Morrison must show he stands with the Afghan people
The following article by Chancellor, Professor Peter Shergold AC and Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover AO was first published by The Sydney Morning Herald (opens in a new window).
In 1989, days after events in Tiananmen Square, Prime Minister Bob Hawke stood up to let those affected know he would stand by them.
“We meet here to show our support for the Chinese people,” Hawke declared at a memorial service, “and to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom of expression that they have so eloquently espoused.”
He went on to pledge sanctuary to Chinese students in Australia and over time, that guarantee saw more than 40,000 people granted permanent visas.
An opportunity exists for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to offer that kind of assurance to the people of Afghanistan. The moment is here, just as it was for Hawke, for Morrison to emblematise Australia’s belief in freedom and democracy, when those values are being assailed on the streets of Kabul, as they were in Tiananmen.
Morrison was right when he remarked on news of Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban that “freedom is always worth fighting for”. No doubt he would agree the fight doesn’t end with the withdrawal of Australian troops. It gets harder and requires just as much courage.
Our allies have shown that conviction by committing to take in great numbers of Afghan refugees. Canada and Britain will together take in 40,000 people. The United States has already taken in more than 15,000, with an additional 18,000 entries pending, and plans for countless more.
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