Abbott to teach refugee to surf

Tony Abbott might be hoping to ride the wave of public opinion on boat arrivals all the way to the election – but now he’s set to ride a real wave with a refugee.


Left-wing activist group GetUp pooled members’ resources to successfully bid for a surfing lesson and breakfast with the opposition leader on eBay. It cost $16,100.

The federal parliamentary press gallery auctions off dates with the nation’s leaders every year as part of its Midwinter Ball charity fundraising effort.

GetUp says refugee Riz Wakil will have the surfing lesson with Mr Abbott on Sydney’s northern beaches. Five fellow refugees will join the Liberal leader and Mr Wakil afterwards for breakfast.

Mr Wakil fled Afghanistan aged 18. He came to Australia in 1999 and spent nine months in the Curtin immigration detention centre.

“Mr Abbott can teach me a thing or two about surfing and I’ll teach him about what refugees go through to build a new life in Australia,” Mr Wakil told AAP in a statement.

He’s now an Australian citizen and runs a printing business in Sydney.

Earlier this year, Mr Wakil featured in a GetUp TV advertisement on border security.

The group used its website to ask for donations to fund the successful eBay bid.

“Tony Abbott is expecting a big corporate donor to win the bid, but if we all chip in we can make sure he hears a different voice: refugees who’ve experienced Australia’s cruel immigration system first hand,” the website said, adding “the successful bid (money) goes straight to charity not Tony Abbott”.

Communications director Sam Mclean told AAP that GetUp was “very excited” to have won the online auction.

“Both political parties have hardened their stance on refugees this election year,” he said.

“But Mr Abbott’s recent announcement would take us back to the very dark days of the Howard era of cruel immigration policy in terms of temporary protection visas.”

The coalition announced its new border protection policy late last month.

It includes a promise to turn asylum seeker boats back wherever possible and reintroduce offshore processing.

A date with Mr Abbott was the most expensive item in this year’s charity auction.

Also on offer was the chance to play barefoot bowls with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Punters could also bid to break bread with Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard or dine with the entire parliamentary party of the Australian Greens.

Full auction results are to be revealed at the Midwinter Ball at Parliament House on Wednesday night.