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Death by bureaucrat: this is not a metaphor

On ABC’s Four Corners last night we heard a Department of Immigration and Border Protection employee make the chilling decision to override a doctor’s request that dangerously ill refugee, Hamid Khazael, be evacuated from the Manus Island hospital to Port Moresby, where he could receive antibiotics that were not available on Manus.

The bureaucrat is heard refusing the evacuation request, suggesting instead that the drugs should be sourced elsewhere and flown to Manus, rather than the much faster alternative in which the patient would be taken to the drugs.

Mr Khazael was suffering from sepsis, following a minor cut on his leg. Sepsis is treatable but time is of the essence. DIBP bureaucrats caused unconscionable delays in Mr Khazeal’s access to treatment, in direct and deliberate contradiction of medical advice, and DIBP bureaucrats are answerable for the circumstances of his death.

They should be named, arrested and charged with manslaughter.

As the story unfolds it emerges as one of rabid bureaucratic power. None of the public servants who contributed to the awful death of Mr Khazael is a doctor, and yet they took it upon themselves to question and ignore medical advice as to the seriousness of his condition. At one point it’s revealed that it was thirteen hours before a public servant read an email concerning Mr Khazael’s dire condition.

The Minister at the time was current Treasurer, Scott Morrison.

The culture of DIBP is toxic. Its bureaucrats are protected by a cloak of secrecy and lack of accountability, instigated by successive ministers whose dark ambition it is to create and maintain a government department with absolute power, answerable to no one.

The doctors who spoke out on Four Corners last night have now broken the law that forbids anyone associated with off-shore detention from speaking of the conditions they encountered. This law in itself has absolutely no place in a democratic society.

Some doctors are at risk of arrest and prosecution. I have no doubt that should Immigration Minister Peter Dutton decide to put his money where his mouth is and have them arrested, there’ll be legal teams lining up to defend them. Should Dutton not act, then he confirms the suspicion that the law is intended to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence, rather than be enacted against them.

As I watched last night I inevitably thought of Adolf Eichmann, who has become the universal symbol of the bureaucrat who is just following orders. For such personalities what seems most unthinkable is that they disobey instructions. Their obedience can and does result in suffering and death, however, that is of little consequence compared with the personal repercussions of disobedience.

Listening to the DIBP bureaucrat refusing to authorise Mr Khazael’s transfer to a hospital which could properly treat his condition on the sole grounds that the policy is to fly the drugs in, not the dying man out, I though immediately of Eichmann, of the banality of evil and how it flourishes when good men [sic] do nothing.

There is not yet a situation in this country that permits the scale of murderous obedience enacted by Eichmann. We are only beginning to travel down this road. The fact that we are indisputably setting out on this journey ought to terrify us into stopping right now, and taking stock.

At his trial Eichmann claimed: There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.

The toxic culture of DIBP nurtures Eichmann-like attitudes. This government department should not exist in its current form in our democracy. It’s time to shine a light into its darkness. It’s time to make bureaucrats accountable for just following the orders of their leaders, and to make the leaders responsible for the intolerable demands they impose on people who are, after all, servants of the public not agents of its persecution.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Michael

    They, THE WHOLE UP-LINE (an multi-level marketing term) to where the $ stops should be named, arrested and charged with manslaughter.

  2. philgorman2014

    That would be a good start but don’t count on anyone but some minor lackey being held accountable for a systemic failure in the chain of command.

  3. dragonnanny

    This whole situation is sickening, and sadly there are many in society who would not really care that much because of the spin over time about these `illegals’ being undesirable, and the few who do care cannot change a government or a government department in my humble opinion……………despite all that it is sickening and words fail me as to the mind set of the bureaucrats who make these decisions.

  4. unhappy

    Then you will have many others hurting themselves to the point of needing medical treatment. Australia would be well advised to have this type of medication on hand in case of such an emergency. I don’t trust any of these people not to hurt themselves!

  5. jimhaz

    “GEOFF THOMPSON: Half an hour later, at 6pm on Monday, the Canberra bureaucrat responds to IHMS, asking why Hamid Khazaei can’t be treated at a local hospital on Manus Island.
    She writes: “I am wondering why this can’t be managed at Lorengau Hospital?”
    “Even using something ‘unusual’ should be able to be managed locally.”
    “Is there a supply issue that we are unaware of? Again, these should be brought in, rather than the person being transferred if this is the case.”
    “DIBP staff on island are being pushed for this urgent transfer in the next 18 hours, however I don’t have adequate information to be able to escalate at this point if this is still warranted.”
    PETER YOUNG: It was a routine response. That’s the sort of- that’s the response you got pretty much every time”

    So I ask what happened all the other times? it would seem they must have all been OK in the end, setting a precedent.

