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Day to Day Politics: The politics of dirty Dutton.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

When the headlines are screaming words of condemnation over citizenship and marriage equality one is apt to put aside other issues. One such topic is the treatment of asylum seekers and the secrecy that has surrounded their treatment.

At this time last year I wrote the following (below). It concerns the actions of the now Minister for everything secret.

The Guardian had released 2000 emails detailing the abuse of children on Nauru.

Minister Dutton’s gave a morally unacceptable response that was ‘Trumpish’ in its bombastic apathy. Again it was everyone else’s fault.

Max Chalmers writing for New Matilda said:

In response to the more than 2,000 incidents recorded – which range in severity from sexual assaults to minor disagreements – Immigration Minister Peter Dutton broadcast a set of the same vague insinuations his government habitually churns out when the horrors of detention are presented to the public. This is part of a cycle of public relations Australia has seen play out time and time again. It is a Coalition favourite, and remains an essential ingredient to the regime of offshore detention.

Without providing evidence, Dutton argued an unspecified number of the reports could not be trusted.

I said:

Let me sum that up. Your Government has decided to sentence men, women and children who have demonstrably committed no crime, to life imprisonment. Furthermore they want those contemplating coming to Australia by boat to be aware of the atrocities being perpetrated on their predecessors.

Minister Peter Dutton broadcast a set of the same vague insinuations his government habitually churns out when the horrors of detention are presented to the public. This is part of a cycle of public relations Australia has seen play out time and time again. It is a Coalition favourite, and remains an essential ingredient to the regime of offshore detention.

The latest legal advice to human rights groups has made the case for the child abuse royal commission to investigate Australia’s immigration detention centre in Nauru. Why don’t they?

Then in June 2017 I wrote:

Shame, my country, shame on you that you would allow such evil to take place. Shame on the politicians who perpetuated it, knowingly and for so long. Shame on the Government who deliberately put aside our duty of care to those seeking asylum to allow our wrongdoing to be a deterrent to others. Shame, shame shame, for the deliberate abuse of our right to know what was being executed in our name.

“No defence” is a confession that this evil took place and rather than utter words of remorse, of sincere apology, Peter Dutton has sought to blame others. That is not unusual for this Government. Their cruelty goes back a long way.

Rather than defend their actions, which for the duration of the court proceedings would have caused considerable embarrassment for the government they chose, for 100 million dollars, to hide their atrocities from public view. An act of political cowardice unequaled in Australia’s history.

The demonisation of asylum seekers started with John Howard’s and Peter Reith’s lie of “children overboard”, Philip Ruddick’s “illegals” and Tony Abbott’s “stop the boats”.

On this day in 2016 I coincidentally wrote this following Bill Shorten’s interview with Tony Jones on Q&A:

Answering a question about our right to be informed about conditions on Nauru and Manus, after Morrison had said:

Nauru and Papua New Guinea are sovereign governments, they’re the ones who actually ultimately decide what happens.

Bill Shorten said:

If I was prime minister it would have to be an amazing set of circumstances where we’re not prepared to tell you what’s going on.

As a general rule this nation operates best if you treat people as smart and intelligent and tell them what’s going on, full stop.

The decision by the Government not to defend the litigation has been portrayed in various ways. Peter Gordon writing for Fairfax described it as:

A powerful statement about the cruelty inflicted on vulnerable people who sought protection in Australia – and who is responsible for it.

Tony Abbott reckons it:

Looks like a windfall for people who unfairly took advantage of our nation’s generosity.

We’ve got a judiciary that takes the side of the so-called victim rather than the side of common sense.

Remember it was he that was so unbending in his attitude. If he could use people’s lives to the Government’s advantage he never hesitated. He refused to countenance Gillard’s Malaysia solution and when dumped as PM admitted he should have done so. He successfully manoeuvred Labor and Bill Shorten into a bi-partisan position where one was as guilty as the other of the crimes and atrocities committed against innocent people. The only purpose being that they would act as an example to others wishing to come by boat.

The indefensible act of incarcerating people indefinitely when innocent must surely be an act of the lowest definable human trait.

Ben Doherty of The Guardian wrote about the consequences of the bipartisan policy of offshore detention:

All of it has been laid bare: the children accidentally sent to adult men’s only detention where they were abused, suffered systemic sexual assault, the violence by guards against detainees, the repeated suicide attempts, the mass hunger strikes, the seriously ill neglected until it was too late and they died, the public servants who ignored the pleas of doctors to move patients because it was “policy” refugees stayed in detention, so again, they died.

Today I am writing about another sordid chapter in our treatment of asylum seekers and those responsible for their protection and well being.

In the quiet of an August Sunday evening the Turnbull government unobtrusively back flipped on its strict secrecy provisions governing Australia’s immigration detention system. Those who had challenged the laws in the High Court leapt high in the air with yet another win over the decrepit Dutton.

Previously the laws prevented teachers, lawyers and social workers from speaking publically about neglect or abuse. The penalty for doing so was up to two years in jail.

The rules that once threatened detention centre workers under the Australian Border Force Act have effectively been striped out.

The Government of course long argued that the act didn’t prevent people disclosing information that was in the public interest which was obviously a load of you know what.

The fact is that the Government has done a triple back flip with swallow and capitulated.

The action, in the High Court, was instigated by Doctors for Refugees and the Fitzroy Legal Centre.

“Short of repealing the law completely this in practicality waters it down so much that it’s virtually non-existent,” Dr Phatarford

The changes will apply retrospectively meaning those who have made disclosures in the past two years cannot be prosecuted.

