging visas are about 45 times less likely to be charged with a crime than other Australians. Unlike many Catholic (and others) priests and brothers accused and convicted of child abuse over the years. (One wonders why communities weren’t warned when these pedophile criminals were moved on through the dioceses?)

You would be forgiven for thinking that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his party have chosen the road of politicising the asylum seeker issue for electoral advantage.

Now where have we heard that before?

For more, check out (MamaMia blog) Mia Freedman’s take on the issue: I smell an election year and it stinks.

For some honest and fearless journalism in this country, read Australians for Honest Politics.

And keep speaking out against racism when and wherever you see it.

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