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Tag Archives: asylum seekers

Dutton’s message: torture works

Yesterday I had a Twitter conversation about Kathryn Bigelow’s movie, Zero Dark Thirty, which was shown on SBS last night.

Many angry critics have described the film as CIA propaganda advocating torture, and accused Bigelow of making an immoral argument that torture works. That wasn’t my reading as I argue here.

This revisiting of the film and the arguments surrounding it made it obvious to me that the message “torture works” is precisely the message the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison before him, and several former Prime Ministers including Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have sent to the world since the indefinite detention, off-shore and previously in the hell holes of Woomera and Baxter, of waterborne asylum seekers began.

They are not even particularly subtle about conveying this message: forcing women, children and men to live in circumstances in which they are tortured will deter others from attempting to seek asylum in Australia. It’s that stark.

To dissuade attacks from rusted on ALP supporters: Paul Keating built Woomera. I went there. It was one of Dante’s circles of hell. So please don’t come at me with the usual defence of your political party’s position on asylum seekers. There’s a bee’s dick of difference between the major parties.

Every time politicians insist that bringing refugees from Manus and Nauru to Australia will “start the drownings at sea again”, he or she is arguing, to the world, that “torture works.”

Frank Brennan, John Menadue, Tim Costello and Robert Manne have here proposed a solution to the current ghastly impasse. Their proposal retains the turn-back policy:

We believe there is no reason why the Turnbull government cannot do now what the Howard government previously did – maintain close intelligence co-operation with Indonesian authorities, and maintain the turn-back policy, while emptying the offshore processing centres and restoring the chance of a future to those we sent to Nauru or Manus Island three years ago or more by settling them either in Australia or, if any are willing, in other developed countries. Like Howard, Turnbull could maintain the offshore processing centres in case of an emergency.

Boats are to be turned back to their point of departure, usually Indonesia or in the case of Sri Lankan refugees, southern India where they continue to live as stateless people with few, if any rights.

The proposition put by Brennan et al would at least thwart the message that torture works, to which our politicians seem alarmingly attached. It’s by no means an ideal solution, but it could be our next step in addressing a situation that in its current manifestation is hideously wrong in every possible way.

Critiquing their proposition is a post in itself, and I won’t do that here.

As I argue Bigelow’s film demonstrated, the proposition that torture works is in itself a terrifying premise for debate. Who are we, that we would engage in such a debate in the first place?

It isn’t about whether or not torture works. It’s about torture even being considered, and then implemented as an option. You might argue that no politician foresaw or planned the circumstances that have evolved on Manus and Nauru, and you’d likely be correct. So we have come to torture by accident, rather than by design. Having arrived at that point, even accidentally, we are culpable and every day we reinforce the message that torture works, we add to our burden of culpability. What was initially accidental, thoughtless, ignorant, uncaring, politically self-seeking becomes, in the maintaining of it, deliberate.

Which puts us in the company of the CIA and its propaganda, does it not? Not to mention Donald Trump.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Speaking Of History: Though I Disagree With What You Say, I Am Doomed To Repeat It!

Ok, let’s have a little think about Dutton last week, but before we do that, let me just state that I’m an angry white male just like that guy with the funny name that nobody can spell. You know, whatsisname… David… David… Leyonhjelm. That’s it. Honestly, I don’t think people with names that don’t follow good old normal Aussie spelling should be allowed to say anything controversial but I guess the politically correct brigade will be on me in a flash restricting my freedom of speech by telling me that they disagree with what I say. And that’s what makes me really, really cross. After all, I’m white and I’m male, so I should be allowed to say what I bloody well like in my own country without the likes of women and other minorities having the temerity to criticise and tell me that I’m wrong.

Now, Senator Leyonhjelm – or Grumpybum, as I’ll now refer to him because I can spell that without looking it up – has recently announced his intention to lodge a complaint against Mark Kenny with the Human Rights Commission for referring to him as having “angry-white-male certitude”. He intends using 18C which – as I’m sure you all know makes it an offence to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person because of their race or religion. Unfortunately, Senator Grumpybum assured us all that he wasn’t offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated so most thinking people would suspect that this puts a rather large hole in his argument. Sort of like when James Ashby was complaining about sexual harassment from Peter Slipper, but that’s a whole other story. The good senator tells us that he’s only bringing the complaint to highlight the absurdity of the whole 18C thing. In much the same way that if Scarlett Johansen were to speak to me and tell me that I looked pretty cute, I could attempt to bring a charge of sexual harassment against her, because even though I didn’t mind it at all, it shows how absurd it was anyone could object to being complimented on their figure.

So, I’m very, very angry that – like Senator Grumpybum – I can’t take advantage of all the privileges of 18C just because calling me a “fat white bastard” doesn’t upset me. Well, apart from the “fat” bit and I have to concede I could lose a few kilos without the adjective “gaunt” springing to mind. As for the “bastard”, well, my parents were married, but if one means it in the colloquial sense, I’d have to agree that I could hardly be upset by what is really a term of endearment.

And that’s why I was so angry when poor Peter Dutton had to defend himself when it was leaked that there were over 2000 cases of alleged abuse against asylum seekers on Nauru. The way people carried on, you’d think that we had an obligation to investigate complaints even if we don’t know if they’re true. I mean, don’t we need evidence before we start to look into whether or not something occurred?

Certainly that was the way newly elected One Nation senator, Malcolm Roberts, saw it on QandA last night. If he finds evidence that abuse is occurring, then he’ll support a Senate inquiry to look at the evidence, but until evidence has been found, then there’s no need to look at the evidence. Say what you like about the man, he was certainly consistent. When the subject later turned to climate change, he again demanded evidence. Not just that data that had been concocted by NASA and Bureau of Meteorology – an organisation, he reminded us, that Greg Hunt wouldn’t allow to be investigated, but “empirical evidence”. And until he was given such evidence, he found no need to look at anything that anyone was asking him to examine, because, well, if it wasn’t consistent with his position, then it was clearly “doctored” or “dodgy” or “silly” or “too full of facts and figures to be worth reading” or…

But back to Peter Dutton… As he pointed out, a lot of these things are exaggerated. You know the sort of thing, a guard gives a five year old a bit of a slap on the cheek and it’s reported as though it’s assault even though no bones were broken. And as for claims of sexual abuse, well, how often do people make up claims of sexual abuse?

All right, maybe not that often in the scheme of things. And before anyone starts bringing up how the Royal Commission is discovering all these cases of sexual abuse where the person wasn’t believed and the perpetrator was allowed to stay in their position, I’d like to remind people that these things happened a while ago. In some cases, it was last century; in others, it was as far back as 2012… Whatever, it was certainly, before these asylum seekers were sent to Nauru, so that’s a completely different thing.

I’ll happily concede that we should have believed the people who are testifying at the Royal Commission, because they were true blue Aussies, not foreigners. At least in most cases…

And when Dutton said that people were self-immolating in the hope of getting to a better place, clearly he meant heaven and not Australia.

So you can see why I’m angry. I live in a country where we now have to check the spelling of people’s names and I have to worry about people’s feelings and we can’t just be cruel to foreign people without someone complaining. God, this isn’t the Australia I grew up in.

I’d suggest that we should have a day to celebrate people like me and Grumpybum and Malcolm Roberts and Andrew Bolt, but I suspect you’d end up calling it “Sooking, Sad, Old White Man” Day!

Work Health and Safety law applies to all operators of detention, custody, care or educational facilities

By Max Costello LLM*

Whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking for (some) answers – by setting up a Royal Commission into Northern Territory correctional facilities – or not really looking – by refusing to do likewise in relation to alleged abuses of asylum seekers on Nauru – the essential answer is actually staring him in the face. He just doesn’t seem to see it.

Something akin to Bill Clinton’s famous political put-down of George W Bush, “It’s the economy, stupid” applies here. “It’s the Work Health and Safety Act, Malcolm.”

Government departments and non-government institutions that have failed to prevent child sexual abuse and other mistreatment of children or adults in their care have so far not been brought to book, because no-one seems to have joined the criminal law dots.

Joining the criminal law dots

DOT #1

Ask yourself this question: what do the following institutional settings – an Immigration ‘detention centre’ on Nauru, a Northern Territory juvenile correction centre, a South Australian care institution for abused children, a boarding school, a State (or NGO) care centre for people with a physical or intellectual disability – all have in common?

