December 2002 – Martin Ferguson, Asylum Seekers and Refugees: ALP Policy
Mudgee Conference – Rural Australians for Refugees
It was excruciating for several advocates to stay in the presence of Mr Ferguson when he presented his delivery. His voice sounded loud, harsh and at no point in time he expressed any affection for the advocacy work of Rural Australians for Refugees or any other groups or organisations: it seemed like he was seriously cheesed off in “having” to do the honours at the Conference.
It wasn’t entirely a surprise, because what he had to say represented the right-wing, hardline Labor approach – which really was nothing more than a predictable pandering to the hardline approach taken by the Howard government since 2001. It seemed that Ferguson had swallowed the “xenophobia response” following the 9/11 attacks hook, line and sinker, and that as a result the “keeping Australia safe” politician’s line was entirely connected to asylum seeker and refugee policy.
By the time Mr Ferguson was about to conclude his delivery, almost 15 people had walked out of the AREC hall, and outside on the lawn a choir chanted “Free The Refugees”.