By Dr George Venturini
Bad stage actors
There is no new Phlegyas, to lead one through the black lagoon of a modern Styx, whom Dante and Virgil would have met – figuratively speaking – in the Divine Comedy. It may be quicker to adopt the conclusion of Judge Dana Christensen while ruling against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service which wanted to delist the Yellowstone Grizzly, and by that decision stopping the trophy hunt proposed by the states of Idaho and Wyoming, that he characterised as “those retro redneck havens of braindead racism, industrial serfdom, and furious, moron machismo.” (‘Judge delays grizzly bear hunts as he considers federal protection,’ The Guardian, 31 August 2018).
And what would one say of the Australian Government demanding that a new subject commit to ‘the rule of law’ among the new ‘values’?
If there is to be such commitment, it must at least be reciprocal: the new subject commits to the rule of law because the government itself operates under that rule.
Australian government men (and women) – at least since the Whitlam Government Royal Ambush – have a been a collection of hypocrites. Let us be precise: The word hypocrite is rooted in the Greek word hypokrites, which means “stage actor, pretender, dissembler.” So think of a hypocrite as a person who pretends to be a certain way, but really acts and believes the total opposite.
Australian ‘plaster saints’ operate in complete violation of the rules of international order.
From the very beginning, in 1901, Australia has entered into some 1281 international treaties, as at the latest date of retrieval 18 April 2017. Some of those treaties, conventions, declarations, instruments are more important than others.
Among the most important, particularly as relating to asylum seekers and refugees, are those collected under the broad title of International Bill of Human Rights. This was the name given to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 (III) and two international treaties established by the United Nations. The Bill consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (for the writing of which Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. H.V. Evatt, the Australian judge, lawyer, parliamentarian and writer shared responsibility, and which was adopted on 10 December 1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (I.C.C.P.R., 1966) with its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (I.C.E.S.C.R., 1966). The two covenants entered into force in 1976, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified them.
Not one of those instruments of international commitment – and consequently respectability – has been abided by Australian governments after the Royal Ambush of 1975.
As far as asylum seekers and refugees a long list of violations could be available to show that the very first document is of no ‘value’ for Australian governments.
Art. 14 (1) of the Universal Declaration reads: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Those words have meant absolutely nothing to Australian governments, particularly since late 1991. It would be quite tedious for the reader to be presented with a list of the articles violated by Australian governments in the following treaties and/or conventions:
1) International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, A/RES/2106 A (XX), 21 December 1965,
2) Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted by the United Nations Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons, convened pursuant to General Assembly resolution 429 (V) of 14 December 1950, 28 July 1951 and the relative Protocol which entered into force on 4 October 1967,
3) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, A/RES/1946, 10 December 1984,
4) Convention on the Rights of the Child, A/RES/44/25, 20 November 1989,
5) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, A/RES/34/180, 18 December 1979,
6) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Geneva in 1955, and approved by Economic and Social Council resolutions 663 C (XXIV) of 31 July 1957 and 20876 (LXII) of 13 May 1977,
7) Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, A/RES/43/173, 9 December 1988,
8) Basic Principle for the Treatment of Prisoners, A/RES/45/111 14 December 1990,
9) United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines), A/RS/45/112, 14 December 1990.
The rhetoric does not match the reality when it comes to the Australian governments’ respect for the rules based international order. Nor do such governments have any respect for the United Nations when they are faced with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (DOTROIP-24-2-PDF | File Size 2,611 KB | 48 Pages | 18 Jun, 2018).
That declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States, and 11 abstentions.
Initially, the Australian government opposed the Declaration in the General Assembly vote of 2007, but has since endorsed the Declaration. Objections were lost in the poverty of what passes for ‘politics’ in Australia – with the subsequent manoeuvres.
Amongst them, in October 2007 former Australian Prime Minister John Howard pledged to hold a referendum on changing the constitution to recognise ‘Indigenous Australians’ if re-elected. He said that the distinctiveness of people’s identity and their rights to preserve their heritage should be acknowledged. Quite likely he did not mean what he was saying. Successive Coalition governments did not return to the point.
On 3 April 2009 the Labor Rudd Government formally endorsed the Declaration. Yet nothing has come out of it.
The other three countries which initially voted against have had different reasons for modifying their position.
So-called ‘illegal maritime arrivals’ have been kept since 1992 in gaols or concentration camps, inside or outside Australia.
There are two concentration camps off-shore.
According to a Department of Home Affairs spokesperson, there were 422 persons (or should one read: un-persons?) housed at the three camps of the so-called Manus Regional Processing Centre: 213 at East Lorengau, 111 at West Lorengau and 98 asylum seekers at Hillside Haus.
As of 30 November 2018, there were 27 persons held in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre. The highest population at the centre was 1,233 detainees in August 2014.
In February 2019 the last four children (of an original 200 in detention on Nauru in 2013) were resettled in the United States with their families.
“As at 31 December 2018, there was a total of 10 people in the Nauru RPC. The Manus RPC closed on 31 October 2017.” (Australian Border Force, ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ monthly update: December 2018, 31-01-2019) The Australian Border Force, is a ‘border protection operation’ led by the Australian Defence Force.
Figures on modern ‘miserables’ are unreliable, because provided either through the ‘manageable’ irresponsibility of a former drug-squad policeman, or by the military. And one recalls Georges Clemenceau’s: “La guerre! C’est une chose trop grave pour la confier à des militaries”, freely translated as: “War is too important to be left to the generals.”
Since 2010 there have been 37 deaths in onshore and offshore camps, with 16 of those known to be suicides. Twelve of these deaths have been of men in detention on Manus Island or Nauru. (The Guardian, 20 June 2018 and Australian Border Death Database).
“In April 2014, the National Commission of Audit reported that between 2009-10 and 2013-14 spending on the detention and processing of asylum seekers who arrived by boat increased from $118.4 million per year to $3.3 billion per year.
The Commission reported that it costs: 1) $400,000 a year to hold an asylum seeker in offshore detention; 2) $239,000 to hold them in detention in Australia; 3) less than $100,000 for an asylum seeker to live in community detention; and 4) around $40,000 for an asylum seeker to live in the community on a bridging visa while their claim is processed.” (Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, 10 August 2018) In 2017-18 the centres cost an estimated $1.44 billion. The 2018-19 Budget allocates $759.58 million. Sources:(Kaldor Centre and Department of Home Affairs).
The entire criminal adventure has cost over five billion Australian dollars.
Continued Saturday – Comedy without art (part 10)
Previous instalment – Comedy without art (part 8)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.email@example.com.
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