Answer: they are all workplaces – places where people work. More specifically, they’re all accommodation workplaces, where people reside continuously for months, years, decades or (in the case of some persons in offshore Immigration detention centres) indefinitely. Only a boarding school gets any occupancy breaks – during term holidays.

DOT #2

All State/Territory laws governing health and safety at work, and the Commonwealth’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (“the WHS Act”), impose a duty on the workplace operator to ensure that both “workers” and “other persons” at the workplace are not exposed to preventable risks to their health (including psychological health) and safety.

DOT #3

Under those laws, the children (and adults) residing at the above-named institutions are the other personswhose health and safety the operator must protect.

DOT #4

Under those laws, failure to comply with a protective duty is a criminal offence.

How can WHS laws, if complied with, prevent sexual and other abuse?

The basic answer is fourfold. The operator duty obligations set out in these laws are:

(1)     pro-actively preventative – requiring the operator to first identify and list all significant risks to health and safety, then secondly, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, take steps to eliminate or at least minimise all of them;

(2)     imposed primarily on the institution – that is, on the over-all or ‘head’ workplace operator and its “officers” (such as the CEO) – rather than just on individuals generally (although “workers” do have a duty to “take reasonable care”);

(3)     non-delegable – meaning that they can’t be transferred (to another government, for example) or contracted out (to, e.g., a service provider company such as Serco or Ferrovial (formerly Broadspectrum): any attempt to do either is “void”; and

(4)     buttressed by the deterrence effect of criminal penalties – such as, under the WHS Act in cases of “reckless” non-compliance with a duty, operator fines of up to $3 million, and officer fines of up to $600,000 and/or jail for up to 5 years.

Peter Dutton knows that his Department is bound by the WHS Act

There’s plenty of public domain evidence that Mr Dutton, as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, knows that the Commonwealth (of Australia) – in effect his Department – is the operator of the regional processing centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. One item of evidence will suffice.

All of the 2,000 or so “incident notifications” that Guardian Australia made public on 10 August 2016 – documents that Mr Dutton’s Departmental staffers on Nauru sent to Comcare because the WHS Act’s section 38 compels them to do so – have a little box near the top where the name of the party in charge of the workplace must be written.

The name entered on those incident report forms is not “Government of Nauru”: it is “Department of Immigration and Border Protection”.

So, Prime Minister Turnbull, the fiction that the governments of Nauru and PNG are legally responsible for the health and safety of the “other persons” (asylum seekers) who reside at the regional processing centres on their territory now stands exposed.

As a result, the following question – “Who should be investigated in relation to, and possibly prosecuted for, offences against the WHS Act?” – shouldn’t be too hard to answer.

What is apparently too hard, Prime Minister, is for you to ask that question – it seems to be stuck in your throat. (And of course if you do ask it, you’ll have to do something about it.)

The same question must be asked, and addressed, about all detention, custody, care and residential educational facilities across Australia.

What, if anything, have our State and Territory health and safety regulators been doing to make the operators of those workplaces comply with their statutory duty of care to all the “other persons” at those facilities, not just the workers?

Max Costello is a former WorkSafe Victoria prosecuting solicitor and former Employment Law lecturer at Melbourne’s RMIT University. He co-wrote submissions to the Moss review and the Senate Select Committee on Nauru abuses.

On a Road to Nowhere?

As we all wake up today from our election hangovers, and stagger bleary eyed to work, many are considering the real implication of living in interesting times… and the real possibility that the Governor General may be forced to call a second election.  The double dissolution election brought on by #stabilityMal has surprised everyone, not least the Australian voter; who, after casting their #rageVote now wonders what they were drinking, and who it was they spent those huddled, sweaty moments with in that election booth. Therefore, in another empty attempt to make sense of it all, it’s time for more analysis and conjecture!

Battle of the Bastards
**updated 1800hrs 5 July** The current count on the AEC website has the ALP leading in 69 seats, and the LNP with 66. The ALP is trending in a further two seats, and the LNP in three, though all five are too close to call… which should probably be the subtitle for this election.  The AEC has five seats undetermined; four Liberal and one ALP, which according to the current tally are likely to remain with incumbents. If that is the case we are looking at a 72/73 split  between the ALP and LNP.

**updated 1800hrs 4 July** The ABC (i.e. Antony Green) has a slightly different tally, with ALP at 67, LNP at 68 **up from 64**. Out of the 10 ‘seats in doubt’ the LNP is ahead on slender margins in four seats, the ALP on a similar knife-edge in five, and Xenophon party fairly comfortable in one. Giving us a House looking like this:
TABLES-house2

One of the key factors in this election is that traditional conservative voters have felt betrayed by the Liberal and National parties.  Mining, CSG, the NBN, foreign ownership, constant cuts and privatisation have been a catalyst for conservative voters to look at what else is on offer. Some have realised that the ALP has policies they support; others have turned even further right. As a result, immigration is likely to be a continuing flashpoint, though this time around even Pauline Hanson supports socialised healthcare and the NBN.

Greens and Andrew Wilkie have a record of voting with the ALP, though Wilkie has stated he will not enter into any deals.  Cathy McGowan tends to vote with the Coalition. Previously Katter aligned with the LNP, though this time there’s no carbon tax on the table this time. Key issues for Katter are CSG, energy privatisation and land sales, all of which the ALP have made murmurs about, while the LNP are unwilling/unable to move on either. If that will shift the pragmatic Katter away from traditional alliances remains to be seen.  Xenophon has already said he will take the number of seats either party wins into account when negotiating agreements, so if that second seat in Grey comes to Team X then he will truly be the kingmaker.

Stiff Upper Lip
The new senate is going to be a mixed bag. Media and politicians alike may decry the election results as a circus as much as they like; but the people have spoken, just not coherently.

There are two truths in democracy: The voter is always right… and you get the government you deserve… and based on ABC.net.au and the AEC website, the senate is currently looking like this:

TABLES-senate

The trend for seats in doubt generally toward the right wing parties such as Katter, Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers, One Nation, and the various Christian groups.  As per predictions, the lions’ share will likely go to the major parties; though there is a chance that either Katter or One Nation will get across the line.

Given the wide range of voices represented in the senate, we need to ask the question: Where do the new senators stand on legislation?

The Sydney Morning Herald published this rough breakdown of each parties’ focus.  The Weasel takes a next step and looks at how the senators will likely vote on current key issues.

Positions garnered from official policy statements, news reports, and interest group websites.
Where there is no clear position, it can be assumed that senators will use the issue as a bargaining chip to further their own agenda.

Marriage Equality
Derryn Hinch:     Pro equality, parliamentary vote
Fred Nile:            Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Jacqui Lambie:   Anti equality, pro plebiscite, conscience vote for party.
Katter:                 Anti equality
Lib Democrats:   Pro equality, parliamentary vote
One Nation:        Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Xenophon:          Pro equality, parliamentary vote
see also Aus Marriage Equality site

Climate Change / Renewable Energy
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Sceptic, pro nuclear
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports action (in statements), pro nuclear, voting record unclear
Katter:                 Pro Action, stop CSG, extend emission target, boost ethanol production
Lib Democrats:   Sceptics, support mitigation, pro nuclear
One Nation:        Wants a Royal commission into climate science “corruption
Xenophon:          Pro Action, 50% reduction target by 2030

Recognition or Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Opposes Constitutional recognition, supports increased engagement
Jacqui Lambie:   Constitutional recognition, plus dedicated indigenous seats in parliament
Katter:                 Wants action, possibly prefers treaty
Lib Democrats:   Opposes Constitutional recognition
One Nation:        Opposes Constitutional recognition and treaty
Xenophon:          Supports Constitutional recognition

Education
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           Improve education by adding bible study, and cutting Safe Schools
Jacqui Lambie:   Boost TAFE, introduce national-service style apprenticeship scheme
Katter:                 Pro funding boosts, also wants systematic education reform
Lib Democrats:  Stop Federal funding, pro deregulation, cut Austudy
One Nation:       Government subsidised apprenticeship scheme
Xenophon:         Pro Gonski, anti university deregulation

Royal Commission into Banking
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position, may support
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports
Katter:                Supports
Lib Democrats:  No clear position, unlikely to support
One Nation:       No clear position, may support
Xenophon:         Supports