    I really do not like the writer blaming the public servant. Quite frankly I would have made the same initial decision. It may have been the actions of pro-refugee doctors in other cases who actually forced tough rulings on this, however it is fine by me to blame Morrison though for the system he put in which appears to be aimed at non-removal under any circumstances. Morrison also may not have given International Health and Medical Services enough freedom to act themselves in this case.

  6. gee

    the department is now a perversion of it’s former function.

  7. keerti

    Unhappy…” I don’t trust any of these people not to hurt themselves!”
    At least you admit that they are people!tHEY ARE UNDER OUR PROTECTION AND DESERVE PROPER CARE.

  8. Jack Russell

    I wonder how many politicians in the current government have a cozy cottage in a non-extradition country that they can flee to once they are out of office and no longer protected in the way they are now?

  9. Terry2

    The hospital on Manus is the Lorengau General Hospital located at Lorengau the islands’ administrative capital. It was here that the Canberra bureaucrat was suggesting the man be taken rather than incur the cost of a medical evacuation.

    This gives a you a snapshot of the conditions at the Lorengau General Hospital :

    If there is an inquest underway as Morrison stated this morning – actually where is the inquest taking palce ? – then you can anticipate that the bureaucrat in Canberra will come in for extreme criticism unless of course there is a cover up.

  10. lawrencewinder

    What a murderously incompetent ruling rabble this mongrel lot are. This disgraceful episode indicates just how bereft of humanity our Xtian minister is.

  11. Aortic

    The amazing thing to me, if this is how it happened, how can a medically unqualified public servant override the recommendation specifically made by a medically qualified doctor. Presumably the medicos were there to evaluate the urgency or otherwise of a situation and make rcommendations accordingly. If they are going to be ignored what is the point of having them there. Little wonder they spoke out. Some clerical assistant down the line will be chastised and everyone from Minister to hierarchy will pat themselves on the back for another job well done. Some poor soul has lost his LIFE and somebody needs to be held accountable.

  12. Aortic

    And Turnbull, Morrison and Dutton are supposedly “Christians.” If Christ had displayed such profligate disregard for humanity his religion would never have gotten off the ground.

  13. Kaye Lee

    ‪#‎BREAKING‬ Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has found Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.

    The Supreme Court has ordered the PNG and Australian governments to immediately take steps to end the detention of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea.

  14. Miriam English

    Refugees make a difference.
    (Refugee – field where they had a great impact [fled from])

    Albert Einstein – theoretical physicist [Germany]
    Paul Erdos – world’s most prolific Mathematician [Hungary]
    Karl Marx – political philosopher [Germany]
    Anne Frank – writer [Germany]
    Gloria Estefan – singer, composer [Cuba]
    Sigmund Freud – created psychoanalaysis [Austria]
    Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (M.I.A.) – musician [Sri Lanka]
    Madeline Albright – USA Secretary of State [Czechoslovakia]
    Billy Wilder – one of the greatest film directors of all time [Germany]
    Fritz Lang – film director [Germany]
    Freddie Mercury – musician, composer, lead singer of supergroup Queen, actor [Tanzania]
    Rimvydas Silbajoris – Professor of Literature, author [Lithuania]
    George Seremba – actor/playwright,Lecturer on African Literature [Uganda]
    Sima Samar – doctor, politician, human rights activist [Pakistan]
    Edward Said – historian [Palestine]
    Otto Preminger – film director, actor [Austria]
    Albert Chinualumogu Achebe – writer [Nigeria]
    Mahnaz Afkhami – writer, women’s rights activist [Iran]
    Marjorie Agosín – writer [Chile]
    Sonya Aho – journalist [Turkey]
    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown – journalist, broadcaster [Uganda]
    Isabel Allende – writer [Chile]
    Hannah Arendt – writer, political theorist, philosopher [Germany]
    Béla Bartók – pianist composer [Hungary]
    Bob Marley – musician [Jamaica]
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali – writer, women’s rights activist [Somalia]
    Sitting Bull – Sioux chief fled to Canada [USA]
    Karl Popper – science philosopher [Austria]
    Joshua ben Joseph (Jesus) – founder of Christianity [Israel]
    Muhammad – founder of Islam [Mecca]
    Tenzin Gyatso – the current Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism [Tibet]
    Max Born – physicist [Germany]
    Robert Fano – physicist [Italy]
    Jackie Chan – actor, martial arts expert [Hong Kong]
    Marlene Dietrich – actress [Germany]
    Victor Hugo – writer [France]

    There are thousands more refugees who have made a giant difference to our modern world. Stopping these people and having a casual “don’t care” attitude to their distress and/or death causes our future to be much, much poorer. Refugees are very motivated people (otherwise they would have not fled their homelands, but would have stayed and perhaps died). To destroy these people is to screw ourselves over too.

