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What Malcolm Turnbull used to think about asylum seekers

In June 2005, Malcolm Turnbull rose to speak in parliament on the Migration Amendment (Detention Arrangements) Bill 2005.

Hundreds of my constituents, since I announced my candidacy for parliament, have contacted me on the streets, by letter, by email and by telephone about this matter. Their overwhelming concerns have been focused on two issues. The first is the detention of families and children in detention centres. I have shared that concern and have expressed it to the minister and other members of the government. The second focus of their concerns has been the inordinate time it takes to process applications.

Those delays wreak great injustice and great hardship. The hardship they wreak is obvious for people who are in detention. Plainly, if someone is in detention pending the outcome of an application, the longer that application is pending the more hardship they suffer.

These long delays—some of them of almost Dickensian proportions—also wreak great injustice and hardship on people who are living in the community who are not under any form of detention, because the longer they live in Australia the more connections they make with the community. They have children and their children go to school. They make friends and connections. If, at the end of the process, it is concluded that their application should be rejected then the hardship of them being removed from Australia is even greater. So there is an enormous interest, both in terms of efficiency and humanity, to have applications dealt with expeditiously. That is why a feature of this package that was announced by the Prime Minister last week is to have the first review, the consideration of the application by the department, concluded within 90 days and then the review by the tribunal, if a review is sought, completed within a further 90 days. Those timetables are important. It would be desirable if they could be even shorter. The complexity of the process that we currently have is not required by any concept of natural justice. It is certainly not required under international obligations and, as I said, it wreaks great hardship.

The most important change for most Australians will be the statement that a minor shall only be detained as a measure of last resort and a provision that enables the minister to arrange that families be allowed—or any person in fact but it is intended to be applied particularly to families—to reside in a place in the community which could be anywhere in the community as opposed to being in a detention centre or a residential housing project. This added flexibility is designed to enable families with children to live within the community with some reporting requirements and, as the explanatory memorandum says, with ‘minimal direct supervision’.

One of the defects of the legislation to date has been a lack of flexibility for the minister to administer the department in a more responsive and humane fashion. Discretion can obviously create concerns if it is misused, but discretion which is accountable is a very valuable combination. There are provisions for reporting by the Ombudsman both to the minister and to parliament. The Ombudsman of course has considerable powers to investigate, to compel witnesses and to compel the production of documents, and his oversight of this program will ensure that the discretions are exercised in a way which is accountable and transparent. If honourable members consider that these discretions have been exercised in a way that is unsatisfactory they will have all of the information before them to challenge the minister and call for those discretions to be exercised in a different way. I am delighted that this legislation has been presented to the House. It is a great step forward, as is the rest of the package announced by the Prime Minister. It will make our immigration system more efficient, more compassionate and more accountable. I know that the overwhelming majority of my constituents in Wentworth are as delighted as I am by these reforms.

Who would have thought that a Turnbull government would be more conservative, more callous, more vengeful, than a Howard government.

But that is what happens when you have a spineless hypocrite in charge whose main concern is his own survival.

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  1. Jaquix

    Mmmm. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Or is this another example of Turnbull the courtroom lawyer employing his silver tongue? I often wonder what Lucy thinks of the current Malcolm.

  2. Frank Smith

    Thank you for finding this “gem” from Turnbull, Kaye Lee. I suspect he may have been genuine when he uttered those words in 2005. But what a horrendous backflip he has taken in the past few years. Given the position he now adopts on asylum seekers, expressed just yesterday in an attempt to discredit Kristina Keneally, any human with a conscience at all could not sleep at night. Given his ragged apearance of late I suspect he is suffering from sleep deprivation – I sincerely hope that is the result of a very worried conscience.

  3. Zoltan Balint

    Mr MT (as in empty) should reflect on his view on what he stands for (personal wealth and who’s wine he drinks for free … you know if you belong to something you do not have to tell everyone about it and denigrate others for being there). He is just a ‘NEW MONEY’ looser like Bond and … what’s his name … Elliott. Is he with Potato Head, Ms Foreign, Mr’s Rabbit + Arnie (spin) + Mr ScoMo (must admit he can talk is way out of any tight … ass is good just cover it Mo). You stand with sh#$ you will smell of it … but on a good note, if the LNP could think of someone – ANYONE … MT would be gone.

