Dr Mike Freelander, a Campbelltown, New South Wales, Australia pediatrician who is running for the key Western Sydney seat of Macarthur for the Labor party, has apologized for remarks he made describing Australia’s detention centers on Manus as “concentration camps,” J-Wire reported Thursday.
Freelander needs only a 3.3% swing in the July 2 vote to take it from the Liberals, which explains why he’d rather say I’m sorry than stick to his guns on this one.
The Manus Regional Processing Center is an immigration detention and offshore asylum facility located on Los Negros Island in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, operated by a company named Broadspectrum on behalf of the Australian government. The center was closed in 2007, but in 2012, with the significant rise in the number of irregular maritime arrivals seeking asylum in Australia, the facility was reopened, with 936 asylum seekers being held there.
Freelander made his comments following a tweet from union organizer Corey Rabaut that said the German neo-Nazi party had endorsed Australia’s refugee policy.
Dr Freelander then told The Daily Telegraph, “I would hate to think we would be torturing children in a place like Manus Island – in a concentration camp and I could never support that.” He added that “sometimes you have to make decisions that go against the grain but support the greater good.”
And sometimes you don’t, apparently. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, campaigning with incumbent Liberal MP Russell Matheson, said: “I call on the Labor candidate for Macarthur to apologize to the government officials, to the people who are caring for those in detention facilities. For a candidate to try to draw a parallel between any action of an Australian government and the Holocaust and Nazi Germany is quite frankly shocking. He should apologize.”
And so Dr Freelander told J-Wire: “As a member of the Jewish community I’m deeply aware that I chose poor words yesterday. I’m sorry for the offence I caused to my community.”
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has welcomed Dr Freelander’s apology.