  15. Backyard Bob

    It’s beyond ironic that it took the PNG Supreme Court to insert some legal sanity into this farce.

    The political fallout from this story will be a major test for all the major parties. The question now is: who will pass that test.

  16. Kyran

    At the time of Hamid’s passing, September, 2014, he was in Queensland. My understanding is that the Queensland Coroner’s Court commenced a hearing in August, 2015. At the time, Scum-oh was protesting he had received ‘outstanding’ care. Reza passed away in February, 2014, and, whilst there is unlikely to be any coronial enquiry, people were eventually charged with his murder.
    If you wish to check the IHMS website, you will see how serious they are;
    “International Health and Medical Services manages health systems on behalf of governments and international organisations. We provide healthcare in both remote and urban settings, delivering a consistent standard of care even in physically and culturally challenging environments. We deliver healthcare in a professional manner that is:
    medically appropriate;
    without any form of discrimination;
    with appropriate dignity, humanity, cultural and gender sensitivity; and
    with respect for privacy and confidentiality.”
    If you wish to look at the reality;
    If you wish to ‘google’ medical facilities on Nauru or medical facilities on Manus, you will find little more than advice such as;
    “Nauru has two hospitals, which are adequate for routine health problems, but for anything more serious you will need to fly elsewhere.”
    That’s from the Americans.
    What do we say about Nauru?
    “Welcome to the Australian High Commission’s website.

    As Pacific islands, Australia and Nauru share much in common. We are tied by our common sense of mateship and our love and respect of family. We are brought together by our love of sport, particularly Aussie Rules. And we are united by our proud history of cooperation on regional and local challenges.

    Strong people-to-people links underpin the friendship between our two sovereign nations, supported through programs like the Seasonal Workers and Australia Awards Scholarships programs, which provide opportunities for Nauruans to study and work in Australia.

    Australia’s $25.2 million development program in Nauru contributes towards our shared objectives of supporting stable and fiscally responsible government, human development and essential infrastructure services.

    In 2015-16, Australia will work closely with the Government of Nauru to redevelop the Republic of Nauru Hospital, improve the number and quality of teaching staff, supporting gender equality initiatives and more.

    As the Australian High Commissioner, I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the close relationship that Nauru and Australia share. Our relationship reflects the diversity of our mutual interests and I look forward to the friendship between our two nations to flourish.

    We have so much to be proud of, don’t we? We have created a hand’s off, arm’s length legal doctrine that says we can sub-contract out of our legal obligations and our moral obligations.
    Only one problem, which I learned in business. You cannot contract out of negligence. And we, in my opinion, have been willingly negligent.
    All they wanted was refuge.
    Thank you, Ms Wilson. Take care

  17. Terry2

    Paul Walter

    This decision by the PNG Supreme Court demonstrates that the rule of law is still alive and well in PNG and despite Dutton putting every legal obstacle in the way of the PNG judicial system they have come through with the anticipated decision that the PNG Constitution does not allow the detention of people who have not committed a crime in PNG and been sentenced by a properly constituted court of law.

    But, don’t hold your breath, Dutton had anticipated this and has arranged with the PNG authorities to open the gates during the day – as he did with Nauru – to demonstrate that they are not detained as long as they return to the detention centre at night – what’s known as the Hotel California solution :

    “you can check out anytime but you can never leave “.

    At least we have an election coming up and we can get rid of these bastards.