NBN
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           No clear position, wants more infrastructure
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports FTTP
Katter:                Supports FTTP
Lib Democrats:  Prefers private competitive roll out instead of government
One Nation:       Wants high speed broadband, proposes wireless hubs for regions
Xenophon:         Supports FTTP

Federal ICAC
Derryn Hinch:    Probably Pro ICAC
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Pro ICAC
Katter:                No clear position
Lib Democrats:  No clear position
One Nation:       Probably Pro ICAC
Xenophon:         Pro ICAC

Refugees
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Mandatory detention, prefers Christian refugees,
Jacqui Lambie:   Wants children out of detention, strict monitoring & quotas
Katter:                 Turnbacks, faster assessment, and supply work while on TPVs
Lib Democrats:   Mandatory detention, on/off shore processing, strict entry requirements
One Nation:        Turnbacks
Xenophon:          Dislikes offshore processing, increase intake, speed up processing

Healthcare
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Better spending, especially in aged care
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports socialised medicine, especially for combat veterans
Katter:                 Supports socialised medicine, wants more services for regions
Lib Democrats:   Abolish Medicare, privatise, The Market will provide… apparently
One Nation:        Supports socialised medicine
Xenophon:          Supports socialised medicine, focus on prevention

On the question of which senators get a six-year stint, and which three… well that is up to the senate.  There are two options:
1. Order-of-election; Out of the 12 state senators, whoever crossed the line first gets six years.
2. Recount; Votes are recounted treating the vote as a normal three-year cycle. Whoever would have been elected on that basis gets six years.
Which one the senate uses will likely depend on the three major parties, with Xenophon once again in position as king-maker. The inestimable Antony Green, of course, covers this question in more detail.

The anti-Islam voting block of Fred Nile, One Nation, and Lambie will bring up issues surrounding Muslim Australians and immigration generally; and likely to include senate inquiries into banning burkas or halal certification and labelling. The LNP could use this flashpoint as a major negotiating chip to pass other legislation; though that is unlikely to be the ABCC bill.

On practical and ideological matters of investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure such as the NBN, the balance is definitely leaning toward the ALP.  Lambie, Katter and Xenophon have shifted to the centre on these issues, and the LNP can no longer rely on social policies to wedge support for their neo-liberal economic programme. Accepting a Federal ICAC may present the ALP with a ticket to govern, but marriage equality is unlikely to get anywhere unless the ALP can push an open vote. Action on climate will be problematic, expect another senate inquiry into nuclear power.

As predicted Derryn Hinch picked up the PUP and Ricky Muir vote, though really has very little to offer beyond his pet name-and-shame project, and animal justice.  Populist by nature, he could decide or shift his vote if a concerted push came from his electorate…

…and that is important to remember. You can write to your MP and your Senator to express your preference. This parliament is an opportunity for voters and community to have a real impact on the nature of the parliament, and what agenda the parliament pursues. Given that the independent parties may decide who gets to form government, the time to start writing is now.

Day to Day Politics. Turnbull’s New Year Turmoil.

 

Monday 18 January 2016

1 No doubt Labor starts the year behind the eight ball. But have you considered what Malcolm Turnbull faces?

He will be anxious to erase from the electorates mind two years of abysmal governance. Not an easy task given that after five months he has hardly made any impact at all.

Conservatives will want the policies of Tony Abbott to continue as they are now. Somehow he has to put his own stamp on the party he leads or be seen as just a smooth talking power grabber. And he will have to do it with Abbott and his supporters snapping at his heels.

It’s a ‘try to keep everybody happy’ scenario that will be hard to balance in an election year complicated by internal dissent.

It may well be the next budget that defines his leadership, his political philosophy and indeed his authority over the party.

Formulating the next budget will have many implications. It will be imbedded with many dangers, with many decisions to be made. All muddled by an economic white paper requiring decisions influencing the election.

Increasing the GST, Superannuation, negative gearing. An out of control NBN, Companies not paying tax, Capital Gains Tax, Subsidies to coal miners, Climate Change, Health, Money for science innovation. Investment in renewable energy and the revenue future.

A rise in the GST would mean further tax reform including cuts to personal income tax and company tax rates, as well as compensation for low-income earners.

However it will be a hard sell. Personally I don’t much see the point in lowering the company tax rate given its hard to get them to pay tax now.

Besides the ‘where is the money coming from’ to address the Climate Change question the one most challenging is the immoral Super tax rorts for high wage earners.

An observation.

Never in the history of this nation have the rich and the privileged been so openly brazen’.

If he retains them at the same cost as pensions he will be seen as pandering to the rich. If he acts against them he will have to cop the wrath of the powerful superannuation industry.

There will come a point in time where Turnbull will have to take ownership of Government policy. The difficulty might be matching the expectations and hopes people have of him with the undoubted difficult decisions that lay ahead.

2 When is it all going to end? Asylum seekers were demonised by Philip Ruddock many years ago purely for political purposes. It has continued to the point where both parties have become so ensconced in the immorality of it that history will record them as unconscionable retards.

What does it take to get a Royal Commission? We have people committing suicide, self-harming. Charities being maligned, growing lengths of detention now averaging 445 days. Millions of taxpayers money wasted. Paying criminals to tow boats back. New Zealand’s offer to resettle people being refused so that more lengthy detentions can be seen as a deterrent.

3 Lenore Taylor writes an excellent piece on Political Donations:

‘Combining stricter disclosure rules for donations and ending political ads dressed up as government information could enhance voters’ faith in the system’.

My thought for the day

‘In the information age, those who control the dissemination of news have more power than government’.

 

Dutton has lost control.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has well and truly lost control of his portfolio. The past year alone provides a rich field of examples of Dutton’s incompetency. There are many instances which highlight the absurdity of his excuses, claims and justifications for the Coalition’s appalling policies. Yet despite a growing list of clear failures, there is a noticeable absence of demands for accountability. Dutton continues his awful attempts to defend the indefensible and the general public laps it up, convinced by the Government’s lies that it is all for the greater good.

Dutton has demonstrated many failures. A man with his level of ineptitude and incompetency in the private sector would have been fired a long time ago. A man in his position in any other institution, would be loudly condemned, and subject to a fiercely independent investigation at a minimum.

The latest in the string of absurdities must be Dutton’s reaction over the recent death of a person under his care and the following riot on Christmas Island. Dutton brushed off the seventh known death of an asylum seeker since early 2014, with little more than a ‘meh’, followed by loud accusations of violent, hardened criminals causing trouble for no reason at all in the remote prison. Not only does Dutton fail to recognise or even faintly appreciate the duty of care he owes to asylum seekers detained under this watch, but he loudly refutes the provable fact that violent criminals, minor offenders and asylum seekers have all been mixed together and none would be there at all if it wasn’t for him and his party’s policies.

The totally preventable death of Fazel Chegeni is the doing of Dutton. The riot, which looks to cost the Australian taxpayer $10 million dollars, on top of the $100 million dollar blowout in the billion dollar cost of offshore detention, is the doing of Dutton.

Dutton is responsible, and in being responsible, must be the most incompetent Immigration Minister since the equally appalling performance of former Minister Scott Morrison.

If Dutton was an employee in any private organisation, he would have been sacked long ago for gross incompetence. If any individual person was paying Dutton’s remuneration, he would have been sacked long ago. Yet the Australian public, every individual tax payer is paying for Dutton, and yet he continues, unchecked, with calculated, deliberate lies to try and cover up his incompetency. And Australia does not hold him to account.

The mysterious death of Fazel Chegeni, a refugee whose body was found after being chased through the Christmas Island jungle by guards, follows other preventable and inexcusable deaths. In October, out of fear of being returned to detention and dying a slow death at Dutton’s hands, Khodayar Amini doused himself in petrol and self-immolated. Leo Seemanpillai did the same last year. Asylum seeker ‘Reza’, fearing deportation on Dutton’s orders, was found dead at Brisbane airport. Earlier, Nasim Najafi was attacked while under Dutton’s care, placed in solitary confinement, and committed suicide.

Dutton is responsible for these deaths. Just like former Minister Scott Morrison was responsible for Reza Barati’s murder on Manus Island, and for Hamid Kehazaei who died from a septicaemia after a treatable infection on his cut foot was ignored.

