Refugee motion splits councillors

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A MOTION for Kingston councillors to note that “refugees and migrants have made a positive contribution to our community” has divided council.

The motion, moved by deputy mayor Cr Steve Staikos, read that Kingston Council should note that “we live in a world where people have no option but to flee their homes and countries, and that globally, resettlement places for these people are rare and oversubscribed. All countries, especially the wealthiest like Australia, need to do their fair share by welcoming refugees in any way they can. Refugees and migrants have made a positive contribution to our community and we need to create more opportunities for safe and legal entry into Australia”

The motion urged the federal government to “expand the Community Sponsorship Program” to ensure the program “does not take places from others in need, provides adequate support and services, and creates more places for people in need of protection to settle in Australia.”

“What this motion seeks to do is to join with 19 other local governments in Australia to ask for [Community Sponsorship Program flaws] to be addressed,” Cr Staikos said at the final council meeting of 2018.

“This particular motion came from an email and contact by telephone by the Amnesty International Bayside Action Group, who asked the city of Kingston to show leadership and join with those other 19 councils to work with the federal government to make sure this program works and works properly.”

Cr Ron Brownlees said that “refugees and migrants have made a very positive contribution to our community. I’ve always been one to say that the early immigrants to this country helped to build Australia to what it is today.

“I’m not a socialist and I welcome refugees and immigrants, but I question the remark where we talk about showing leadership. The leadership in this particular facet, because it’s a border protection issue that deals with the problem and welcomes refugees, belongs more as a national issue.

“They say very nice things about not taking places from others in need and all that, but I can’t support the recommendation.”

Cr Ron Brownlees voted against the motion, and Crs George Hua and Geoff Gledhill abstained. Cr Tamsin Bearsley had left the room before the vote took place.

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 9 January 2019

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