The Managing solicitor at the Fitzroy Legal Service, Meghan Fitzgerald, called it “an astounding turnaround” and a clear attempt to avoid the scrutiny that would have come if the case proceeded in the High Court.

In the time these laws have been in place, workers in immigration detention centres, including doctors, nurses, teachers, counsellors, security guards, lawyers and registered migration agents have lived in fear of speaking out about the shocking conditions refugees and asylum seekers are suffering.

Yet again this government has been caught with its pants down. It legislates laws in the full knowledge that they wont pass a challenge in the High Court and then reneges when challenged.

They really couldn’t give a stuff about the suffering they have caused to these poor people.

My thought for the day

“Politicians who change their minds aren’t necessarily seeing the light. They might just be feeling the heat.”

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  1. Terry2

    We still haven’t got to the bottom of the allegations of Australian Border Force personnel bribing people smugglers on the high seas to turn their boats around and dump the asylum seekers anywhere that is not Australia : if proven this is evidence of Dutton being engaged in people smuggling.

    The recent class action brought by 1900 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island for unlawful detention, torture and neglect ended in the The Australian government – read taxpayers – agreeing to compensate asylum seekers currently or formerly held at the Manus to the extent of $70 million plus costs, to be distributed to asylum seekers based on the length of their detention.

    Not to forget the disastrous attempt by Dutton to dump asylum seekers in Cambodia which cost us some $50million in bribes to corrupt Hun Sen regime.

    Dutton, as the leader of the conservative right is a protected species within the Turnbull Cabinet and this is not in the national interest.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Amnesty International has documented the firsthand testimony of the men who received the money. Amnesty International has also documented the testimony of an eye-witnesses to the Australian officials handing over money to the crew. The police who detained the crew members confirm they were found with approximately 32,000 USD and showed Amnesty International the money they confiscated
    from the crew.

    On 24 June 2015, the matter of the payments was referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee of the Australian Senate. The Committee was due to report back in early 2016.


    The committee recommends that, should it be unable to complete its inquiry prior to the 2016 national election, the Senate refer this matter, in the same terms, to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References committee in the 45th Parliament.

    At the dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives on 9 May 2016 for a general election on 2 July 2016, the parliamentary committees of the 44th Parliament ceased to exist. Therefore inquiries that were not completed have lapsed and submissions cannot be received.

  3. Kyran

    “They really couldn’t give a stuff about the suffering they have caused to these poor people.”
    And that, sadly, is the nub of the matter. From memory, dutton has travelled to Manus once and has never been to Nauru.
    There was an article on the ABC over the weekend;

    “Six Australian parliamentarians spend a torrid week on a mini-bus in the shadow of war.
    A Greens senator, an independent, a Liberal and three Labor senators are thrust into the centre of an ongoing humanitarian crisis and forced to live in each others’ pockets for a week.”

    “The group is on a foreign aid lobbying trip, paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and organised by Save the Children, deep into the heart of the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon.
    The mission is to confront the politicians with the harsh reality of Syria’s seven-year conflict and force them to reaffirm or reassess their views on refugees and aid.”

    Whilst the report borders on the flippant in style, the facts appear to be that six parliamentarians travelled to refugee camps in the Middle East to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis caused by war. That it was not funded by them or the Australian government and used the limited means of a charitable/humanitarian organisation is a mere by-line. That they had to travel there before they could understand the enormity of the problem is merely mind numbing. That they would have to be exposed to this so their views on refugee’s and aid could be influenced is a sad indictment on their humanity. Putting that aside for the minute;

    “It’s clean, but you get this many people in this heat, and it’s not exactly a hospitable environment to live in,” he says.
    “There’s lots that’s surprising me. We’re facing the cold, hard, brutal side of conflict.
    “It tests us, as a country, what are we doing to do?
    “And what is the international community going to do to help and support people that, but for the grace of God, could be us?”
    That was the intrepid Wilson, Liberal.

    “We should very much be opening our arms and make people fleeing persecution feel as welcome as we can.”
    That was the intrepid Hammond, ALP.

    Ah well. We now have six intrepid parliamentarians, travelling on the scarce resources of a charity, who have had their eyes opened to the “cold, hard, brutal,” horror of war. We now have six intrepid parliamentarians asking “What are we going to do?” about this horrible legacy of war. Of the six intrepid parliamentarians, only McKim has been to Manus. Not one of them made any reference to the 2,000 lives currently in our custody, in our care, warehoused on our island gulags. Whilst their eyes may have been opened, their minds remain closed and their hearts remain unfeeling. They may advocate for an increase in Australian foreign aid, they may advocate for a better international response.
    The critical issue overlooked. Will they advocate for the immediate repatriation of those in our care to Australia’s shores, with the billions in savings being ‘donated’ to foreign aid programs?
    Will they be able to convert bishop and dutton to humanity? It appears the christianity of bishop and dutton is in need of conversion of some sort.
    Thank you Mr Lord. Take care

  4. John

    “The group is on a foreign aid lobbying trip, paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ..”

    Of course the Gates Foundation has our best interests at heart. See ‘Under the Mask of Philanthropy’ by Michael Barker.
    “At a time when philanthropy is being upheld as a panacea for inequality, Barker’s erudite and compelling book offers a vital corrective to the belief that voluntary gifts from the mega-rich can resolve the very global inequities which their business practices often perpetuate.”

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