Dutton holds the power to giving these people hope, freedom and a chance of a life. Dutton refuses.

Dutton, whose actions are slowly killing the people under his care, is doing his best to convince asylum seekers that it is better to return to their own countries and risk death in a warzone, than die a slow and lingering death under his watch. ‘Khaled’, who saw his own father murdered after they both worked as military interpreters for the US, was coerced into returning to the very city he fled from in Iraq. Officials from Dutton’s Department coerced another man, Eyad, to return to Syria, where he was tortured for twenty days by government officers, before finally making it to his home. A short time later he was injured in a shell attack, which killed his father on the spot. Dutton is responsible for this.

If any other person was responsible for so many deaths, so many atrocities, so much harm, they’d be imprisoned themselves. Not Dutton. No, he is being paid by the Australian tax payer to continue his torturous regime.

Who can forget the boatloads of Tamil asylum seekers Dutton returned to Sri Lanka, despite being subject to persecution? And his refusal to help rescue Rohingya refugees stranded at sea? Or the Vietnamese asylum seekers who were returned by Dutton, some of which were arrested and detained immediately on their return to Vietnam?

And of course there is Dutton’s implied admission that his Department paid people smugglers, in a clear breach of international law, backed up by an Amnesty International report finding enough evidence that it happened.

Dutton is determined to continue to expose children to sexual abuse, assault and torture. The Government-commissioned Moss Report, the Forgotten Children Report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, and a Senate Committee Inquiry found that offshore detention is not safe for families and children. Earlier this year Dutton ordered the transfer of a five month old baby, Asha, to Nauru, where her desperate mother is still gravely concerned for her health. Fully qualified, professional Australian doctors have labelled the Government’s treatment of asylum seeker children as torture. Dutton is unrepentant. Instead of addressing the shocking claims, he made it illegal for ‘entrusted people’ to report the abuse, threatening doctors, nurses, councillors and teachers with two years jail.

The Australian tax payer is financing this abhorrent situation. Every Australian is paying for Dutton to put in place laws to incarcerate anyone who tries to hold Dutton to account.

Dutton refused for months to help a woman who had been brutally raped while under his care. Abyan, another refugee who fell pregnant after being raped, was also denied treatment in Australia until a mass public outcry. Dutton, insistently lying to the Australian public and the world about the poor woman’s situation, despite even the Coalition’s biggest supporter, Chris Kenny, backing up her advocates, has not been held to account for his lies. Dutton only acted after a scathing press statement from the United Nations, yet he still insists that denying a traumatised woman access to a counsellor and expert medical care is appropriate treatment.

Dutton deliberately seeks to expose vulnerable men, women and children to further harm.

According to Dutton, pregnant women under his care who request to give birth in Australia are trying to blackmail him, are taking him for a ‘mug’, and are partaking in a racket to get to Australia. According to Dutton, it is acceptable to force women under his care to give birth in a third world hospital on Nauru, where a newborn baby is seven times more likely to die at birth, and the mother is fifty times more likely to die during childbirth. Dutton has ignored medical professionals and the Australian Medical Association who insist Golestan, a diabetic woman, must be immediately flown to Australia to give birth. Golestan is suffering a complex pregnancy, and despite medical staff expecting her baby will require specialist care, Dutton insists on risking the baby’s life. Will Dutton sacrifice the life of an innocent baby in his race to provide crueler conditions than those which the asylum seekers have fled from?

It is not just asylum seekers Dutton treats with loathing and contempt. A freedom of information request by Fairfax media revealed that Dutton deliberately misled the public when he said there was no way his Border Force agents would be doing random spot checks on unsuspecting and law-abiding Melburnians in August this year.

Spooked by a backlash to the press release that Government agents would stop and speak with anyone they came across during Operation Fortitude in Melbourne’s CBD, Dutton’s kneejerk response at the time was to deny all knowledge of such a planned venture.

What kind of Minister thinks it’s acceptable and lawful to expect people to carry, and produce on demand, their ‘papers’ while out shopping on a weekend? What kind of Minister then lies to say it was never planned? Obviously one who mistakenly thought Australia was a police state, or one who is grossly incompetent. Dutton forgets he is an elected representative paid for by the Australian taxpayer to represent the Australian people, not treat the very people who elected him as criminals.

Speaking of taxpayers, voters, and Christmas Island, Dutton demonstrates yet again his inability to tell the truth. Despite deliberately, unrepentantly and viciously detaining and deporting any non-citizens who have suddenly become socially undesirable, no matter how minor their wrong-doing, or the absence of any actual offence at all, Dutton is adamant only the most violent and hardened criminals are subject to section 501 of the Migration Act. Many of these people have lived in Australia for their entire lives. They have voted in elections. Many have paid their taxes and contributed positively to the community for decades. They have families, wives, husbands, partners, siblings, parents and children in Australia.

According to Dutton, a decorated New Zealand soldier, Ngati Kanohi Haapu, known as Ko, must be banished forever, despite having no criminal convictions whatsoever. Ko’s ‘character issue’ is that he is allegedly a member of a one percent motorcycle club. Despite no motorcycle club being proven to be a criminal organisation, and police and law enforcement agencies being unable to produce sufficient evidence of such, Ko has been detained and set for deportation.

Ko has committed no crime. Not like Dutton, who has paid people smugglers, enabled and condoned child abuse, rape, and torture, and is responsible for at least five of the seven known deaths of asylum seekers.

According to Dutton, a New Zealand born mother of six, who has served her time for minor drug offences is a violent, hardened criminal. If this woman had been born in Australia she would serve her time and move on with her life. But no, according to Dutton, she must be banished from Australia, despite serving her sentence, because a faceless bureaucrat has applied a mandatory provision enacted on Dutton’s command, that she be deported.

According to Dutton, a single mother of two, charged with shoplifting is such a threat to the Australian public, she should be incarcerated, away from her young child and teen daughter – banished forever from Australia, because of Dutton. There is no such thing as rehabilitation or having ‘done one’s time’ under Dutton’s watch.

According to Dutton, a quadriplegic man, who served time for self-medicating with painkillers, is such a threat to the Australian public, he must be deported, never to return to the land he called home.

According to Dutton, a British man, who has lived in Australia for fifty of his fifty-one years, who in a moment of stupidity lit a scrub fire in which no people or property were harmed, is a violent and hardened criminal. Because according to Dutton, only violent and hardened criminals are being held on Christmas Island.

Where are the cries for Dutton’s resignation? Why is the Opposition silent? Why is Bill Shorten not calling for Dutton to stand down or be sacked? Why is the mainstream media not demanding more answers?

No person in anything other than a criminal organisation, a fascist, police state or dictatorship would get away with such criminal behaviour, and wilful and deliberate lies to the domestic and international community.

How many more families will be ripped apart by Dutton’s arbitrarily applied laws? How many more people must die a violent, painful and preventable death under Dutton’s watch? How many innocent children will lose their parents, and how many parents will lose their children at Dutton’s hands? The Government and the weak opposition, the detention centre contractors, and all the faceless bureaucrats, are complicit in the deaths, torture, and inhumane treatment of people under Australia’s care. Every Australian who does not make a stand against the cruel regime, is complicit.

Enough is enough. Rape, murder, suicide, torture, child abuse, violent assaults, death from medical neglect, and wilful destruction of families is all in a day’s work with Dutton in charge. And every Australian is paying for it.

 

The top 5 signs that your country’s Refugee Policy is a disaster

Australia’s Minister for Saying-We’ve-Stopped-the-Boats – one Mr Peter ‘PDuddy’ Dutton – was out and about this morning defending what he and his government believe is the best and most successful immigration policy EVER.

I decided to check out PDuddy’s claim against the following officialesque list …

The Top 5 signs your Refugee Policy is a disaster

Number Five: Refugees would rather return to possible death in a war-zone

than stay in the Refugee Centres your country provides

The Australian government has worked hard to convince as many refugees as it can to return to their home countries, despite the considerable potential risk to those refugees that doing so entails.

One Syrian refugee – Eyad – elected to return to probable death in Syria a few months ago, saying he would prefer to die with his family in Syria rather than stay on Manus island. On arriving in Syria he was arrested and tortured for 20 days. Following his release, he was allowed to return to his former home village where he was subsequently hit by shrapnel and saw his father die before him.

