Scholars From 6 Nations Condemn Abbott On Refugees


More than 130 academics from universities across the globe – including major universities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, the United States and Hong Kong – have added their names to the growing list of eminent people condemning the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

The joint statement, issued earlier this evening to New Matilda and co-signed by 137 scholars working in the field of humanities and social sciences, delivers a scathing rebuke to Prime Minister Tony Abbott over his treatment of asylum seekers, his use of crude slogans such as ‘stop the boats’ and his exploitation of xenophobia for political gain.

It follows a joint statement earlier this week by 53 legal scholars, who described the return of 41 Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka as illegal. 

This is the first joint petition to attract international condemnation.

In particular, the scholars were scathing of the Prime Minister’s comments around the acts of self-harm earlier this week of almost a dozen asylum seeker women on Christmas Island.

The academics call on the Abbott Government to “affirm a vision of the nation that is committed to non-negotiable ethical principles that override the mere fulfillment of election slogans such as ‘stop the boats.’”

Abbott late yesterday attacked the women – mothers who were protesting over the conditions in which their children are being forced to live – telling media that
"no Australian government should be subjected to the spectacle" of people threatening self-harm.

"If true, it is a harrowing tale," the ABC reported Abbott as saying. "[But] this is not going to be a government which has our policy driven by people who are attempting to hold us over a moral barrel. We won't be driven by that.”

"I don't believe any Australian would want us to capitulate to moral blackmail."

The scholars, led by Professor Suvendrini Perera from Curtin University in Western Australia and Professor Joseph Pugliese from Macquarie University in Sydney, describe the Prime Minister’s comments as “a betrayal of the responsibility for ethical leadership”.

“As academics working in the Humanities and Social Sciences, we are dismayed to hear our Prime Minister deny the ethical responsibility of this nation to adhere to the tenets and conventions on asylum seekers that are founded on moral bases, and which we as a nation have signed,” they write.

“The government’s mandate to ‘stop the boats’, if it is such, does not exempt the nation from its moral obligations.

“We find the political show of contempt for the moral profoundly disturbing in the context of increasing self-harm by refugees, including children, in Australia’s detention centres, attempts at suicide by refugee mothers in despair at the plight of their children and other traumatic incidents.

“In these crisis situations, in which lives are stake, the moral is not something that is expendable.”

The scholars point to the United Nation’s 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, of which Australia is a signatory, which they describe as an effort to “stop the subjection of refugees to political opportunism and xenophobia”.

“These historical lessons must not be forgotten. Rather, they should impel us to adhere to [the]very principles and ethics on which the convention was based.

“As Humanities and Social Sciences scholars who teach and research practices of ethics, values and justice as constitutive of a civic and just society, we have to question a leadership whose vision for the nation is not founded on a moral base.

“We call on the polity to affirm a vision of the nation that is committed to non- negotiable ethical principles that override the mere fulfillment of election slogans such as ‘stop the boats’.

“Such political sloganeering amounts to nothing more than a betrayal of the responsibility for ethical leadership.”

The list of scholars who have attached their names to the document are:

1. Professor Suvendrini Perera, Curtin University
2. Professor Joseph Pugliese, Macquarie University
3. Dr Keyvan Allahyari, University of Melbourne
4. Dr Andrew Alter, Macquarie University
5. Dr Avard, University of Adelaide
6. Dr Jeannine Baker, Macquarie University
7. Associate Professor Barbara Baird, Flinders University
8. Dr Iqbal Barkat, Macquarie University
9. Ms Valentina Bau. Macquarie University
10. Dr Nicholas Birns, New School, New York City, USA
11. Dr Helen Bones, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
12. Ms Emily Booker, Macquarie University
13. Professor Linda Briskman, Swinburne University
14. Dr Brooks, Australian Catholic University
15. Dr Caragh Brosnan, University of Newcastle
16. Dr Rachel Buchanan, University of Newcastle
17. Ms Rosalie Bunn, University of Newcastle
18. Dr Burns, New School, New York City, USA
19. Associate Professor Nina Burridge, University of Technology, Sydney
20. Dr Jon Burtt, Macquarie University
21. Dr Castagna, University of New South Wales
22. Dr Amy Chapman, Australian Catholic University
23. Dr Donna Coates, University of Calgary, Canada
24. Dr Sharon Cooper, University of Newcastle
25. Mr James Cox, Macquarie University
26. Professor Leigh Dale, Wollongong University
27. Dr Kirsten Damb, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
28. Professor Margaret Davies, Flinders University
29. Ms Victoria Dawson, Macquarie University
30. Dr De Krester, University of Sydney
31. Dr Marie Delofski, Macquarie University
32. Dr Clemence Due, University of Adelaide
33. Mr Nicholas Dynon, Macquarie University
34. Associate Professor Mark Evans, Macquarie University
35. Ms Sandy Evans, OAM, Macquarie University
36. Dr Falconer, University of Technology, Sydney
37. Associate Professor Joseph Fernandez, Curtin University
38. Professor Carole Ferrier, University of Queensland
39. Dr Lucy Fisk, University of Technology
40. Mr David-Jack Fletcher, Macquarie University
41. Dr Daniella J Forster, University of Newcastle
42. Dr Genoni, Curtin University
43. Dr Maria Giannacopoulos, Flinders University
44. Dr Liz Giuffre, Macquarie University
45. Ms Shruti Ghosh, Macquarie University
46. Dr Gonsalves, University of New South Wales
47. Dr Kristina Gottschall, Charles Sturt University
48. Mr Pat Grant, Macquarie University
49. Dr Griffith, University of Wollongong
50. Dr Kalvero Gulson, University of New South Wales
51. Professor Bridget Griffin-Foley, Macquarie University
52. Professor Sneja Gunew, University of British Columbia, Canada
53. Dr Lisa Hartley, Curtin University
54. Ms Tereza Hendlova, Macquarie University
55. Dr Annie Herro, University of Sydney
56. Ms Catharine Hoad, Macquarie University
57. Dr Hoang, University of Adelaide
58. Dr Hospodar, University of Sydney
59. Dr Deborah Hunn, Curtin University
60. Dr Maria Elena Indelicato, University of Sydney
61. Dr Michael Jackline, University of Wollongong
62. Professor Bruce Johnson, Macquarie University
63. Dr Kate Johnstone, Deakin University
64. Dr Claire Jones, University of Western Australia
65. Mr Brent Keogh, Macquarie University
66. Dr Catherine Kevin, Flinders University
67. Dr Susie Khamis, Macquarie University
68. Dr Sabine Krajewski, Macquarie University
69. Ms Jillian Kramer, Macquarie University
70. Dr Thor Kerr, Curtin University
71. Dr Martin Lear, University of Geneva, Switzerland
72. Dr Tony Lewis, Macquarie University
73. Associate Professor Anthony Langlois, Flinders University
74. Professor Bronwyn Levy, University of Queensland
75. Ms Natalie Lewandowski, Macquarie University
76. Dr Julie-Anne Long, Macquarie University
77. Professor Catharine Lumby, Macquarie University
78. Ms Siobhan Lyons, Macquarie University
79. Dr Willa McDonald, Macquarie University
80. Associate Professor Elizabeth McMahon, University of New South Wales
81. Dr Therese Macdermott, Macquarie University
82. Dr Virginia Madsen, Macquarie University
83. Ms Kate Maguire-Rosier, Macquarie University
84. Professor Nick Mansfield, Macquarie University
85. Dr Paul Marks, Flinders University
86. Dr Karen Maras, University of New South Wales
87. Dr Nicole Matthews, Macquarie University
88. Dr Wade Marynowsky, Macquarie University
89. Dr Bonita Mason, Curtin University
90. Professor Martin Mills, University of Queensland
91. Dr Helen Merrick, Curtin University
92. Dr Marilyn Metta, Curtin University
93. Professor Kathryn Millard, Macquarie University
94. Dr Nicole Mockler, University of Newcastle
95. Ms Tanya Muscat, Macquarie University
96. Dr Tom Murray, Macquarie University
97. Dr Bhuva Narayan, University of Technology, Sydney
98. Dr Catherine Noshe, Monash University
99. Associate Professor Brigitta Olubas, University of New South Wales
100. Mr Fereydoun Pelarke, Macquarie University
101. Dr Kristen Phillips, Curtin University
102. Dr Fiona Polach, Memorial University, Canada
103. Dr Shaun Rawolle, Deakin University
104. Dr Jayne Regan, Australian National University
105. Dr Adrian Renzo, Macquarie University
106. Dr Rachel Roberston, Curtin University
107. Dr Kate Rossmanith, Macquarie University
108. Dr Brigid Rooney, University of Sydney
109. Dr Rowe, University of Adelaide
110. Dr Phyllis Sakinofsky, Macquarie University
111. Associate Professor Sue Saltmarsh, Australian Catholic University
112. Dr David Saltmarsh, Macquarie University
113. Dr Larissa Sandy, Flinders University
114. Dr John Scannell, Macquarie University
115. Professor Nan Seuffert, University of Wollongong
116. Professor Paul Sharrad, University of Wollongong
117. Dr Jane Simon, Macquarie University
118. Dr Timothy Steains, University of Sydney
119. Dr Anna Szorenyi, University of Adelaide
120. Dr Katarina Tuinamuana, Australian Catholic University
121. Dr Jane Singleton, University of Sydney
122. Dr Erica Southgate, University of Newcastle
123. Dr Liza-Mare Syron, Macquarie University
124. Dr Elaine Tay, Curtin University
125. Dr Thompson, La Trobe University
126. Ms Sharon Tofler, University of Sydney
127. Dr Lorraine Towers, University of Sydney
128. Dr Ly Tran, Deakin University
129. Dr Antonio Traverso, Curtin University
130. Dr Von Rijswijk, University of Technology, Sydney
131. Associate Professor Joan Wardrope, Curtin University
132. Dr R Scott Webster, Deakin University
133. Dr Tania Webster, Monash University
134. Dr David Whish-Wilson, Curtin University
135. Dr Jessica White, Independent Scholar
136. Dr Deborah Zion, Monash University
137. Dr Jan Zwar, Macquarie University

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.