Debate about the treatment and detention of asylum seekers is always a hot button issue — even more so in an election year — but when immigration minister Chris Bowen announced last month that the federal government would be commissioning two new asylum seeker detention facilities in Western Australia and South Australia, he must have known what was coming his away.
The decision to hold 1900 people in Inverbrackie and Northam appears to have provoked only one response — not in my backyard.
While not everyone is opposed to the decision, there have been town hall meetings in Woodside, in the Adelaide Hills, and Northam, north-east of Perth, where locals have voiced their concerns about the move. Local press and broadcasting services have been taking the pulse of the punters (6PR Perth shock jock Howard Sattler was on the scene in Northam), here’s a snapshot of what they’re saying in SA and WA (courtesy of Media Monitors):
Drive with Howard Sattler:
Caller Brian asks who owns the water which will be supplied to a detention centre. He asks if the state can shut it down, and adds he thinks it comes from the Mundaring Weir. Sattler says the pipeline runs right outside the centre, and Brian asks if the water can be cut off into the centre. Sattler asks if Brian thinks those inside should be left to die of thirst, and Brian suggests ‘give them a little bit of drinking water’.
Caller Don says ‘we don’t want ’em’, and adds that $165m could help many homeless people, families and suffering farmers. He says if politicians agree with what is being done they should take in ten people each, adding that then ‘Northam wouldn’t have to put with them’ or be home to a detention centre.
Caller Tom says asylum seekers should be kept along the shores of Lake Burleigh Griffin in dongas. Tom then admits he’s jesting. Sattler says Julia doesn’t want them in her back yard. Sattler says he will take more calls on the Northam Detention Centre, adding that it seems it’s pinching staff from the Northam Regional Hospital which is already under pressure.
Caller Eric of Northam discusses the detention centre and protests. Eric says people should wear red shirts to the protest to make their numbers of Opposition clear. Eric says the entire town is opposing it. Sattler says the Council seem to be for it. Eric says it doesn’t surprise him.
Caller Jeff says we shouldn’t be having this debate with illegal people. Jeff says the Howard Govt did it right, but now the gates have been thrown open to these people and more and more detention centres are inevitable. Jeff refers to Councils saying how wonderful the centres are. Sattler says it’s interesting the Minister is meeting Councils not residents. Jeff agrees speculating that the Councils are full of Labor ‘sleepers’.
Caller Isobel says it is silly to put 1500 fit young men in a detention centre in Northam when we are sending troops to Afghanistan to train Afghan soldiers. Isobel says we should turn it into an army camp again and send them back to Afghanistan.
Caller Jason says he’s worked in detention centres in the past, such as the Perth immigration detention Centre, Christmas Island, Nauru etc. Jason says there’s little infrastructure at Northam. Jason says it’s not an ideal facility. Jason says there’s a fence around the base. Jason says a new fence will absolutely be needed. Jason says proposing it is ridiculous. Jason says the hospital and Policing in Northam are inadequate for a detention centre to be put there.
Caller Vicky says she had to wait 18 months to get into Australia, give every address since she was 18, every job she’s ever had, go for an AIDS test, pay for applications to get in, get a job and there’s this lot sitting in Northam.
Afternoons with Tony McManus:
Caller Bob says he has worked at one of the detention centres and has seen what these people have gone through. He says some of these asylum seekers have paid more than $12,000 to get to Australia by boat. He states that the real refugees are the ones stuck in the camps living in tents in dire conditions. He states that people from the Hazaras group in Afghanistan predominantly come to Australia and they are quite rich. He thinks it is an absolute disgrace that the Australian Govt are letting them in.
Mornings with Geoff Hutchison:
Caller Pam says it is a mistake to house just young men at the Northam detention centre.
Caller Amy says — I live 20 minutes from Northam, and there are prisons out there which are far less desirable than asylum seeker detention centres.
Host Bob Francis (8pm-midnight):
Caller Maria says the Gillard Government is holding information from the Woodside community and says it ‘smacks of naivety’. Maria asks where is the new paradigm of openness and truthfulness. Maria says it is going to be a burden on tax payers. She says she is ‘disgusted’ with SA Labor for voting against a debate on the detention centre promoted by Jamie Briggs. Maria says asylum seekers are paying thousands of dollars to jump the queue into Australia. Maria says Australia will have problems if it opens its doors to asylum seekers. Maria says she is not racist and all the ‘bad doers’ can look after the refugees themselves. She says Australia needs to be fixed before others are helped.
Caller Shelly responds to the discussion on asylum seekers and remarks she has no problem with them. Shelly says she would rather live next to asylum seekers than some of SAs own people needing homes.
Caller Gavin says that it is a ‘disgrace’ that 400 refugees are going to be ‘taking up housing’ that could be used by Australians. He adds that there should be a levy, similar to the Medicare levy, that could allow ‘do gooders’ to ‘opt to pay for refugees’. Francis jokes that only people who vote for the Greens would pay for refugees.
Caller John says the Greens are ‘running the show’ and says Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister didn’t consult anyone before announcing the new detention centre at Woodside. Francis says the ‘woman senator’ from the Greens has said it is a beautiful thing. Francis says he was happy with the way John Howard approached immigration policy.
Mornings with Leon Byner:
Caller Shirley says if they wanted to build a detention centre in her suburb in Northfield she would not have a problem, but says the road that runs past the houses at Inverbrackie is a major tourist drive. She says it is the next best thing to storing the people at a conservation park.
Caller Rosemary says that the Inverbrackie detention centre is a result of the Government’s own making. She says that Nauru is waiting and is ready to be used.
Caller John explains he has travelled from Darwin as part of the One Nation party to meet Tony Abbott at the proposed Detention centre at Woodside and informs they will be there in protest of the centre. John says he has had some personal experience on the matter being from Darwin and warns the government will not stop at 400 they will keep going. Byner says Woodside couldn’t house 3000 people and reminds the government is still trying to convince East Timor to have a detention centre.
Caller Graham discusses the detention centre in the Adelaide Hills saying it is unfair that 400 people will be housed there when there are thousands of South Australians ar on waiting lists for basic housing. Byner says they would argue that the refugees are more in need and Graham says he ‘refused to believe’ Foley and Rann did not know about this. Byner reminds the housing belongs to the Federals Government and says the Housing Department is in debt.
Mornings with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan
Caller Ken says the main thing that is wrong in the Adelaide Hills [with the asylum seeker detention centre] is religion as most of the people who are going to move in are Muslim but when the area was used by the Army there were no complaints.
Caller David discusses the meeting held last night in Woodside in relation to the detention centre. He notes that many asylum seekers are coming from conflict zones and that Australia has ‘a lot to answer for’ in terms of conflict zones (referring to the Iraq and Afghani wars).