Number Four: You put refugees in the care of a government that has made

money from selling passports to terrorists & money-laundering

The way that Peter Dutton pontificates about ‘smashing’ the business of people-smugglers, you’d think he’d donned a cape and mask and turned into a one-man regional crime-fighting machine.

What PDuddy conveniently forgets to mention, when boasting of his crime-fighting achievements, is that the Australian government is propping up the Nauru government with our Refugee policy – and that the Nauru government is so beleaguered by corruption claims that the New Zealand government recently cut off aid to them.  PDuddy also leaves out the fact that this same government was previously heavily sanctioned by the international community for selling Nauruan passports to terrorists and laundering money for the Russian Mafia.

Number Three: Your Refugee Centres make it onto the UNHRC’s torture list

In March this year, the UN Human Rights Commission released its report on torture, naming Australia as a country who had breached the UN Convention against Torture in our Refugee camps.

Of course our government raced to immediately set up a Royal Commission to investigate the issues raised by the UN. Oh wait – no,  that was a Royal Commission into the unions. What our government actually did in response to the UN report was to say that it was sick of being lectured.

Number Two: You are spending more on your Refugee Policy than the

combined GDP of 9 small countries

In 2015, the Australian government spent at least 4 billion on its Refugee Policy – of which 3 billion was to look after offshore refugees (including just under 1600 refugees on Nauru and Manus Island).

This is the equivalent of the combined GDP in 2014 for Tonga, Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Sao Tome and Principe, Dominica and Comoros.

By way of contrast, the UN has a budget of $157 million USD for 2015 to look after over 200,000 refugees in South-East Asia.

Number One: A country in the Axis-of-Evil thinks you’ve gone too far

Over 110 countries lined up at the UN this week to comment on Australia’s refugee policies. In fact, so many countries wanted to raise issues at the periodic UN review, that each was given a time limit of just over a minute to speak. Between them they still managed to raise over 300 concerns in just that space of time.

Among their number was long-term member of Bush’s ‘Axis-of-evil’ – North Korea – who said that they:

have serious concerns at the continued reports of … violence against refugees and asylum seekers“.

It’s official – Australia’s refugee policy is a disaster …

In all seriousness – our refugee policy really IS a disaster. It is pure propaganda  – truthiness at its finest – to suggest otherwise.

And still Peter Dutton keeps a straight face while he claims that Australia’s Refugee policy:

  • has saved lives – this is doubtful at best;
  • has stopped people smugglers – if this were true, who exactly are they paying to turn around?
  • to be the most generous in the world – this is actually an insult to countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan who lay true claim to this title. We are literally nowhere near.
  • to have protected our borders – from who exactly? From victims of war, terrorism, torture and persecution, who, if they had the funds to arrive here by plane would be allowed to stay? When did we start needing protection from victims? The reality is that these are the world’s most vulnerable people being used as political pawns. They aren’t terrorists. Or economic migrants. They are people with no safe place to call home.

It doesn’t matter what measure you pick …

  • financial
  • humanitarian
  • doing our bit globally
  • stopping crime in the region
  • making our country more secure, or
  • just plain common decency.

… there is not a single measure that doesn’t point at our government’s Refugee Policy as being at best an abject failure, and at worst a complete disaster that will haunt us in years to come.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

 

Ms Gillard’s sickening hypocrisy laid bare

It was with disbelief, and finally contempt, that I watched excerpts of the Al Jazeera interview with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the topic of her government’s treatment of waterborne asylum seekers, particularly women and children.

Gillard, now a global advocate for the education of girls and women, employed what has disturbingly become a normalised justification for Australian governments’ increasingly callous torment of women and girls in off-shore detention: we do it to stop people drowning at sea.

I have yet to get my head around the psychopathology of those who believe the torment of one group is justified in order to discourage another group from undertaking a particular action. I think such justifications are teetering precariously on just about every ethical and moral ground I can think of, beginning with the Kantian argument that it is reprehensible to use people as a means to an end, and that people are an end in themselves. To treat them in any other way is to dehumanise them, and ultimately, ourselves.

However, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and now Turnbull apparently have no difficulty with treating waterborne asylum seekers as a means to an end, and justifying their hideous treatment of them as a necessary deterrent in order to save the lives of others.

It has been said more than a million times: arriving in this country by boat, seeking asylum, is not a crime. Indeed, as we are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, we actively invite people to arrive here by whatever means they manage to employ.

If we want to save people from drowning at sea, and if we care about the humanity of those we already have in detention, we would cease to use the detained as scapegoats, and as examples of what will happen if you legitimately arrive here by boat. We would instead withdraw from the Refugee Convention. People come to Australia because we invite them, through our participation in the Convention, and our agreement with its principles.

Of course, we aren’t about to take that step. So instead we will continue to ill-treat asylum seekers in off-shore detention. We will continue to justify this crime against humanity by claiming it’s done to save lives.

And Ms Gillard will continue to strut the world stage advocating for the education of women and children but not, regrettably, those she imprisoned in mandatory indefinite dentition in tropical hell holes where they are abused, raped and made mad.

Women for Gillard? Non, merci.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Day to Day with John Lord

Tuesday November 3

1 In March 2014 Tony Abbot made one of his many dubious Captain’s calls. His decision to reinstate Knights and Dames in Australia was one of his most notorious decisions. One that was greeted with ridicule, contempt, even astonishment. When social media erupted in protest he called it electronic graffiti. Only a Luddite would say that. Malcolm Turnbull has rightly seen fit to return the honours to the past where they most certainly belong. Of course Monarchist David Flint (when the plum in his mouth allowed interpretation) was heard to say that Malcolm Turnbull’s 1999 referendum loss was behind the decision.

Perhaps the flag next?

2 According to veteran journalist Paul Bobgiorno, Eric Abetz – before he was dumped by Turnbull – was being lined up as our ambassador to Berlin. That Abbott project has been quietly shelved. Another captain’s call that would have been disastrous.

3 My Cup pick is ‘Trip to Paris’. Easy choice, really.

4 John Roskam of the IPA writes an article for The Australian Financial Review. Roy Morgan summarises: “Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has a mandate from voters to be a decisive leader. He should concentrate on economic reforms such as liberalisation of the labour market. Contrary to suggestions by some commentators, there is no need to raise taxes. Turnbull should also remove restrictions on freedom of speech.” Enough to make me sick. What mandate?

private schools5 The federal government spends two-thirds of its school education dollars on the one-third of students in Australia who go to private schools – where is our national sense of shame at that statistic? We should allow those parents the choice to pay more of the cost themselves, they shouldn’t be asking to be generously subsidised by cash-strapped Australians.

An observation:

“For the life of me I fail to understand how anyone could vote for a party who thinks the existing public education system is adequately funded and addresses the needs of the disadvantaged”.

6 New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the level of trade union membership in the private sector is now almost one in 10, and although community support for unions remains strong, fewer workers than ever are joining a union. And in a sign of further strife for the union movement, just one in 20 young workers are in a trade union.

It really brings into question the long term relationship between Labor and the Unions.

In less than 25 years, the level of trade union membership has fallen from a point where almost half of all male employees were members, to one where just 14.4% now hold a union card.

7 Reports abound that the Government is considering sending more than 1000 asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island to the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton earlier this month flagged negotiations with a number of nations on the issue. The normal secrecy applies and if we pay them the same rate we paid Cambodia . . . well I hate to think.

Australia’s asylum seeker policy is now verging on the ridiculous.

And no. I don’t know where the hell Kyrgyzstan is.

8 Today’s Morgan poll tells us that Federal Voting Intention virtually unchanged – L-NP (56.5%) leads ALP (43.5%) – biggest lead for L-NP since April 2013.

MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“Current world events only confirm my belief that history is just a commentary on the incompetence of men”.

 

Bodies that matter. Bodies that don’t.

Image from noplaceforsheep.comIt’s profoundly concerning that Abyan, the Somali refugee currently living on Nauru and victim of a rape that left her pregnant, was forbidden to see her lawyer and denied adequate counselling for her trauma and her plight.

But now we hear that Rupert Murdoch’s minion Chris Kenny of The Australian was not only the first journalist in eighteen months to be granted a visa to enter Nauru in the last few days, he was also escorted by local police to Abyan’s accommodation, where he confronted her about her situation.

Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs has been denied a visa to visit Nauru, so Kenny is indeed privileged.

