This Sunday June 20 marks World Refugee Day, and the start of Refugee Week, which seeks to highlight and celebrate the many positive contributions refugees continue to make to Australian society. Given the pending election, it might be tougher than usual for this message to get through among the din of fear-mongering about asylum seekers.

In Brisbane, the Liberal National Party are marking the lead up to Refugee Week in their own special way, distributing a leaflet in Wayne Swan’s electorate accusing him of putting a “secret detention centre for illegal immigrants in our suburbs”.

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As has been reported in the Courier-Mail, this so-called “secret” detention centre that Swan has purportedly “allowed to open” is actually the long established Virginia Palms Motel, which sits in Swan’s electorate of Lilley.  The LNP’s desire to do a bit of good old-fashioned grassroots hate-mongering is such that their leaflet kindly relabels this well-known local business as the “Virginia Palms Detention Centre”, which I’m sure the motel’s owners and employees are very thrilled about.

The Liberals have made it very obvious in recent months that they have clearly decided to label asylum seekers and refugees as “illegal immigrants’ at every possible opportunity, despite undoubtedly knowing this is a false description. I suppose there’s no point letting a minor thing like accuracy get in the way when there may be an extra vote or two to be won by inciting some hatred.

The leaflet clearly isn’t just some off-the-cuff thing whipped together by an over-enthusiastic campaign volunteer, or even one of those fake race-baiting election leaflets that Jackie Kelly liked to think of as just a “Chaser style prank”. It repeats the same phrases used by the LNP’s local Lilley candidate, Rod McGarvie, when he spoke to the Northern Chronicle, the suburban paper that covers the area.

Peter Fray

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