Open letter to the Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent:
On Sunday, I signed a petition addressed to you, which called on the Australian Government to take a more humane approach to the treatment of asylum seekers.
Parishoners and visitors were asked to put their name to the petition at the close of a short musical play, exploring the refugee issue, held at the Wonthaggi Anglican Church.
Stormy Waters will be performed in several other churches within your electorate in coming weeks.
The church was almost full and people applauded warmly.
It occurred to me that this was just the right place to hear a call for greater compassion for these displaced, traumatised and vulnerable people, seeking refuge with us.
Leaving the church I wondered how I could show solidarity with this timely reminder of our obligations to those who are suffering and asking for our help.
Thankfully, I decided to first visit your website to see if this was indeed an issue you had raised with your fellow parliamentarians.
It was a great relief to read your speeches to parliament of July 8 and May 29 this year, as well as a speech given on June 21, 2013.
They were inspiring and decent; all that we look for in our elected leaders.
May I just briefly remind you of the words you chose when paying tribute to the inspiring Christian John McIntyre, Bishop of Gippsland, who died in July this year?
You spoke to parliament of a man whose heart “lay with the alien and the outsider”, of a man “passionate about the needs of dispossessed people … reaching out to alienated people and helping them find community”.
You said he was a man of great compassion. And you note that three weeks before his death he made a speech calling on the government and community to offer compassion and justice to asylum seekers.
Last year you asked parliament to reflect on new data about refugee movements across the globe. In this speech you acknowledge the genuine community concerns about accepting asylum seekers.
You said: “I understand that people fear these situations. I am concerned about that. We can address that. But let us try to work through this new paradigm together, this new world that we live in, which is not the same as the 1950s, in the best interests of this nation and its people.”
Your sentiments are wise, compassionate and pragmatic.
Will you also use such compelling language and considered argument when you present the petition I signed to your fellows in the parliament?
A great challenge comes with it but you have shown in word and deed that you are more than equal to it.
And I take heart not just from your quoted words of the late Bishop of Gippsland but also from your address to parliament in May, regarding a meeting with members of the Corner Inlet Social Justice Group.
You said to the parliament:
“It was a pressure time. It was an exhausting time, but it was a pleasurable time, to know that there are people in our community who actually take a direct interest in what is going on and are prepared to come out, sit down and discuss the issues with their local member. Consider carefully how you make your decisions.”
L. Gordon, Wonthaggi.