Trade Your Vote for Refugees

Friends, regarding with the evacuation of offshore asylum-seekers, the responses from two major parties, i.e. LNP and Labour, are of the same: to do NOTHING! We in the general public know that our cause is just and this particular request is entirely do-able. For the moment, we shouldn't waste our time analysing or be bothered about why the LNP Government and Labour Opposition have not been making bipartisan motion to evacuate these offshore asylum-seekers. We, however, should rather focusing on the ways and means to exert more pressure on both major political parties, particularly through your elected local Members of Parliament.

To my experience, the support for fair treatment of refugees transcends across all political platforms. By this, I mean there exist refugee supporters amongst traditional LNP voters as well as that of Labour voters. The refugee issue itself, like that of international foreign affairs, has primarily been apolitical one (in domestic sense) and Australia used to deploy bipartisan approach to the refugee issues. That is, of course, before John Howards era.

We also need to be aware that certain section of population from both sides of politics in particular oppose refugees and migrants. For the best indicator of this group, we can have a look at in the details of "anti-establishment firebrand" in recent SMH research article [#1]. We must address refugee issues in a way that all supporters from both sides of politics are able to participate in the process. Therefore, any action refugee rights movement is going to take must be non-partisan and apolitical.

For refugee supporters to be able to exert pressure directly on the elected representatives, three things comes to mind. First: the refugee supporters from all sides must be united in one purpose, i.e. to bring the offshore asylum-seekers to Australia. To this end, a clear & visible statement of purpose should be articulated by the refugee rights movement, such as Federal Parliament adapting bipartisan motion to evacuate the offshore asylum-seekers.

Second: and the most important, the refugee supporters should become flexible on their attitude towards voting on major parties. We all know that the swinging voters usually have huge influence on the outcome of national elections. The same effect can be simulated at the local level electorates when refugee supporters of traditional LNP & Labour voters have decided to 'swing'.

For example, the Bennelong electorate is currently being held by an LNP MP. Let's suppose, myself -- a staunch refugee supporter and traditional Labour voter -- swings towards LNP will create 'incentive pressure' (carrot) on local Federal LNP MP. In same ways, a traditional LNP voter at Bennelong deciding to swings against the local Federal LNP MP would create 'disincentive pressure' (stick). A mere 5% of swings towards or against an elected Federal MP -- I believe we the refugee supporters have more than 5% on each side (LNP:5% + L:5%) -- may decide on whether an elected MP can remain in his/her office.

Third: The refugee supporters who decide to swing votes must take firm resolve that they will not change their considered position until the next federal election.

For an elected Federal MP, the voters swinging away from him/her will create disincentive pressure and swinging towards would create the incentive pressure.

For any elected LNP MP, the L:5%+ swings towards would creates an off-sett against the expected support by the "anti-establishment firebrand", which is about ( 6%) of population. This type of "carrot" is necessary for elected LNP MPs to retain his/her seat, should he/she decided to take positive position re: offshore evacuation.

For any Labour MP, the L:5%+ swings against him/her could create a disincentive pressure. Such type of "stick" is necessary if the Labour MP not to sit idle on re: offshore evacuation.

I've used here a very modest estimate "L:5%" ( sic. Traditional Labour voters 5%) as staunch refugee supporter who prepare to swing. I am certain that we -- refugee rights movement -- can do much better than that estimate.

That modest estimate can be added with "LNP:5%", which I believe is attainable. The campaign message needs to reach out to those traditional LNP voters. As I've mentioned before, there are also refugee rights supporters amongst traditional LNP voters. We must try to find ways to reach out to those LNP voters.

When looking into intransigence politicians, we must distinguish the rank-and-file MPs from the leaderships of party. This consideration must applied to both LNP Government and Labour Opposition.

We can assume that the party leaderships are heavily influenced by the corporate interest groups and that the leaderships' position will not change re: human rights concerns.

However, we can also postulate that for the Party Leaders, i.e. Turnbull & Shorten, their first priority and self-interest has been to maintain and protect the winning seats of their back-bench MPs. Therefore, exerting direct electoral pressure on your local MP will persuade both leaders.

When we in Australia are looking at an organised activism with structure, the GetUP! Group particularly would comes to our minds. GetUP! certainly is a mighty pressure group of 1-million members with national executive board directing its campaigns.

When exerting pressure on government, we should imitate the spirit of GetUP! activism. However, when it comes to organisational structure, we should take different approach for the movement. We should define a movement with a more autonomous and decentralised structure. To my view, the loosely organised groups of alliance being driven by volunteers will be the best ways. To this end, the leadership must also maintain an altruistic, apolitical and non-partisan character of the refugee rights movement.

For any such movement of this kind, there will be resistance from the Political Establishment. For this, I do rely on you -- the fellow ordinary Australians -- and your solidarity. I dearly love to hear your thoughts on this and suggestions for further actions. In last 48 hours, I had been sending out invitation to some group admins/activists I know of to join-up the "Australian Refugee Action Network" which I myself administered. Likewise, I'd like to invite each and everyone of you to join that discussion group to focus only on action related matters. I'll be on the look-out for your comments etc..

Regards, U Ne Oo
Coordinator. Network for International Protection of Refugees.