Australia’s leaders must not play dog whistle politics in response to yesterday’s announcement that the Manus Island detention centre will be closed by the Papua New Guinea Government.
Director of the Edmund Rice Centre, Phil Glendenning, has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to avoid a political race to the bottom on the issue during the campaign.
"Events over recent days remind me of the political environment prior to the 2001 Federal election which was dominated by fear mongering about asylum seekers and refugees,” Mr Glendenning said.
“In that campaign, our politicians failed to appeal to the better angels of the Australian people’s nature, choosing to exploit people’s fears and emotions.
“If history repeats itself, the Government, beset with problems over tax policy, will try to pivot towards their perceived strength – border protection. Labor will seek to neutralise the issue and match the Government’s hardline stance.
“The 2016 election campaign must not become a case of ‘back to the future’.
“Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have a choice - they can work to improve public debate on race and immigration, or they can return to the politics of fear and divisive dog whistling.
“Immigration, race and refugees have been key issues in the past six election campaigns. Our country is better than that and it’s time this style of politics came to an end,” Mr Glendenning concluded.
The Edmund Rice Centre has written to Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten, inviting them to pledge that they will not blow the dog whistle during the campaign.
Candidates have also been invited and on Tuesday, Labor frontbencher and Member for Grayndler Anthony Albanese became the first Member of Parliament to sign the pledge.