Young Labor Left Back Revolt on Asylum Policy


The asylum seeker issue is one of the most important issues of race and representation in our generation.

The status of our so-called “Immigration and Border Protection” policy is utterly debauched. And it is one the Liberal Party inherited from the Labor Party.

The government contracted the man who beat Reza Berati to death with a rock, clearly demonstrating the operation of the centre unviable, dangerous and an exemplification of brutality against the powerless.

Richard Marles the Opposition Spokesman for Immigration continues to endorse the centre’s operation. Even after the trauma of this event, Marles initiated a cruelty bidding war with Scott Morrison, challenging him to restate that no asylum seeker on Manus Island would receive an Australian protection visa.

Young Labor Left took a step in the right direction recently; we decided that we will not campaign for any candidate at the state or federal election who does not publically oppose mandatory detention and offshore processing.

In a practical sense this means that we will not door knock, letterbox or call on behalf of any candidate that does not support an end to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers in detention centres, and encourages rank and file activists from Young Labor all around the country to move similar motions in their respective branches, with a view to putting pressure on the leadership from the ground up.

There is no reason why dissenting voices within the rank and file of the ALP can’t create a movement internally to hold our representatives to account.

After the PNG solution was introduced by the previous Labor government, members of YLL convened in Newcastle, unanimously approving a motion to petition the Senior Left, urging the party to change its position on refugees.

Not alone in outrage at the actions of the Parliamentary caucus, the Australian Council of Trade Unions also condemned the policy when it was announced, yet this too was to no avail.

Although frustrated by the indifference shown by the ALP, even in the face of dissent from both the parties own youth wing and the labour movement at large, Young Labor Left continues to engage in community campaigns around the issue.

This internal dissent is more than a way to show Anna Bourke and Melissa Parke that they are not alone in their stand in federal caucus against labor’s current position.

We should not have to rely on the benevolence of elected MPs for direction on policy. Rank and file pressure needs to be immediate, and the youth movement can play its part with a well-publicised boycott of anti-refugee candidates.

To end this policy, all forms of agitation, both external and internal to the Labor Party need to be engaged with to ensure the best chance of success, and this cannot exclude the open criticism of my own party.

Young activists in the Labor Party need to make a decision about how they intend to reconcile their progressive views on asylum seekers with their Party Membership, and what role they intend to play in changing Party Policy.

* Pete Landi is a member of NSW Young Labor Left.

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