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Correspondence between Mike Griffin and Andrew Woodward

Andrew Woodward Labor candidate for Cowper letter follows Mike's letter

Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2018 11:08 AM
Subject: Labor's asylum policy

Dear Andrew,
Thank you for your letter regarding our conversation at the Labor party stall at Bellingen market last weekend. Let me say firstly that, in reporting on our conversation in our weekly RAR newsletter, I accurately described the comments which you made to me. You repeatedly asserted that there would be no changes to current Labor policy at the upcoming conference.  You stated clearly that the Labor party would not seek to end offshore detention, because in the party’s view that’s what the public wants, and finally you were adamant that, given that the Labor party is working to win the next election, and that changing policy on offshore detention is a vote loser, you would not support any changes  to current policy. That is what you said, that is what I faithfully reported , so I’m at a loss as to how you can regard my reporting as misrepresenting your views. I would be grateful if you would acknowledge this and correct the record.
I was disappointed  that you believe that it is the role of politicians to follow the public mood, rather than to take a leadership role in shaping public policy.  Labor, sadly, has been wedged by the Coalition in a race to the bottom on the issue of asylum seekers and has been silent for years on the key aspects of current policy – offshore detention, and no resettlement in Australia -  for people arriving by boat. In spite of widespread international condemnation of these policies, the Labor party has largely kept its head down, for the reasons that you articulated at the market. Compare the party’s approach to that of the Canadian prime minster, who met many of the 50,000+ Syrian asylum seekers at the airport, welcomed them as new Canadian citizens and assured them that they would be warmly embraced by the Canadian people. And they were, and we could do that too, if we had principled politicians who were prepared to lead rather than to follow. As recently as the 15th May, Bill Shorten, when asked by a journalist whether the proposal  to limit detention to 90 days included those asylum seeker currently languishing on Manus and Nauru, was unequivocal:  “The answer to that is no.”
I have of course read the Labor party’s current policy statement, much of which is commendable, and I have also read the paper prepared for the upcoming conference. Regarding the latter, as Trump would say, “let’s see what happens”.  Neither of the documents deal adequately with the issue of the 1500 or so refugees suffering on Manus and Nauru. Our group, and the other 70+ RAR groups across Australia, will continue to campaign for the  urgent closure of offshore detention centres and for the resettlement  of the refugees whose claims for protection have been found to be valid, in Australia and other countries where their safety can be assured.
I’m attaching for your information an excerpt from Ged Kearney’s recent maiden address to Parliament, in which she takes a principled and compassionate stand on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees. We need more of that! I’m also attaching a letter that I sent to Tanya Plibersek, in response to a letter that she sent to me about the Labor party’s position.
Finally, I, and others in our RAR group, would welcome the opportunity to discuss asylum policy with you at some mutually convenient time. If you would like to suggest some possible times and a venue, hopefully before the Labor party conference, that would be appreciated.
I will ask our blog manager to post your letter and my response on our RAR blog.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Griffin

Email from Andrew Woodward

I have been forwarded a copy of your public comments regarding myself following our brief conversation in a public thoroughfare on Saturday.

I feel you have misrepresented my position and ask that you share this email with your membership, as I have done on my website - . 

There were three issues at the heart of our conversation, as reported to your members:
Off-shore processing.
The political implications of this issue.
Labor Party Conference.

Let me go through these one by one. But first, let me say I 100 per cent support Labor’s current asylum seeker policy. It is a humane and compassionate approach inline with majority community wants. That said, hopefully some refinements will be made at conference to improve the basic fundamentals of this fair policy. 

To the specific issues. 

Offshore processing: The 2015 conference endorsed the Labor policy to significantly accelerate off-shore processing of detainees, particularly children. I wholeheartedly support this and the proposed refinements for consideration by the 2018 conference. 

Political implications: For a decade now the people of Australia, according to myriad polls, support off-shore processing. All too often, I hear people say “you politicians don’t listen to the people”. Here we are listening to the majority of people and yet we are criticised for it. And yes, if you don’t listen to voters and act in accordance with their wishes, you lose votes. That’s basic politics.  

Conference: Labor wants to put a time limit on offshore processing and this appears to have significant support, including my own. LINK . 

On Saturday, I gave you a copy of our current policy and I look forward to receiving your feedback on it. We also have a draft of the policy being taken to the 2018 conference. I invite your feedback on this too. You can read it here: LINK.  See pages 160 to 169 on Humanitarian Migration Program.

I hate seeing and hearing about the human rights abuses under the current government. It just doesn’t sadden me, it disgusts me. 

Personally, I am well aware of the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. What we see today is nothing compared to what we may see in the future. Part of my studies as a Master of Environmental Management at UNSW looked at the issue of climate refugees.  In the years ahead the world will have to deal with hundreds of millions of climate refugees. This is one of the reasons I work in the sustainability industry  and advocate to government for stronger action on climate change. Perversely, government policy in thids country accelerates the climate crisis, which will help lead to a climate refugee crisis. 

You can read one of my papers on the issue here: LINK. Climate change refugees and migration . The Senate last week brought down a report on the National Secuirty implications of climate change and I am pleased to see it raised the issue of refugees LINK. Hopefully this report will help place the issue higher on the national agenda. 

A ‘pure’ world will be a much different place to be in. Unfortunately, we don’t live and work in a pure world and we never will. So, so we have to work with what we have got and balance community views with public policy. There are many different views, agendas and vested interests at play in many issues, including asylum seekers, people smuggling and the wider migration program. I simply seek a more compassionate and humane approach for legitimate asylum seekers and I therefore fully support Labor’s policy. I was at the 2015 conference in Melbourne and listened to the debates intently. I am happy with what we have agreed to. 

I look forward to hearing from you on our current policy and proposed refinements and having further conversations with you in environments conducive to constructive discussion.

Andrew Woodward
Labor Candidate for Cowper

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