The Australian government has claimed an 18-page graphic novel which has been distributed offshore as part of its ‘Stop the boats’ campaign was developed under the Labor administration.
Today The Guardian reports the book was first published on the Customs and Border Protection website in November, and depicts an Afghan refugee making the journey to Australia only to suffer medical problems and depression in an offshore detention centre.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison told Mumbrella the storyboard was developed and distributed offshore under the previous government.
“It has been part of offshore anti-people smuggling communications campaigns. It has also been distributed in the period since the Federal election,” the spokesperson said.
Last year’s initial ‘You won’t be settled in Australia’ campaign run by the Labor government drew fire for being “politically motivated” as it had an estimated $3m of ad space in domestic papers in the run up to the general election
The spokesperson said the Joint Agency Task Force Operation Sovereign Borders had engaged “a number of external consultants and service providers in a range of offshore markets” to assist with the delivery of messages discouraging people from travelling by boat to Australia.
“Commander JATF (Lt-Gen Angus Campbell) spoke about this offshore communication campaign on Friday 1 November, and spoke about how it is helping people become more informed and make smarter, safer choices on Friday 8 November,” the spokesperson said.
“People smugglers should know that our communication activities will be sustained and ongoing, using a range of channels and languages, including television, radio and press advertising, social media, other internet-based communication tools such as blogs, as well as direct engagement through community liaison officers.
“These activities take place in range of source and transit countries, including Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Indonesia. A range of press releases in both English and native languages can be found on the OSB website.”
The novel is part of a wider campaign, aimed at both the domestic market and potential asylum seekers abroad, which pledges that asylum seekers will not make Australia home.
The campaign features on the Department for Immigration and Border Protection website and on the Customs and Border Protection Website which also outlines how the rules have changed and people who travel to Australia by boat without a visa will be sent for processing in Nauru or Manus Island.
The website also provides indication that the Navy has been instructed to turn back the boats, stating: “The Australian Government has instructed the Australian Defence Force to turn back boats where it is safe to do so”.
The spokesperson told Mumbrella: “This is part of a targeted communications campaign aimed at diaspora communities in Australia using foreign language media and other media formats utilised by those communities.
“It will not be the mainstream advertising undertaken by the previous government which saw full page advertisements being taken out in major daily newspapers prior to and during the election campaign at taxpayers’ expense.
“This will complement the offshore communications campaign about the government’s strong border protection policies which comprises the overwhelming allocation of resources in which messaging is delivered directly through transit and source countries.”