  18. Kyran

    Hotel California, indeed, Terry2. From the ABC article;
    “The asylum seekers whose applications have not succeeded are unable to leave detention and are being told they must go back to their country of origin.”
    How is it that the legal system of PNG, a country pillaged by our corporate mining interests (google Ok Tedi) can demonstrate a superior legal system, whilst our legal system continues to protect the pillagers?
    There was another article on this site about “Off shoring”.
    It’s just a stoopid idea.
    Thank you Terry2 and Mr Walter. Ms Wilson, the Eichmann defence just got substantially weakened.
    And most importantly, thank you PNG. Take care. AND BRING THEM HERE

  19. Kyran

    From the ABC website;
    “The five-man bench of the court ruled the detention breached the right to personal liberty in the PNG constitution.”
    The bit they missed in this reporting was that it is not constitutional (in PNG) to imprison a person without charge of any crimes.
    They merely sought refuge in Australia.
    So I looked at the Nauruan Constitution. Whilst the only notable aspect is the fact that all citizens are referred to as ‘he’, the preamble is significant.
    “3. Whereas every person in Nauru is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the
    individual, that is to say, has the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, colour,
    creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest,
    to each and all of the following freedoms, namely:-
    (a) life, liberty, security of the person, the enjoyment of property and the protection of the
    (b) freedom of conscience, of expression and of peaceful assembly and association; and
    (c) respect for his private and family life,
    the subsequent provisions of this Part have effect for the purpose of affording protection to those
    rights and freedoms, subject to such limitations of that protection as are contained in those
    provisions, being limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of those rights and freedoms by
    a person does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of other persons or the public interest.”,d.dGY

    PNG’s constitution apparently works. Nauru relies on our legal process to make their constitution work.
    FFS, all they want is refuge. What is the problem? Take care

  20. paul walter

    Terry 2, Kyran..if you were close handy I’d give you both a brotherly hug for humanity and brains.

  21. Kyran

    Indeed, Terry2. The Chief Magistrate was expelled in January, 2014. As far as I can tell, the ‘replacement’ wasn’t made until September, 2015. A situation so dire, the NZ government ceased aid for justice on Nauru in 2015, stating it will not be reinstated until they get serious about reform.
    There was a recent story about a fellow on Nauru who was charged with a crime due to his attempt to commit suicide. There was the story of Abyan who had to be moved to Australia if she wanted an abortion because abortion is illegal on Nauru. Whilst their ‘civil’ system is based on various legal systems, including Australian and PNG law, their criminal system is based entirely on the Queensland Criminal Code of 1899 (as amended in 1921).
    The Justice Minister, Adeang, suspended police enquiry into the death of his wife after she was found burned to death on their front lawn. The coroner was sent back to Australia before conducting any examination, let alone an autopsy. Adeang and various family members have all been named as beneficiaries of the ‘peppercorn’ leases used by the Australian government for the building and maintenance of the ‘facilities’ used for the warehousing of the asylum seekers. It was originally hoped the facilities would be turned over to the Nauruan people on the expiry of the leases. That however, would suggest there was some sort of justice on Nauru.

    And the Australian government’s take on all this? Our wonderful, fantastic, competent Foreign Monster, asbestos spoke to Mr Waqa.

    “I sought assurances from him that the rule of law would be upheld, that the judiciary system would have integrity in its processes and that there would be fair dealing with the opposition members who had been either detained or charged,” Ms Bishop told reporters.

    That’s the last comment I can find from her, July, 2015.

    PNG has shown some due process, a prospect that is non existent on Nauru. A situation aided and abetted by asbestos and the dud.
    Yep, bit too early to celebrate. Apologies Ms Wilson for ‘derailing’ the thread. Take care

  22. mark delmege

    There is another scoreboard
    Our Allies destroyed – with our media and govt support

  23. Miriam English

    Manus Island concentration camp is closing!
    Yay! Finally!
    Now we need to ensure those imprisoned there are brought to Australia and fairly processed. And have the same done for those in Nauru. We can’t let the politicians slime their way out of this.

  24. paul walter

    The refugees, looking frazzled, want to come to Australia. This has provoked the usual unyielding response from Dutton.

  25. Kyran

    Not only the dud, Mr Walter. His labor equivalent, marles, seems hell bent on out ‘righting’ him. They both seem to be saying that the rule of law in PNG is subservient to their insistence that law, particularly international law, is a suggestion, not a directive.
    Bearing in mind Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, the various ‘stan’s, etc, are all out of contention, it seems 850 men are to be warehoused on Nauru. Dud made this announcement simultaneously with the announcement that a refugee had set himself on fire in front of 3 UN advisors.
    The sentiment expressed by yourself and Ms English seems reflected in a petition ‘Bring them here’ by Getup

    As best as I can see, 350k signatures already. Not that either of the major parties will give a damn.
    Take care

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