Over 630 people have signed a petition expressing “outrage and disgust” at a fundraising event featuring former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, as opposition to the event continues to grow.
Morrison is been scheduled to speak at a fundraiser hosted by the Sydney High School Old Boys Union, which offers guest the opportunity to see the Minister ‘spill the beans’ at a cost of $75 per person.
In an open letter, former students expressed dismay at the decision to host Morrison, and called on the Old Boys Union to “immediately rescind the invitation so as to spare the organisation, and the school itself, the embarrassment of being seen to celebrate the achievement of a man who has so flagrantly disregarded human rights”.
“In his capacity as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Morrison was at best complicit, and at worst the chief protagonist, in advocating offshore immigration detention policies that violate the United Nations Convention against Torture,” the letter said.
Among the signatories is Hal Wootten AC QC, one of the Royal Commissioners into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. He graduated the school in 1939.
Wootten was the founding dean of the UNSW faculty of law where an annual memorial lecture is now given in his honour. Ironically, the 2015 lecture was delivered just two days ago by human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, who used the address to highlight the government’s mistreatment of refugee.
Tuan Dao, another signatory to the open letter, graduated from Sydney Boys High in 1998, 16 years after his family reached Australia as refugees. His family fled Vietnam by boat, only to end up in a Malaysian refugee camp. After six months they were sponsored to come out to Australia.
Dao said that because of his personal experience, he wouldn’t be attending the fundraiser.
“My beef is that if Malaysia had the same strategy that the Australian government are deploying now, we would have been turned back to God knows where and pushed back to another country,” he said.
New Matilda made multiple attempts to contact the Sydney High School Old Boys Union for comment, and was eventually pointed back to a statement issued by the organisation.
“This event is your opportunity to meet Scott away from the media circus. It’s an opportunity to better understand the person. It’s your chance to ask a difficult question,” the statement said.
“This is the first in a series of ‘Spill the Beans’ events we are planning. We welcome the old boy community to nominate candidates who should be asked to ‘Spill their Beans’ at future events.”
When Paul Almond, President of the Union, posted its response in the organisation’s facebook group, former students were not impressed.
“Scott Morrison is a disgrace of a human being,” the first responder wrote, while others added they were now even more disappointed.
Some stood by the event organisers.
“It’s a fund raiser. Morrison was elected to parliament. Although I don’t care for his governments [sic]policies and I don’t care for his politics, plenty do,” Peter Bishop wrote.
Morrison is apparently unfazed by the anger.
@smh Everyone is entitled to their opinion. That is what I learnt at Sydney Boys High School. Feel free to send cheque in lieu of attendance
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 27, 2015
The open letter sent to the Old Boys Union said opposition to the event was not an attempt to limit free speech.
“We are ever mindful of the need for a robust public sphere, in which free political discourse, dissent and contrasting opinions are allowed to flourish,” it said.
“This is not a question of restricting freedom of speech, but instead reflects the desire not to tacitly endorse the actions of a man who has demonstrated callous disregard for human rights.”
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