Pollies won’t change before the election, but we can

MAY 11 2016


By Andrew Hamilton SJ


For Australians, elections are times of hope. But people who seek protection in Australia will find nothing to hope for from this election. Politicians who express concern that despair has driven people detained on Nauru to set themselves alight, are accused of dividing their political parties.  Government ministers blame people like us who offer support to asylum seekers, for the harm they do to themselves.

In such an inhumane climate it is tempting to sit back and wait until the dark clouds pass over. But we should resist the temptation. Certainly the election will change nothing. But the indecent and unnecessary brutality to people who seek protection, with its heavy cost to the Australian budget and reputation, will remain for the incoming Government to address.  We need now to reach our representatives as human beings, politicians and Australians to insist on the human cost of our present policy and to propose a better way.

Our Catholic tradition insists on the dignity of each human being, especially the most vulnerable. It is enshrined in the story of the Good Samaritan who reached out to help the Jew whom he was expected to despise. This conviction draws us to notice and be appalled by our national treatment of people who seek protection.

During the election campaign we, too, should reach out to the candidates in our electorates, asking them as human beings how they respond to the sufferings inflicted on people who claim our protection, and how they want to address it.  We should also associate ourselves with like-minded people in campaigns that try to make these vulnerable people visible in this election. We should press our parishes, church communities and clergy to give asylum seekers a voice in sermons and newsletters.

These things will not change the election campaign. But they will help create a soil in which more compassionate and reasonable seeds may drop, germinate and flower after the election.