In an email sent to all Victorian caucus members, the Special Adviser to the Premier on Victoria-Asia Business Relations and the Labor member for Clayton, Hong Lim, has said â€œI hang my head in shameâ€ at the â€œpolitical expediencyâ€ at how â€œasylum seekers have been so cruelly treatedâ€ by his own party.
His difficulties with Julia Gillardâ€™s response to the growing problem of people smuggling via Indonesia is a widely held concern across most strands of the ALP, even many of its moderates. A significant part of the anti-Socialist elements within the ALP comprised those who fled totalitarian regimes the Left once made apologies for, in Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Of course, Laborâ€™s challenge is that a considerable number of its voters regard this as a law-and-order and national security issue as much as it is about immigration. The numbers of people who arrive by boat are actually quite limited, itâ€™s the symbolism of a situation that appears out of control, certainly beyond the control of the Australian government so far. At least until Gillardâ€™s decisive move to reinstate Howardâ€™s powerful disincentive to people coming by boat: that they wonâ€™t be processed in Australia.
Aside from the messiness of getting the East Timorese government to agree, the issue causes tremendous difficulty within Gillardâ€™s party which has every strand of opinion on the issue from Lefties who donâ€™t like immigration on environmental grounds to right-wingers who worry about the consequences of bringing into the country those who preach or are easily influenced by hate in militant mosques to patriots who know that immigration has been such a force for goodÂ and development in Australiaâ€™s history. Labor is a broad church on many issues but no more so than on immigration where it is common to hear members of the same faction or fraction with completely diverging views on the issue.
Lim, a leader in the Cambodian community and Labor moderate patriot not normally associated with internal party division or with the lunar left, wrote the following email to one of his supporters and copied it to many colleagues:
From:Â Â Â Â Â Â erikastahr
Date:Â Â Â Â Â Â 02/07/2010 07:08 PM
Subject:Â Â Â hello
Dear Hong Lim
I am 80 and became a member of the ALP as soon as I could after arriving in Australia at the age of 19.
With the things I hear about the treatment of Asylum seekers, boat people, the people who help them come here (now called â€˜smugglersâ€™), the time Sri Lankans, Afghanis and others have to wait for PR, the way phones are taken away from detainees so that they cannot contact anyone – I am beginning to feel sadly that I do not want to be a member of this Party anymore. I might almost be in a Party run by Philip Ruddock!!!
Is there no hope? I shall wait until the end of July before I (also, like a Number of others) join The Greens.
Erika Stahr, M.Ed. TESOL, J.P. coordinator*
From: Hong Lim
Sent: 07/07/2010 05:17 AM ZE10
Cc: Peter Davis; Mike Yang; Gen Li; ALP MLA Members; ALP
Subject: Re: hello
I feel the pain, your pain! knowing how much you have been giving to the
refugees community going back to 1970’s, Especially, we all know the
Indo-Chinese community has been through this agony and trauma before and we
all know there would not be a successful settlement of the Indo-Chinese
community had they been treated the way the present day refugees and asylum
seekers have been so cruelly treated. I am at a loss as to know what to say
to people let alone what to do. I hang my head in shame as a leader of the
Cambodian community, as a member of the ALP,Â as an MP, as an
Australian…….., as a human being… to see political expediency being
played out so cruelly and so unconscionably even among our Party!
We need to catch up. soon and look at what we can do. Peter talked to the
Liberal candidate for Chisholme, a Vietnamese,Â when he came to campaign at
the Clayton shopping centre recently, asking him how could he possibly
represent a Party which treats boat people, like him and his community,
worse than animal. He laughed it off saying that his community went to
Malaysia not directly to Australia. So it makes him feels good!!!?? What
hope do we have when a community like the Indo-Chinese hide away
shamelessly not standing up for the others who are suffering the same fate
like them. There had not a whimper from the Cambodian, Indo-Chinese
Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian or Hmong community leaders. Yet at the recent
celebration of their 35 years in Australia the Vietnamese community talked
painfully about the 500,000 live lost at sea seeking freedom in the
West!!!! This wholeÂ thing troubles and pains me everyday.
Hong Lim, MP
Member for Clayton
Special Advisor to the Premier
on Victoria-Asia Business Relations
UPDATE: VEXNEWS continues to set the news agenda in this dual election year. Hong Lim’s email = never intended for public consumption and exclusively obtained by VEXNEWS with the resources of the famed VEXNEWS Investigations Unit – made a splash bigger than a Russ Hinze belly-flop. We are truly first with outburst.
The AAP story which ran Thursday is here. Astonishingly it even credits VEXNEWS with breaking the story, a sign of rising ethical standards among our newspaper brethren or sorority as the case may be.
The Herald Sun, The Aged and The Australian, Fairfax’s BrisbaneTimes site also picked up the story as you can see.