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A very Christmas act:

We should remember the Good Samaritan this Christmas.
By Bonita Mersiades
Date: December 20 2011
Editor Rating:

Remember the Good Samaritan?  He was the person who did the right thing when he stopped to help another lying beaten and shattered by the side of the road, when others before him had crossed to the other side.

The values exemplified by the Good Samaritan are not exclusive to Christians but they are nonetheless values we like to associate with Christianity – values with which the majority of Australians identify.

If that is the case, why are there not more of us demanding the Government and the Opposition get their heads together for a solution to the crisis which has seen hundreds of people, including children, lose their lives in the past week trying to reach the closest Australian territory of Christmas Island.

Many believe they are doing this in increased numbers because of a recent High Court decision which effectively means that those arriving in Australia (generally via Christmas Island) seeking asylum must have their claims for refugee status assessed in Australia. In desperation, asylum seekers are taking the risk of the dangerous journey so their refugee claims can be assessed on safe Australian soil.

The High Court decision could be irrelevant if the Migration Act was changed but the Government and the Opposition seem more interested in bickering over the politics of the so-called ‘asylum seeker debate’ than they are about people. 

Yet their objective is not different: both the Government and the Opposition want to discourage ‘boat people’ from making the dangerous sea journey to Australia.

In simple terms the Government wants to process people seeking asylum (that is, assess their claim for refugee status) offshore.  The Government’s preferred option is to put them straight on to an aircraft and send them to Malaysia. The Opposition also wants to process people offshore, but they want to put them on an aircraft to Nauru. Is this too difficult to sort out?

The Opposition also wants to go further  by giving people ‘temporary protection visas’ once granted refugee status.

The ‘temporary protection visa’ is a particularly odious form of deterrent.  On the one hand, the individual is a bona fide refugee as determined by UN Conventions but, on the other hand, they are only afforded refugee status for 36 months or maybe even less. 

In practical terms, it means you have limited access to job support services; you have no access to federally funded English language classes or interpreting and translating services; you can work but it’s difficult to find a job because of language barriers and the temporary visa; you have no right of family reunion – even for spouse and children; you are not eligible for most benefits and allowances; you have limited access to housing support; and you could be sent back to where you came from even earlier than the 36 months if the Department of Foreign Affairs decides it’s safe to do so. 

Mental health experts around the country agree that the sum of the disadvantage of someone on a temporary protection visa is profound – which is no surprise as your life is on hold and plagued with uncertainty.

And now it’s Christmas. 

We celebrate Christmas because we believe in the Christian value of doing unto others as we would want them to do to us. 

So if you could do one Christian act to help these desolate people this Christmas, write an e-mail or send a quick tweet to the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, the Minister for Immigration and Shadow Minister and ask them to fix it. 

Ask them to care about people, not politics.

The Good Samaritan would.


Julia Gillard, Prime Minister

e-mail:  via her website at

twitter:  @JuliaGillard


Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition


twitter:  @TonyAbbottMHR


Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship


twitter:  @bowenchris


Scott Morrison, Opposition Spokesperson on Immigration and Citizenship

e-mail:  via Parliament House website at

twitter:  @ScottMorrisonMP

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Recent Comments
2 Total Comments
Jack says: 2011 12 20

Excellent article. Excellent idea.

Liz says: 2011 12 22

I’ve written.

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