Kenny’s first account of his interview with Abyan, which you can access by clicking the link on Kenny’s tweet in The Guardian report above, seems to contradict Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s claims that Abyan refused an abortion and was therefore returned to the island, and instead substantiates her own claims that she did not refuse an abortion, she asked for some time, and appropriate help. Neither the time nor the appropriate help was forthcoming, and she was deported after being refused contact with her lawyer.

The likelihood of us ever knowing the truth of the situation is slim, however, no matter how you look at it, Abyan has been treated in a most despicable manner by both governments, and their agents.

Dutton has belatedly diarised appointments allegedly made for Abyan, with and without interpreters. However, there is no way at all of verifying Dutton’s claims that these appointments were in fact made, and that Abyan was offered the medical attention he claims.

I have no idea why Abyan was then subjected to further traumatisation by having to endure Chris Kenny’s pursuit of her after she was returned to Nauru.  But everywhere I look in this situation I see an extremely vulnerable young woman, stripped of all power and agency, subjected to the interrogation and control of powerful men intent on furthering their own interests. The demonstration of male power & dominance over women that the Abyan story illustrates makes my blood run cold.

In his latest report from Nauru, Kenny stresses that Abyan has not reported her rape to the Nauruan police. The implication is clear: if she didn’t report it, perhaps it didn’t happen.

There are a staggering number of sexual assaults in this developed country that go unreported. The majority of rapes that are reported don’t make it into court. Reporting sexual assault to police is a harrowing experience, even when the police concerned are highly trained and care about you, and share your language group. I had a sexual assault counsellor with me when I did it a few months ago, as well as evidence, and a great deal of loving support. With all that, it was an horrific experience from which I still haven’t recovered. Reporting sexual assault if you are a young, pregnant Somali refugee woman condemned to life on Nauru for the indefinite future, must be an almost impossibly daunting prospect.

And then there is Abyan’s history, including rape and genital mutilation in her home country.

And let’s not forget that Dutton only agreed to offer Abyan an abortion in the first place because public agitation forced him to.

There is a recent pattern of unrelenting traumatisation of Abyan by men who have descended on her, for one reason or another, like vultures on a wounded animal. Most of them are white and middle class. Their actions are validated by an entirely brutal government policy that condemned Abyan to Nauru in the first place, a policy initiated by Julia Gillard and Nicolo Roxon. I wonder what these two women now think of where their policy has led us, or if they consider it at all.

An aside: a link to an interview with Nancy Fraser, Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School on why the “leaning in” brand of feminism actually means leaning on other women. Quote:

For me, feminism is not simply a matter of getting a smattering of individual women into positions of power and privilege within existing social hierarchies. It is rather about overcoming those hierarchies.

Yes. Indeed.

In an uneasy corollary with Abyan’s situation Nauru is a subordinate state (read feminised) dominated by and dependent on Australia. Australia sends women and children it does not want to Nauru, where they are raped and abused. Australia, however, claims this is none of our business as Nauru is a sovereign state and we cannot intervene in its legal system, or what passes for a legal system in that lawless nation.

White, privileged, and apparently having suffered nothing more traumatic than being the butt (sorry) of a Chaser’s joke concerning sex with a dog, Chris Kenny feels he is entitled to pursue and interrogate the traumatised Somali refugee because, well, he is white, male, privileged, and works for Rupert Murdoch. He has no expertise in the matter of trauma and sexual trauma. If he had the slightest idea, and any compassion, he would not have subjected Abyan to his inquiries, and he certainly wouldn’t have arrived at her home with a police escort.

The bodies that matter are firstly, white. Then they are male. Then they are the bodies of women of calibre. They are bodies that belong to our tribe. I think, almost every day, what would the man who sexually assaulted me do if his daughter had been treated as he treated me? He observed more than once that I was “not of his tribe,” a comment I found ridiculous at the time, but with hindsight I see that his perception of me as other allowed him to behave towards me as if I was less vulnerable, less hurtable than women who were “of his tribe.”

Multiply this a million times when the victim is a Somali refugee abandoned by Australia to fend for herself in Nauru, and it isn’t hard to understand why there were difficulties reporting the rape.

The headline “Rape Refugee” says it all. Written on the body. Written on the body that does not matter, by the body that does.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Turnbull and Dutton wage war on women

When Tony Abbott was Prime Minister it was difficult to imagine myself feeling more contempt and loathing for any politician than the contempt and loathing I felt towards him.

The emotions one experiences for public figures are paradoxical: they can be fiercely visceral and at the same time entirely abstract, as the relationship is not a personal one and the individual is unknown, except superficially. Nonetheless, they can keep you awake at night if the anger provoked is strong enough.

Tonight my contempt and loathing meter has exploded with the news that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have conspired to secretly remove a raped and pregnant refugee, brought here just a few days ago for an abortion, back to the scene of her rape and the purview of her rapist, whose child she is now almost certainly doomed to carry to term.

The woman had, on the advice of psychologists and doctors conveyed to her through her lawyers as the government did not permit her to see either professional, requested counselling for both the sexual assault and the termination of the pregnancy it caused, before she underwent the procedure.

No counselling was permitted by the government. The date set for the procedure passed as she repeatedly begged for precursory assistance. The government then disingenuously decided she had refused the abortion, and whisked her back to Nauru on a chartered plane without allowing her lawyers to speak with her.

If you have been sexually assaulted, if your body has been, against your will, violated by another, it is going to be traumatic to undergo any subsequent procedure that involves the penetration of your body, even if it is with your permission. Only people of immense stupidity or immense, unspeakable cruelty could fail to appreciate this reality.

What Turnbull and Dutton have done is truly horrific. It ought to make every woman tremble in fear and rage. This is what powerful men can do and will do to women, in the pursuit of their own interests. This is how they still despise us, devalue us, abuse us and use us. This is a war on women, expressed today and in this manner against a Somali refugee, expressed tomorrow against whichever woman who in some way they fear presents a  threat to their hold on power.

I happened to be at Question Time yesterday when Turnbull gave a splendid performance of urbanity, sophistication, confidence, superiority, authority, intelligence and charm, self-deprecatingly admitting his financial privilege which he attributes to fate, and nurtures in the Caymans. Hockey and Abbott sat side by side on the back benches, grim as the two evil fairies at the christening. The contrast between Turnbull and Abbott could not have been greater.

And yet . . . Abbott was the iron fist in the iron glove. Turnbull is the iron fist in the velvet glove. Turnbull denigrates woman as much as does Abbott. He’s simply a lot more sophisticated in his ability to conceal the denigration. He’s simply a great deal better at paying lip service to women he believes will further his cause than Abbott ever was. Turnbull has as much of a double standard towards women as did his predecessor. There are still women of calibre, and then there’s the Somali refugee.

I can only hope the feminists in this country will stop fighting about who is allowed to call herself a feminist and who isn’t, and the eternally fraught questions of body hair and breast implants as symbols of hard-won choice, and instead turn their energies towards fighting Turnbull. With Abbott we at least knew where we stood. Turnbull will trash us with charm and blinding eloquence, and we won’t even notice until it’s too late.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

What is better than drowning, according to the Australian Government?

The Federal Government is determined to stick to its policy of torturing innocent people to deter criminals. Apparently the only way to take power away from people smugglers is to ensure that perfectly legal asylum seekers who previously made it safely to Australia by boat are treated in the most barbaric way possible. In some kind of twisted Coalition logic, it asserts by its actions that the most effective way to prevent people drowning at sea is to torture those that survive.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton appears to understand that actions are more important than words, as does former Immigration Minister and current Treasurer, Scott Morrison. Both have made it clear that it’s not acceptable to simply intercept boats making their way to Australia, remove asylum seekers and detain the people smugglers. No, the only way to save lives is to detain and subject every man, woman and child to the cruellest, most inhumane treatment possible. The Coalition has a strong message for asylum seekers, “Dare to flee war, persecution or genocide, and we will make your lives so rotten you’ll beg to return to where you came from.”

According to the Coalition, there is nothing worse than drowning at sea. According to the actions of Dutton, Morrison, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, sexual abuse, violent assaults, and denial of medical treatment are all better than drowning.

In some respects, they have a point. Death is final. It is the end. There is no return from death. Drowning really is a final outcome.

