Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that Fremantle’s Federal MP, Melissa Parke, has her offices on Wray Avenue.
Anyone on Wray Avenue yesterday between 4pm and 6pm who did not know this would have become swiftly aware of it.
When I was dropped home from work on Friday, there was a large crowd of activists out the front of her office protesting against the Federal Government’s planned Malaysian Solution. There were members of RRANWA, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and some locals holding banners and signs calling for Melissa Parke to officially oppose the government’s approach to asylum seekers.
Wray Avenue had become a site for a coordinated political protest.
I’ve got fairly strong, sympathetic views on this issue so I went down and joined them, holding a sign and chanting “Melissa Parke: no more excuses! Free refugees and end the abuses!”
Melissa Parke is frequently reported in the media, both locally and nationally, as being a progressive voice in the Federal Government on the issue of asylum seekers. She is steadfastly opposed to any policy that violates the UNHCR and results in harm for children.
That said, there is no indication that she would go further and publicly endorse a more humane solution beyond this minimum standard and no indication that she would be willing to cross the floor in parliament and vote against legislation aimed at being “tough on refugees”.
There are reports here and here that Parke was involved in trying to put up a motion for WA Labor to oppose (before the motion was shut down) at the recent state conference which was attended by the PM. It’s note-worthy that several WA State MPs, from right and left factions, have voiced strong disapprovals against the Malaysian Solution. Disappointing then that they weren’t able to debate it.
I’ve previously alluded to the booth at Fremantle Primary School behind Wray Avenue having one of the greenest votes in the state; it is undoubtedly a major progressive, left-leaning booth both state and federally. I think that those who voted for Melissa Parke, an excellent candidate with strong social justice and human rights credentials, expected progressive values on issues like asylum seekers to have greater representation in this government.
I also think that these views, while not unanimously held, would certainly be endorsed by the majority around the Wray Avenue precinct.
A few people, particularly older residents, did come out the front of their houses and looked perturbed by the disturbance, but I think this was more a reflection that this was unusual for this area rather than an opposition to the point of the protest. Plenty of cars – and a couple of bus loads of commuters – drove past signalling support anyway.
I wrote a letter to the Fremantle Herald (not selected for publication) in which I expressed this view. Here is a section:
“… I applaud the WA Labor MPs for their public opposition but I sadly doubt that this will translate to action on the floor of parliament.
While we in Fremantle elected a progressive, socially-just representative, this view is rarely reflected in government policy. We may be worth a “community cabinet” but our values, and the admirable views of our MP, are largely ignored by this government in favour of wasteful, inhumane conservatism.”
The ALP retain only three seats in Western Australia. Fremantle, one of these, is a prize seat having been held by Prime Minister Curtin. Sadly, I think that it is taken for granted as a safe seat by the party at the federal level and the type of Labor people here expect and want isn’t forthcoming.
The same thing happened not too long ago with the “safe” state seat of Fremantle, and most people would know what happened then.