By Tony Yegles

April 24, 2013

Leigh Sales won a Walkley Award for her interview with Mr Abbott on the 730 Report in August 2012. Part of this interview dealt with the issue of using the term “illegal” when referring to asylum seekers. Below is a quick reminder.

LEIGH SALES: Why have you referred repeatedly to illegal asylum boats coming to Australia? Do you accept that that’s illegal and that seeking asylum by any means is legal?

TONY ABBOTT: Most of the people who are coming to Australia by boat have passed through several countries on the way and if they simply wanted asylum they could have claimed that in any of the countries through which they’d passed.

LEIGH SALES: But I don’t believe that it’s actually illegal to pass through countries on your way to somewhere where you want to have asylum.

TONY ABBOTT: You try turning up in America without documents, without a visa, without a passport; you’ll be treated as very, very much illegal, Leigh. The other point I make, from recollection at least, is that the very term that the Government has officially used to describe these vessels is “suspected illegal entry vessel”.

LEIGH SALES: Do you – I’m asking you though, not about the Government. I’m asking: do you accept that it’s legal to come to Australia to seek asylum by any means – boat, plane – that it is actually legal to seek asylum?

TONY ABBOTT: I think that people should come to Australia through the front door, not through the back door. If people want a migration outcome, they should go through the migration channels.

LEIGH SALES: That’s an answer to the question if I asked you: how do you think people should seek asylum?, it’s not an answer to the question: is it legal to seek asylum?

Jon Faine also took Mr Abbott on about illegals in August last year, when the alternative PM conceded the point, but stuck to his script anyway.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

All people have a fundamental human right to seek asylum from persecution.

Leigh Sales not only won a Walkley Award but she was also cleared of bias in that interview by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Yet Mr Abbott keep using the term, and in Perth on April 24 he joined his custom’s spokesman Michael Keenan to put it on a billboard

Mr Abbott & Mr Keenan - April 22 2013

Mr Abbott & Mr Keenan – April 22 2013

This time  refugee rights advocates heckled the alternative PM and social media started a “billboard meme”

Here are just a few examples:

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Here are a few more: Tony’s Billboards

The backlash continued overseas where Mr Abbott’s megaphone diplomacy is seen as doing harm with our relations with Indonesia, which opposes any tow-back plan.

The final meme which won the viral hit was the fact check graffiti correcting the billboard.

From this viral meme


to this real life fact checking

The figures were whited out and turned to zero with 'no crime to seek asylum' written on the Liberal Party billboard. ABC: Barry Duxton

The figures were whited out and turned to zero with ‘no crime to seek asylum’ written on the Liberal Party billboard. ABC: Barry Duxton

The Liberal Party replaced its billboard just 24 hours after it was erected.

The Coalition Customs spokesman Michael Keenan choked with emotion in June 2012 during the Asylum Seeker bill on the Malaysia Solution. He recalled the Christmas Island tragedy of 2010, where about 50 people died. It is passing strange that Mr Keenan openly and willingly vilifies asylum seekers by calling them “illegals”.

Choked with emotion ... Michael Keenan. Photo: Andrew Meares

Choked with emotion … Michael Keenan. Photo: Andrew Meares

Words and Actions

Words and Actions