In my blog of March 5 I spoke about the demonization of asylum seekers by Scott Morrison. He has variously alleged that they bring disease, wads of cash and jewellery. He has also called for the registration of asylum seekers moving into a residential area.
But Senator Abetz has gone even further.
He made it very clear that we should draw the inference that just as the public wanted paedophiles registered when they moved into a community, so there should be registration of asylum seekers. He was not rebuked by Tony Abbott.
Senator Abetz is a senior shadow cabinet Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. He is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Both he and Scott Morrison would be senior members of an Abbott cabinet. Throw in Christopher Pyne, Barnaby Joyce, Kevin Andrews and Bronwyn Bishop and it does not look very promising.
As a migrant from Germany, Senator Abetz has no intention of extending the same hand of generosity that was extended to him as a “Stanger” when he came as a newcomer to Australia in 1961.
He obviously finds it hard to accept that we have a particular responsibility to welcome and care for the stranger. It is closing off all possibility of empathy towards the stranger when he implies that they are a threat like paedophiles.
Where are the churches in all these distasteful attacks on ‘the stranger’? The Catholic bishops are silent. The Anglican bishops are silent. The Lutheran Church which knew so much about the persecution of persons of German origin in Australia in WWI and WWII is also silent in the face of the new vilification. The Jewish community, which knows more about persecution than any other group on this earth, is silent. Perhaps this silence is due to a mistaken view that most of the asylum seekers are Muslims.
When will significant religious groups in Australia stand up for ‘the stranger’. The tone of the debate is getting worse day by day in the lead-up to the next election.
But despite the abdication of leadership by so many, hundreds of thousands of Australians are going out of their way to quietly welcome and help asylum seekers in small but important ways. Australians in the community are showing that we are a more decent country than our leaders suggest.