11 September 2017

Page 10


No civic banner for refugees

Grandmothers locked out of MP’s office Keith Platt keith@baysidenews.com.au

A BANNER to welcome refugees visiting Frankston Council offices has been shot down by councillors. A majority of councillors at this month’s public council meeting declined to back a proposal by deputy mayor Cr Steve Toms to hang a banner targeted at asylum seeker newcomers to Frankston at the civic centre in Davey St. “Refugees often feel nervous and untrusting of government services like Frankston City Council when approaching them due to the fleeing of countries with violent dictatorships,” Cr Toms said at the meeting. “[It would be] a tangible hand of friendship to our city’s new arrivals in our civic centre.” Councillors said refugees are welcome in the Frankston community but saw no need to display a banner at council offices at an estimated cost of $300. A council officers report, tabled at the meeting, noted any refugees banner “is highly political and its consistency with policy, depends on the position of the government at the time”. “This is an absolute waste, in my view, of ratepayers’ money,” the mayor Cr Brian Cunial said during debate. Cr Cunial said he is “a son of Italian immigrants”. Before the banner was voted down, the mayor expressed concern about a language barrier. “I hope it’s written in the appropriate language so they can at least understand it,” Cr Cunial said. Cr Toms unsuccessfully argued other councils such as Queenscliffe Council displayed signage welcoming refugees to council premises. “Given all the hatred in the world, one has to agree that we need a little more love and acceptance and we can start right here at Frankston City Council.” Crs Cunial, Colin Hampton, Lilian O’Connor and Michael O’Reilly voted against the motion. Crs Glenn Aitken, Sandra Mayer and Toms voted for the banner. Crs Quinn McCormack and Kris Bolam were not in the council chamber during voting. Neil Walker

THE office of Flinders MP Greg Hunt was in lockdown last Tuesday morning as a group of grandmothers protested about the federal government’s treatment of refugees. The protest by the South Peninsula Grandmothers against the Detention of Refugee Children came one week after police forcibly evicted members of a church group from the office who were calling for better treatment of asylum seekers being detained on Manus Island and Nauru (“Police praised by ‘evicted’ church group” The Times 28/8/17). “Other members of the public who came were not able to enter to talk with office staff. A woman visiting before our group had formed, could not get in with her request. The door was locked against us all,” Ann Renkin, one of the protesting grandmothers, said. “Towards the end of our [90-minute] peaceful demonstration I rang Minister Hunt’s office from outside the office door. The answer to my request for them to open the door so that I could deliver a letter was refused on the grounds that they had been advised by the federal police to lock themselves inside, and us out.” Ms Renkin said her group had earlier briefed Mr Hunt’s staff about the demonstration and said they would be delivering a letter for him. “We were a small group of law-abiding electors coming to him, our federal representative, to tell him again that we are very critical of his government’s refugee policies and abusive practices,” she said. “Does our local MP’s distrust extend to all grass roots organisations in his electorate? “Do we assume Mr Hunt is only available to electors who agree with him?” The latest protest outside Mr Hunt’s office also came in the wake of reports of a boat carrying six Chinese men breaching Australia’s border security by landing on Saibai Island.

PROTESTING members of the South Peninsula Grandmothers against the Detention of Refugee Children locked out of the Hastings office of Flinders MP Greg Hunt.

An Australian island in the Torres Strait, Saibai is less than five kilometres from Papua New Guinea. The landing would appear to end the federal government’s ability to boast about its long record of preventing boat landings on Australian soil. People from PNG are allowed to visit Saibai without visas or passport. Five Chinese nationals were reported as being returned to their country after being detained on Saibai. A PNG man and a Chinese man were later taken to Cairns where they were charged with aggravated people smuggling under the Migration Act. Mr Hunt was last week asked by The Times for details – timelines and numbers - of the government’s refugee “resettlement agreement with the United States” he had mentioned in a statement issued the previous week. Mr Hunt’s Hastings-based media advisor Samantha Robin replied that the federal government had an “arrangement with the United States for the resettlement of refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea who are endorsed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for referral to the existing United States Refugee Admissions Program. President Trump has confirmed this agreement”. “US authorities will conduct their own assessment of refugees referred by the UNHCR to determine which refugees and how many are resettled in the US,” Ms Robin said. “Resettlement in the US is just one of the op-

tions available to support the resettlement of refugees. Refugees will continue to be resettled temporarily in Nauru, and permanently in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia. “The priority is the resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees, with an initial focus on women, children and families.” Recordings of a 28 January phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released last month by The Washington Post shows that the resettlement “agreement” is non-specific on numbers but necessary for the government to maintain its hard-line stance against refugees arriving by boat. “You can decide to take 1000 or 100. It is entirely up to you,” Mr Turnbull is recorded as saying to Mr Trump. “The obligation is to only go through the process.” Mr Turnbull then assures Mr Trump that the “vast bulk” of people detained on Nauru and Manus Island are “economic refugees” and Australian authorities know “exactly everything about them”. “Let me explain. We know exactly who they are. They have been on Nauru or Manus for over three years and the only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here,” Mr Turnbull says.


16 – 17 SEPTEMBER Temporary traffic changes

Skye/Overton Road, Frankston will be closed in both directions at the level crossing from 4am Saturday 16 September until 5am Monday 18 September for level crossing removal works. Detours will be clearly signposted. Please plan ahead and allow extra travel time. The sooner we get this done, the sooner you’ll be on your way. Local traders will be open during this time, so please support businesses in the area.

Buses replacing trains on the Frankston Line

contact@levelcrossings.vic.gov.au 1800 762 667 levelcrossings.vic.gov.au


Frankston Times 11 September 2017

• Between Mordialloc and Moorabbin stations all day on Monday 18 September for work at Southland Station (unrelated to the Level Crossing Removal Project)

Translation service – For languages other than English, please call 9280 0780. Please contact us if you would like this information in an accessible format.

Authorised by the Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne

FRA0048 AG003

• Between Frankston and Moorabbin stations from 8pm until last service Thursday 14 September and all weekend 16–17 September

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