To following is an open letter to the Greens and Mithra Cox from
Afghani Maqsood Abrams who is reliably described to Crikey as a
straight shooter and a terrific bloke:

An open letter to the Greens and Mithra Cox

Dear Mithra Cox,

Thank you very much for attending the ‘MEET THE CANDIDATES FORUM’ last
night in the St Francis Church in Paddington. Your passion and your
compassion for refugees was greatly appreciated. However, it appears
that you are being improperly advised by the Greens’ Campaign
Strategists or individual Greens members because there were a number of
factual errors in your speech.

As such factual errors undermine the genuine content of any future
address you might make before the experienced refugee advocates and
could be used to undermine your credibility in a wider context in the
run up to the election.

Therefore, I think it will help you if I explain why you were corrected
from the floor and many people including myself were surprised and
disappointed by some of the comments you made in your speech:

  1. “During the Tampa crisis in 2001 there was no one to speak for refugees except Kerry Nettle”.
  2. “National Forum on Mental Health and Human Rights in June this
    year at the Federal Parliament House was hosted by Senator Kerry
    Nettle”.

I will deal with each of the comments containing errors so you may
correct them and also cover a few other relevant issues concerning the
Australian Greens members for the public scrutiny and the attention of
the supporters of the all four organising NGOs of last night’s event.

  • First, the statement about Kerry Nettle’s role in 2001 during the
    Tampa crisis was false and misleading. Thousands of hard-working
    Refugee Rights Activists, including myself, and Coalition for Justice
    for Refugees who helped Kerry Nettle get elected could well consider
    such a statement to be a serious insult. Indeed they could feel Kerry
    Nettle simply took the advantage to get elected and is now
    appropriating their efforts.
  • I was the organiser of the National Forum on Mental Health and
    Human Rights in June this year at the Federal Parliament House, which
    was hosted by Hon Dr Carmen Lawrence MHR. Subsequently, I have asked
    Senator Gary Humphries, Senator Aden Ridgeway and Senator Kerry Nettle
    to join with Dr Lawrence to make this as a bi-partisan event.

I also have grave concern about your comment regarding NSW State MLC
Sylvia Hale’s role to advocate to abolish TPV and to gain all benefits
for TPV holders which is not the fact. I will not go into the events
here but you should be aware of the following.

  • Ms Hales haunted by the media on this particular issue called my
    mobile number over five times in one hour, in desperate need of
    assistance.
  • Subsequently, in early February this year when we tried to reach
    Ms Hale to discuss the possibility to organise an Asylum Seekers’
    Mental Health Conference she did not make herself available, however
    Democrats MLC Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans came forward to help us to
    successfully organise the event.
  • Then when we finalised all preparations and programs for the
    Human Rights and Mental Health Conference in NSW Parliament House in
    March this year she (unsuccessfully) tried to influence us to include
    her as a speaker.
  • I was similarly surprised and deeply disappointed that at the
    ‘Activating Human Rights and Diversity Conference’ in Byron Bay last
    year Senator Kerry Nettle made a comment acknowledging the hard work of
    Pamela Curr (who was for a long time the official, and it seemed only,
    Greens Spokesperson on Refugees) from Victoria and while totally
    ignoring the work of other refugee rights advocates.

I am concerned that these kind of comments from prominent Greens
members which undermine and appropriate the hard work of many refugee
rights activists. It could easily lead to the impression that the
Greens are trying to use the refugees cause as a medium of their
electoral gain, which might attract condemnation and intense public
scrutiny.

Accuracy is of great importance to those involved in human rights.
Because we have dealings with all political parties, and have extensive
files we are very well informed and quickly recognise plagiarism,
appropriation and any inaccuracy or attempt to mislead. Therefore
accuracy must be of extreme importance to any candidate seeking the
vote.

The Australian Greens must clarify these issues as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

Maqsood Alshams
S A V E – Australia Inc

Mithra Cox replies to Maqsood’s open letter

Greens Candidate Mithra Cox writes:

Dear Maqsood,

You and I agree that accuracy is of great importance. You appear to
have misunderstood the intention of my comments. I am happy to clarify
what I said.

1. I was explaining that I joined the Greens because at the time of
the Tampa crisis, no other political parties represented at the meet
the candidates forum spoke out for refugees at this time. To their
credit, the Democrats did speak up soon after, but that was after I had
joined the Greens. It was a political forum and I was speaking about
the record of political parties represented at the forum, not the
wonderful work done by many refugee advocates and community groups who
were vocal on this issue.

2. I never said that Kerry Nettle hosted that “Mental Health and
Human Rights” conference in June this year. I said that she represented
the Greens at this forum, and am more than happy to give you my
speaking notes if you need further clarification.

The Greens have great respect for the tremendous work done by
refugee advocates, and for you to suggest otherwise is hurtful and
inaccurate.