Torture, on the other hand, rape, sexual abuse, violent assaults, denial of medical treatment; none of these things results in immediate death. No, these things, continuously supported by the Australian Government by its lack of action, ensure that people stay alive; although not so much alive as a lingering, painful existence from which there is no escape. Asylum seekers who attempt to escape by ending their own lives, are subjected to more pain and torture.

It seems the Australian Government is determined to stop people drowning at all costs.

Based on the events of the past few years, the Government has demonstrated a number of things that it believes are better than drowning.

  1. Being bashed to death by security guards who are meant to protect you.
  2. Dying a slow, lingering death from septicaemia from an untreated foot infection.
  3. Housing a five month old baby in a stinking hot, rat-infested tent without access to appropriate formula, hygienic facilities to prepare food, and placing her mother in so much stress she can’t breastfeed properly.
  4. Being so suicidal you can’t be trusted to be left alone for five minutes with a lawyer or husband, but considered well enough to be flown to detention in Nauru.
  5. Depriving women of basic sanitary items and forcing them to ask male security guards for pads while blood clots run down their legs.
  6. Leaving a young child with a broken arm untreated for weeks.
  7. Being brutally raped as a 23 year old, and denied medical treatment for weeks, if not months, and forced to continue a pregnancy that is making you physically sick.
  8. Having medical treatment delayed after being brutally raped and attempting suicide.
  9. Young boys being attacked, beaten and robbed.
  10. The sexual abuse of children.
  11. Sending children who are suffering from serious mental health issues back to detention where they won’t have access to proper treatment and their condition will worsen.
  12. Waterboarding and being cable-tied to a bed and dropped from height.
  13. Dying after being denied medical treatment for two weeks.

Astoundingly, while on one hand declaring that the arbitrary and indefinite detention of asylum seekers is necessary to deter the people smugglers, and proudly boasting of its cruel policies, the Government’s main defence in a High Court challenge to offshore detention was that it has no control over the detention centres and besides, there is now no detention after the Nauruan Government coincidentally opened up the centre several days before the challenge was to be heard. This is not the first time the Government has changed the rules at the last minute to thwart any attempts to test the legality of the offshore detention policy and hold it accountable.

The Australian Government behaves as though what happens on Nauru is not Australia’s responsibility. It deliberately and publicly sends men, women and children, including tiny babies, into torturous conditions, yet steps back and says, “its not our problem.” It says the detention centre is not “controlled” by Australia.

The Government’s defence amounts to “it’s nothing to do with us”. At least in this respect the Government’s words and actions are consistent. It continues to fail to act on mounting evidence of appalling conditions for asylum seekers and refugees on the remote island prisons, despite Turnbull recently expressing “concern”, as though the barbaric treatment of innocent people is news to him.

The Government uses the harsh treatment of asylum seekers detained in a third world shithole to attempt to deter people lawfully seeking asylum. It actively sends people to Nauru and Manus Island, and uses tax payer money for the management of the facilities, visas, and the security of the detention centres, yet absolves itself of all responsibility.

The Forgotten Children Report from the Australian Human Rights Centre provides clear evidence of the abhorrent conditions of immigration detention.

The United Nations has found that Australia’s immigration policy and conditions in detention centres amounts to torture.

The Moss Report, commissioned by the Government itself, found that there is evidence of rapes, sexual assaults and drugs for sexual favours in the Australian run centre on Nauru.

A Senate Committee Inquiry found that the Nauru detention centre is not safe for children.

United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants cancelled a visit as the Government could not guarantee that people who spoke with him would not be prosecuted under the Border Force Act.

Despite ongoing criticism, the Government insists on promoting the same tired line that anything compassionate, humane and in line with the basic standards of human rights expected in a Western democracy will lead to more deaths in Australian waters.

It seems that it’s not the deaths the Government fears; it’s the method of death and the publicity surrounding it. Heart wrenching images of children washed up on beaches turns asylum seekers from illegal immigrants to be feared into humans who deserve care and help. Instead, the Government supports the slow, lingering, torturous death of innocent people in detention, which it does everything to hide, threatening two years jail for doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals for publicly disclosing the appalling treatment of asylum seekers, including the sexual abuse of children.

“You’re going to die from a hunger strike protesting your inadequate treatment after being bashed in immigration detention? You shouldn’t have sought asylum by boat”, will be the next heartless press statement from Dutton. “If we relax our draconian policies, people might drown”.

Apparently anything is better than drowning.

 

An open letter from Manus

By Jane Salmon

This epic howl of anguish came from the RPC on Manus via the internet today.

Mourning and Weeping From Hell

These words are coming from hell. There are many broken hearts screaming with heartache because we have been kept for such a long time, with nothing except failing lives …

Our stories might not be interesting to you. If you spend lots of time doing nothing, please listen to our voices and try to feel what these voices and what this letter tells you. It is not magnificent, it’s pain, yes extreme pain. That pain makes tears for all and everyone’s tears have made this letter for this beautiful nation.

Yes, our dreams are failing, we are failing with our hopes and we are failing with our future too. Our lives were set on fire by inhuman politics, that fire burns us little by little every single second.

Those who can feel our bodies and souls burning with our dreams … you’re the real Australians and great humans.

We can’t imagine why humanity is disappearing from this Nation…Waiting and waiting, but there is nothing, just a little bit of hope in everyone’s deep hearts, that the disappearing humanity will return back to everyone. Then we can see that humanity will feel our pain and extreme grief and share our feelings.

let’s see … we are waiting.

We have kids. We can’t think about our future. We can’t do anything for them, even their smallest wish. Our kids are dying slowly in front of us. We can see it with our own eyes, every second our hearts are crying so badly about our kid’s futures. Where are they going to go, what they are going to do? All these questions are killing us. You also have kids, you’ve made plans for when they are growing up. But what can we do? Just one thing: dying all together slowly, day by day, every single second.Please give us your hand to get us out of this deep dark hell. We are so broken. Our souls are crying silently every night. Only our pillow and bed knows. We can’t share our pain with each other here because everyone is in the same boat. We are travelling into the deep darkness, with extreme pain … we can’t smile, we can’t be happy, these things are all gone. Our mind is melting away from us.Now our heads are empty, our lives too. Oh our Nation, many fathers and mothers have children and babies … yes … they are all happy with their freedom and they trust in their lives but we are wasting our lives inside the fence. Our joy and freedom is locked up in this hell. Still, we can’t start our life.

We are asylum seekers. Sorry but we have forgotten our names because now we are just called by our boat numbers. We have been in detention for years in this hell you call offshore processing centre. We cannot describe our suffering. We are tired of being tired. We are dying every single second because of your inhumane treatment. Our presence is burning here. How can we have a future? All you give us is extreme pain and grief …

When we came here we became the victims of your policy. Sent to offshore processing centres and kept there with 2000 people. By the end of 2012 almost 27000 asylum seekers reached your country by boat. Where are they now? You know well some are unlucky and innocent and are still kept in the hell of offshore processing centres.
All the time we are sorry about our life inside the fence on this dry land. We are coping with time and emptiness day by day you make life hard every second and cause us pain too.

Wondering why our lives were saved in the ocean, if we died in the sea it would be wonderful because we can’t cope with your inhuman actions. You took our joy, you took our hope, dreams and locked us up inside the fence … We can’t breathe freely.

844 people from Manus an Nauru signed this letter (but because of our fear we just sent the signatures to one Senator).

04/10/2015

 

Has anything changed? Not judging by the comments.

While many Australians, and no doubt the rest of the world, are still breathing a collective sigh of relief at the deposal of Tony Abbott, his supporters are still smarting and licking their wounds. Abbott himself is still pretending to not wreck, not snipe and not undermine, by telling his supporters he could still have won the election, while those within Abbott’s camp have conveniently forgotten Abbott’s own overthrow of Turnbull not even a decade ago, albeit as leader of the opposition.

Malcolm Turnbull is by far more popular than Abbott. A jump in the polls after Turnbull ascended to the top is a pretty clear indication that Abbott as leader was the problem. Even a commitment to retain the most odious of Abbott’s policies has not dampened Turnbull’s popularity. Likewise, Andrew Hastie’s easy win in the Canning by-election after the coup was a good indication that the Coalition’s policies were not the problem for most people – the problem was Abbott.

