I write this more in sadness than in anger.  The simple fact is that the Coalition has lied to the public since 2001, by calling boat people “illegals”.  they use this as a plausible reason to abuse them, vilify them and brutalise them.  But Labor has never called them out.  Labor has never yet told the truth, that boat people do not commit any offence by coming here and are not illegal.

It is time for a simple campaign to get Labor to tell the truth: to get them back to common decency. Labor needs to acknowledge that boat people are NOT illegal. Calling them “illegal” has made it politically profitable to demonise and mistreat asylum seekers.

If Labor is to have any credibility at all, it needs to do 3 things:

1. Acknowledge publicly, loudly and often that seeking asylum is no offence, that boat people are NOT illegal, and that demonising and mistreating innocent people is NOT something Australians do.
2. Say that asylum seeker policy should be based on the principle that seeking asylum is not illegal, so asylum seekers should not be treated like criminals.
3. Reform their refugee policy accordingly.

If Labor is not willing to do these things, they are betraying the country, just as the Coalition is.
If you agree with this approach, I suggest you write to your federal Labor MP a simple letter, along the following lines:

“Dear X
I am a voter in your electorate. I have three questions for you:
1. Do you think boat people are “illegals”?
2. If so, what offence do they commit?
3. If they do not commit any offence by coming here, do you think it is OK to call them “illegal” and mistreat them?
Yours sincerely…”

If they do not answer the questions; if they send back a two page letter written by a staffer, write to them again and remind them of the questions. Your representative is answerable to you.

Note to Labor MPs: Please take these enquiries seriously. It is time to tell the truth. Winning power based on a lie is not what Labor should be about: that is what the Coalition does.