Yours sincerely,

Mithra Cox
Greens Candidate for Wentworth

Wentworth: I was there

I was at “MEET THE CANDIDATES” in Wentworth referred to in “An open
letter to the Greens and Mithra Cox” and these are the things stuck in
my mind.

Malcolm Turnbull whose head was on every pole along the main street of
Paddington in elegant unreachable campaign posters did not appear to
have the guts to turn up and failed to have the courtesy to provide a
proper or convincing apology to the organisers. He was however,
represented by his aging uncle who arrived uninvited and unannounced
and started to give an astonishingly inappropriate speech which
commenced with a cumbersome and distasteful anecdote about ‘ …an
African. The most ‘African’ African you would ever be likely to meet
…’

I was deeply moved by Mithra Cox when she told us how she and her
boyfriend had before the last election ripped up a sheet and made
banners in support of the refugees which they hung in the windows of
their flat and were almost evicted from their home by the irate
landlord and a posse of tenants. My heart went out to her when she wept.

I know that feeling when the emotion and horror of what this country
has done wells up in you. People commented on her tears obviously
forgetting the sometimes real, but often manufactured, tears of
experienced male politicians. I was so proud of Mithra Cox in that very
human moment and so impressed by the way she carried on in the toughest
gig of the night. Dropped to the end of the list and then delayed by
the impatience of one of the major candidates and the time constraints
of the other.

Fair go! It takes courage for a young person to stand in a seat loaded
with heavyweights. She knows there is not possibility of a win and in
years to come she could be a very able politician. But this was an
early blooding and I hope she does not lose heart. Because she has a
good heart and I would like to see more heart in politics.

She showed the passion we needed to see. The only fault with Mithra’s
speech and that of the Democrats Candidate Lindy Morrison, who won the
room with the statement “And all anyone can remember about the
Democrats is the bloody GST” was that they were far too long.

Those two fine women were stuck with a whole heap of party claptrap
which could only attract derision from a group mostly made up of
experienced and long term human rights campaigners who had been at the
coalface of many of the events they were talking about. They were stuck
with speeches that should be made to the uninformed. In a Church and it
sounded like preaching, the sitting member distracted everyone by
consulting his watch repeatedly and the audience were like the choir
who had heard the sermon too many times.

LESS IS MORE. This should be the lesson to all political strategists.
Don’t extinguish the fire in their candidates belly or bury a bright
personality and mind under an avalanche of party codswallop. Four one
liners saying how noble you are is enough anything more is irritating
and soporific. People want to meet the candidates so they can get to
know them. They want to ask questions and they don’t want that time
filibustered away.

Peter King the sitting member had a tough time trying to explain that
he was a good guy who did his best in Howard’s way. By ambushing him as
he tried to make his getaway from the hall, reminding him that he was
also a Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserve and demanding his personal
opinion on RELEX, SOLAS and SIEVX, I didn’t certainly didn’t make his
life any easier.

However, for me it was David Patch’s night. Like Burnside and other
fine barristers he was able to cut through the crap and tell it like it
is, right now in the moment. And he laid it on the line with clear
statements of intent that no one could misinterpret.

“Children AND their families must be released from detention
immediately” he said, and agreed that the programme in current
operation where the home becomes a detention centre is entirely
unacceptable.

“What people have to understand is that these children simple went on a
trip with their parents” he also said. He made clear throughout that
these were people just like us and they have a right to tell their
stories. It was easy to see why he is currently on the panel of lawyers
for the International Criminal Court.

There were errors everywhere that evening, it is human, it happens. The
important thing is that none of these were fatal errors whereas when
people are elected to represent us sometimes errors they make in
parliament or in the partyroom can have fatal results.

Mithra Cox was not the only one to make errors so did the Democrats
Candidate. Hers was a classic in which she gave the credit to the
Democrats for the CMI Inquiry. I was also in error because in the haste
of the moment I gave the impression that David King had not replied to
my emails where in fact he had replied to one personally and the other
which was the one I was concerned about had been the subject of a phone
call between me and his advisor … that was the one email that I
required to be personally answered by the sitting member for Wentworth.

The important thing is that the event in Wentworth occurred. That was what mattered.

I really wish people would stop constantly saying, for reasons of
fairness, how Labor brought in Mandatory Detention when their has been
nothing fair about the Howard Government’s administration of the
policy. This germ of an idea was mutated and turned into a lethal virus
by the Howard Government. Yes they took Gerry Hand’s little people
mover and they didn’t just turn it into an Edsel they turned it into a
tumbrel for the innocents.

The great big error that really matters was the error Australia made in
2001 when the Howard Government was re-election. That is the error we
must correct.

Our votes count and that is why enormous care must be taken to ensure
our vote does not, though the distribution of preferences, contribute
to the return of John Howard.

Mary Dagmar Davies
Founder and co-ordinator
Jannah the SIEVX memorial