Despite Turnbull now giving the Coalition a fighting, and likely, chance of winning the next election, Abbott’s supporters are still coming out hard. With the Liberal party effectively split in two for loyalty, diehard Lib fans continue to fiercely support Abbott’s legacy. As a result, they are reminding Australian’s of what the Coalition stands for, regardless of leader. Consequently, Australian’s cannot forget that the same party is in charge and nothing has really changed.

On Saturday, 3 October 2015, Malcolm Turnbull (or his staff) posted a rather innocuous photo and caption on his Facebook page, to which I replied. Some of the responses to my light-hearted comment serve as a reminder of the sheer ignorance and wilful deceit of the Coalition rhetoric and propaganda.

Turnbull’s initial Facebook post which prompted my comment was not remarkable. It was rather normal and not the slightest bit inflammatory. It hardly gave the impression of aiming to boost Turnbull’s standings in the polls, nor indicated a desperate attempt to show Turnbull leading the nation as a humble servant.

The post showed a photo of Turnbull with actor Chris Hemsworth, with the following words:

“Good to meet Chris Hemsworth today – talked about the contribution of the creative sector to our economy. But a bit weird he insisted on me calling him Thor“.

My comment, intended as a light-hearted comparison to what we had come to expect was:

“I can just imagine Tony Abbott’s caption to this photo, ‘Good to meet Chris Hemsworth today – talked about the contribution of the creative sector to our economy. He told me I could be a god just like him because of my superpowers stopping the boats’.”

This sparked an immediate tirade of misinformation, absurd assertions and a litany of personal abuse. Clearly critical thought and fact checking are not considered necessary for the diehard Liberal supporters.

The obvious response, and one of the most perpetuated lies of the Federal Government was that Abbott did indeed stop the boats.

“He did stop the boats as promised.

Granted, he stopped any boats landing on Australian shores, but he did not stop the boats. The Commonwealth has openly admitted that 20 boats were prevented from landing on Australian territory up until August 2015, and the Government has never refuted that it paid people smugglers to turn a boat around. If the boats had actually stopped there would be no need to turn them back.

Abbott cannot even claim credit for the massive reduction in boats leaving Indonesia: the credit belongs to Kevin Rudd II and his hard-line asylum seeker stance just before the 2013 election, where he declared no person arriving by boat would ever be resettled in Australia.

One response on the post demonstrated complete ignorance of Coalition policy and spending, saying:

“So you would rather pay for illegals than pay for what Australians need like bigger pensions better child care education etc etc. fix our own because no one else will, would or could!”

Ignoring the fact that it is not illegal to seek asylum, the Federal Government currently spends $1 billion a year on offshore detention. It also intends to cut pensions. Extra childcare funding is reliant on cutting family payments, leaving thousands of families worse off. New Treasurer, Scott Morrison has also announced that the Coalition is pushing for privatisation of health and education. It seems pretty obvious that the Government has a very clear intention to spend billions on arbitrary detention, and as little as possible on the Australian family.

Another poster astutely remarked:

“Eva is so far from the left she could probably fall over, let me guess your against offshore detention you probably believe in global warming. … I bet Eva is also against Christianity and private education.”

This disturbingly amusing ‘insult’ is a perfect example of the ignorance of the typical Coalition supporter. Apart from the billions of tax dollars currently used to arbitrarily detain asylum seekers and refugees, including young babies, it is laughable that someone would attempt to use the situation to cast aspersions on my character given the offshore detention regime supports rape, sexual assault, and physical abuse. A growing list of people are calling for the detention centres to be closed, on top of a Senate Committee inquiry recommending that children and families be immediately removed from Nauru.

Global warming, or climate change, is a pet hate of the Abbott supporter. With 97% of scientists agreeing that climate change is a serious issue, Australia has been criticised by a UN climate expert for its abysmally low greenhouse gas emissions targets. Despite Turnbull’s previous stance and criticism on the Coalition’s environmental policy, he has indicated an intention to retain Abbott’s laughable Direct Action. No doubt the Coalition supporters found Dutton’s recent shamefully embarrassing climate change ‘joke’ hilarious too.

It’s possible the curious comment on my alleged anti-Christian sentiment comes from the commenter’s observation of a satirical anti-radicalisation meme on my Facebook page: ‘Case Study: Jesus of Nazareth’. The meme describes Jesus as a ‘radical’ who left his loving family, was tempted by Satan, attempted to recruit followers, went against the Romans and the priests, and was ultimately hanged with thieves. Clearly the irony of this meme would be lost on most Coalition supporters, who would consider Karen, the alternative music loving, political activist, and environmentalist a genuine threat to their conservative, capitalist ideals.

Despite the overwhelming majority support of the Coalition and conservative politics within the mainstream media, Australians now source most of their news online, with a recent survey finding that 59% of people access news on their smartphones and 48% relying on Facebook. While there is no real evidence that the mainstream media in general has anything more than a ‘muted’ influence over an actual election outcome, the use of social media to access the news provides a new opportunity for all political stances and ideologies to share facts, lies, and opinions, whether informed or not.

A recent Nielson report found that approximately 13 million Australians (over 50% of the population) are active users of Facebook every month. The information also shows that on average, 60% of those that discover new information on Facebook will go on to learn more. Equal numbers of people reportedly use YouTube, with around a quarter of the population using WordPress.com and approximately 11% using Twitter.

With the rise of the use of social media, and the use of the same by the ill-informed, it is crucial that Australians who care about human rights, who believe in equality, and who deplore the dehumanisation of anyone other than white, middle-class, privileged Coalition party members and their friends, continue to speak out and demand accountability.

Turnbull’s new leadership will bring with it some changes, but not enough if Australia is to reach the standard expected of a Western democracy in the 21st Century. Abbott returned Australia to the 1950’s with his personal ideology, and medieval times in more than one policy. However, as Abbott so kindly pointed out, “Border protection policy the same, national security policy the same, economic policy the same, even same-sex marriage policy the same, and climate change policy the same. In fact, the rhetoric is the same…” under a Turnbull leadership.

Turnbull may be popular, but the Coalition remains the same.

 

Just what does “Stopping the Boats” really mean?

By Archie

The Guardian is reporting this morning that yet another boatload of Asylum Seekers has been intercepted. This time off Java’s South coast. In Indonesian waters.

From the Guardian report, “The 21 asylum seekers, including children, on board were taken to the southern Javan port of Cidaun, where they have been detained by immigration officials. Some of the group are understood to hold UNHCR refugee cards. The asylum seekers, reportedly from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, were found off the coast of Java by fishermen, who towed their vessel to Jayanti beach, Cianjur.

It is understood the asylum seekers had set out for Christmas Island three days ago, but were hampered by difficult weather and large waves.They had been floating without fuel for three days, and were running low on food and fresh water. “When we found them, they were lacking food and drink,” a fisherman named Mamun told news website Okezone.  [Indonesian site] “Most of them are adults and some brought kids. We took them to the beach and then they were secured in Cidaun police station.”

It is understood the asylum seekers had set out for Christmas Island three days ago, but were hampered by difficult weather and large waves.They had been floating without fuel for three days, and were running low on food and fresh water. “When we found them, they were lacking food and drink,” a fisherman named Mamun told news website Okezone.  [Indonesian site] “Most of them are adults and some brought kids. We took them to the beach and then they were secured in Cidaun police station.”

Not that this could have happened.

After all, our Australian Government has STOPPED THE BOATS!

So we have been told for the past twelve months.

Just what does “Stopping the Boats” really mean?

It means: “Go and die somewhere else.”

It means: “Go and die out of our sight.”

It means: “You may as well die before we see you.”

It means: “How dare you leave the home where you were going to be killed!”

It means: “How dare you come to our notice with your needs.”

It means: “We Australians couldn’t care less about human suffering.”

It means: “We don’t care.”

We have seen the political demise of four Prime Ministers who created, supported and extended the rolled up welcome mat on the coast of our nation. Not one of them thrown out because of that policy.

I wonder if Malcolm Turnbull will see the light and return us to some semblance of collective humanity.

There is still the unanswered question: How many refugees have dies at sea this year?

Australia has failed to change human nature.

Australia has failed to stop the boats.

They may not be getting far, but escapees from oppression are still setting out or planning on setting out.

Some of them will not be making it.

This article was originally published as Refugees at Sea; 24th September 2015 on Archie’s blog; Archie’s Archive.

 

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