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The Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) has condemned Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States — unlike our weak PM and his craven cabinet. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst reports.

Ian Rintoul from the RAC told IA:

Both Labor and Liberal have built their own Mexican wall around Australia; they were guilty of Trump-like policies even before Trump took office.”

Rintoul says the Coalition's refusal to condemn the ban is even more appalling when you consider the list of global leaders who have voiced their disgust.

Trumpbull not fit to lead

Once again, our prime minister has shown Australia and the world that he is a spineless weed, carelessly blowing in the wind. Or in this case, in the backdraft from a Trump brainfart.

While the rest of the civilised world recoils in horror at the travel ban the US President has unilaterally – and probably illegally – imposed on Muslims, Malcolm Turnbull and most of his senior ministers are lining up to congratulate themselves for thinking of it first.

Turnbull has used weasel words to avoid criticising Trump, claiming it is not his job to comment on the internal politics of other countries.

This is just a lie, Turnbull always comments on other nations when it suits him to do so. This time, his silence condemns him and points to something more sinister. The prime minister is prepared to sacrifice decency, humanity and ethics in return for a small favour from a narcissistic bully who will soon turn around and shit on him without blinking.

Turnbull’s reluctance to comment has not been matched by several senior Coalition ministers.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop took precious time from her pressing social engagements in the U.S. to make a statement that appears to endorse the Muslim ban:

I'm confident that the Australian government and the U.S. government will continue to support each other in ensuring that we can implement our strong immigration and border protection policies.

The Australian Government is working very closely with the administration and the US officials and we want to ensure that Australians continue to have access to the United States, as they have in the past, and people from the United States have access to Australia.

Meanwhile, former immigration minister and now treasurer, Scott Morrison, seems to be gloating that Trump is adopting Australia’s own border protection policies.

Morrison told talkback radio yesterday morning that Australia should be proud of its history on border protection and that

“... the rest of the world is catching up."

Then present Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and PM Turnbull held a press conference in which they seemed to support Trump.

Turnbull doubled-down on Morrison’s comments, telling the assembled media:

Australia's border control policies are the envy of the world.”

So much for moral leadership!

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has also backed Trump, but we shouldn’t be surprised at this. Remember his November 2016 comments about Lebanese Australian Muslims being breeders of terrorists?

Rintoul “not surprised” by Turnbull’s silence

Of course, we should not have expected Malcolm Turnbull to speak out against Trump’s ban.

For a start, these days he doesn’t stand for anything except self-enrichment. Secondly, his silence can be bought and, in this case, no doubt was.

RAC’s Ian Rintoul says he was not surprised by Turnbull’s silence on the Muslim travel ban and prohibition on refugees.

He told IA:

The Government is compromised by its own complicity in discriminating against Muslims and in particular single Muslim men — in Australia's own discriminatory intake of refugees from Syria, which like Trump's discriminates in favour of Christians.” 

However, Rintoul adds that we should not forget the discrimination that is practiced against asylum seekers and refugees who are living in the community. Deliberate government policy means that refugees live without proper support or the right to work for many years before they are even allowed to apply for protection.

They are denied legal assistance to make their application. If they are successful, they get temporary visa and are denied travel rights and family reunion. Rintoul says refugees live “in constant fear” that visas might be cancelled on “dubious character grounds”.

Rintoul continued:

This is the kind of discrimination that most of the Australian community never sees. Even those who get permanent visas now face deliberate delays of years with their citizenship applications. This is turn means further delay and uncertainty with things like family reunion."

It is clear that Turnbull’s silence has been bought by Trump’s promise to resettle in the United States perhaps as many as 2,000 refugees, currently on Manus island and Nauru. The Government had been worried that Trump’s ban on Muslims travelling to the U.S. would prevent a deal struck last year with Barrack Obama going ahead.

Apparently, Trump gave an assurance he would honour the deal in a weekend phone call with Turnbull. I say "apparently", because Turnbull’s office is refusing to release any details of the call and it is unclear to everyone – the Government included – when, if and how the transfer will take place, given the ban on Syrians and Iranians travelling to America.

The Refugee Action Coalition believes the deal – to swap refugees for Turnbull’s silence – may still not go ahead, given the mercurial nature of the U.S. president.

The other troubling aspect of Trump’s ban, says Rintoul, is the copycat effect it is having on conservatives in Australia. Nationals MP George Christensen has already called for a similar ban in Australia, as has Pauline Hanson.

Given how wedged Turnbull is within his own party, he is unlikely to reject such calls outright any time soon. This is just another sign of his fatally compromised position.

Turncoat doesn’t even believe his own rhetoric

Just three months ago, Malcolm Turnbull made this statement in Parliament.

An inclusive nation is a safer nation. It enables our security agencies to better protect us. It enables them to secure the support and assistance of the Muslim communities without which they cannot keep us safe. Australia’s migrant story tells us that if we keep learning from each other, opening our doors, our hearts and our minds, harmony will win out. In the meantime, the Islamist terrorists have succeeded in raising levels of anxiety about Muslim immigration, about the role of Islam itself within Australia."

During the same debate, Bill Shorten said this:

People need to realise when they set up this false choice – or allow it to go unchallenged – they are doing the work of extremists.

Both leaders were attacking calls by Pauline Hanson to ban Muslim immigration to Australia.

As Phillip Coorey wrote in the Australian Financial Review at the time:

Malcolm Turnbull has pushed back at calls by One Nation and others to ban or limit Muslim immigration, saying that would be pandering to the whims of terrorists.’

There’s only one question for Turnbull today: Do they still think that the terrorists win if we ban Muslim immigration or resettlement?

To his credit, Bill Shorten has called Trump’s travel ban "appalling", although he was slow to do so. It took him at least 36 hours to read the public mood and push back against Turnbull’s craven opportunism.

In any case, given Labor’s own poor record on asylum seekers and resettlement of refugees, RAC’s Ian Rintoul says the movement must maintain pressure on the ALP too.

The Refugee Action Coalition has called a protest for this weekend – 'No Muslim Bans, No Walls, No Camps' – 2pm Saturday, 4 February, Hyde Park (near St James station). The protest will march to the U.S. consulate in Martin Place. Speakers will include: a Greens speaker (tbc); Rita Mahlia from CFMEU, Dulce Muñoz (Mexican migrant, Mums for Refugees activist, and Women’s march co-organiser); and a refugee speaker. 

The RAC is also organising actions around the country on Palm Sunday, 9 April. For more information, visit the RAC website in SydneyCanberraMelbourne.

You can read more by IA's political editor Dr Martin Hirst on his blog Ethical Martini and follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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