Australian people have had enough, says advocate
A FORMER high-ranking Australian military officer and refugee advocate has applauded the passing of legislation to allow sick detainees to secure treatment in Australia.
Garry Bates of Buderim, who was an Air Commodore with the Royal Australian Air Force when he retired and later served on the founding board of the Sunshine Coast-based refugee support group Buddies Inc, said politicians had taken 10 years to hear the voice of the people.
Mr Bates, who with his wife billeted asylum seekers in their Buderim home, said former policies lacked humanity.
He said the security-concerns story no longer washed with the electorate, describing offshore detention as just a mechanism to deny people their legal rights.
The Bates hosted for periods of up to six weeks principally Sri Lanka asylum seekers who had managed to reach Australia, describing it as a great experience.
"I'm very pleased we were able to be strong contributors," he said.
Stressing he did not speak on behalf of Buddies Inc, Mr Bates said scaremongering had been used for election purposes and was first introduced as a strategy by former Prime Minister John Howard.
"I've been more than frustrated," he said.
"I've been dismayed and at times disgusted. They've dehumanised them (refugees), it's just appalling.
"The boats were illegal but not those on them. That always irks me. It's legal to be an asylum seeker."
Mr Bates said Labor had been gutless in its approach.
A number of people involved in Board Security were his ex-military colleagues who he said had been paid to do a job with the role to protect illegal entry.
Mr Bates said the government had to do something but that the problem should have been addressed at the source.
Rather than treating the victims of state terror or insurgency as being responsible because they feared for their lives, he said institutions like the World Bank could have been co-opted to withhold money from regimes that forced them to flee.
He said labelling asylum seekers as economic refugees was a game of words, citing cases where parents had sold heirlooms and what effectively was their superannuation and demanded their children escape.
"I do think Australians have become absolutely fed up to see people treated as they have been," Mr Bates said.
"Governments of both parties put them there (in detention) and kept them there.
"It's an inhumane way for a limited number of people to be treated. They're living on the edge of hope with nothing of substance to believe in."
"The Australian people have said enough."