Part 1 transcript

Dennis Altman:

Welcome everyone. My name is Dennis Altman and on behalf of the Institute for Human Security and the Ideas and Society Program at La Trobe, it’s an enormous pleasure to welcome you here to a discussion of the politics of asylum seekers. It’s a particular pleasure for me because I’ve just come from a class in which a couple of the people presenting were talking out of their own experiences, working with communities and coming out of communities that have come to Australia recently as refugees. It was a very salutary reminder of how significant and real this issue is for us all. This is a remarkable afternoon because we have with us four of the leading minds in Australia who have over the years thought very deeply about the topics that we’re going to discuss. For that reason we’re probably going to take up the great bulk of the afternoon, hearing from them and then encouraging them to engage in discussion. So in advance let me say there will probably not be time for questions. There’ll be an opportunity for people to talk to them afterwards. But we really want to get full advantage of having with us today four remarkable people.

I’ll just introduce them briefly in the order in which they’ll speak and then I’ll sit down and you won’t hear from me until they’ve all spoken. Marilyn Lake who is Professor of History at La Trobe and co-winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for non-fiction. Julian Burnside, one of Australia’s leading barristers and advocates for refugee and asylum seeker rights. George Megalogenis who is a Senior Political Correspondent for The Australian and author of several very significant books on contemporary Australian politics. And of course, Robert Manne, who is Professor of Politics at La Trobe and among many other public engagements, will probably be known to you all through his role in the public media.

So let us start. I will ask Marilyn to kick us off.