  4. Matters Not

    Under our current legal system, lawyers have a duty to advance the best defense possible for their each and every client(s). The legal system we have isn’t about the pursuit of truth or justice – rather it’s a contest. It’s adversarial. It’s about a prosecution using all means at their disposal (including facts) to construct a reality that will hopefully be accepted by a Judge or Jury. At the same time, it’s also about a defence driven to construct an alternative reality that hopefully will be accepted by the same ‘authorities’.

    Lawyers, while acting in their narrow role, don’t make moral decisions. They aren’t in the business of deciding right from wrong or even good from bad. That’s the responsibility of the other – broadly defined.

    On the other hand we want politicians who are (hopefully) driven by broader considerations. At their best – driven by ethical concepts that embrace both the right and the good. Seems to me that Turnbull’s greatest failing is that he’s never stopped being a lawyer,

  5. Michael Taylor

    Nailed him to the mast, Kaye.

  6. Darrell

    Malcolm is a banana. Once he was green and straight, now he is bent and yellow.

  7. Kaye Lee

    From Liberal MP Petro Georgiou’s validictory speech in 2010…….

    Mr Speaker, for much of my life I believed in the inevitability of progress. The reality has been that many of the things that I believed were embedded parts of our polity – multiculturalism, inclusive Australian citizenship, the protections of civil rights – have been rolled back.

    Also rolled back has been a more decent treatment of asylum seekers. Until a few months ago I believed that the reforms made by the Howard and the Rudd Government meant that we had irreversibly turned the corner.

    I wrote that we were closing a dark chapter in our history. This chapter had seen men women and children seeking refuge in our country incarcerated; innocent people imprisoned for periods longer than convicted rapists, robbers and kidnappers. Escapees from persecution were demonised. Detention centres traumatised not just detainees but their guards.

    That chapter has been reopened.

    Regression has become the order of the day. Opposition policies would turn back boats, process asylum seekers in undisclosed third countries, and restore the destructive temporary protection visas. These policies are cruel. They do not have my support.

    This regression does not reflect credit on either side of federal politics. Vulnerable people are again being made into a football to be kicked around in the interests of partisan politics. This is despite the facts and the best values of our society.

    We can support orderly processes; we can warn people against people smugglers and risking their lives on unseaworthy boats. We have to realise, however, that escaping from persecution is not an orderly process. Desperate people do take desperate measures. Beyond the arguments about deterrence and what causes what, however, is a deeper issue.

    It goes to our obligations. I believe we have a fundamental obligation as a nation. That obligation is to not further harm those who bring themselves into our orbit of responsibility seeking safe haven.

    We should not, as Australians, compound the persecution of genuine refugees, delaying their processing, locking them up in unnamed third countries or keeping them in permanent insecurity on temporary protection visas.

    Petro Georgiou: Valedictory Speech

  8. Percy

    Which ever way you look at it in the eyes of the world we are F#CKED

  9. Harquebus

    So Malcolm Turnbull is a hypocrite. Who would’ve known?
    I am just trying to think, which of our politicians isn’t?
    In my opinion, so long as we have poverty, homelessness and volunteers and charities doing the what are governments’ responsibilities, they all are.

  10. Time for Terry

    Fine Words Harquebus :In my opinion, so long as we have poverty, homelessness and volunteers and charities doing the what are governments’ responsibilities, they all are

  11. Ricardo29

    Your filing system is incredible, KL.

  12. Zathras

    The very fact that we need volunteer charities to fill in the support gaps plus the persistence of poverty and homelessness demonstrates that politics isn’t working as we expect.

    Turnbull was both a Banker and a Lawyer so has the worst qualities of both professions available to him. The Keating analogy of Turnbull being “a cherry on top of a compost heap” has long seen him turn into a sultana.

  13. Kaye Lee

    When John Howard lost his seat and the contenders were lining up for the leadership in 2007, Paul Keating said Turnbull was a bit like a big red bunger on cracker night.

    “You light him up, there’s a bit of a fizz but then nothing, nothing.”

    He called Abbott a young fogey saying “If they take Tony Abbott, they are just going to go back downhill to wherever they’ve been.”

    How right he was

  14. Terry2

    Interesting to see that Dutton, who has been in hiding and unavailable for interviews in recent weeks, came out from under his rock yesterday, essentially to kick Shanghai Sam but also was asked about his abysmal performance as Immigration Minister.

    He said that the Manus detainees had so many options :

    They could stay in PNG (but not become PNG citizens as this would give them access to passports)

    They could go to Nauru and join the happy group of settlers there (but Nauru has made it clear that they will never be given access to citizenship or passports).

    They could go Home which implies that it is all happy families in the country they left due to fear of persecution (?)

    They could hope that the USA may take them as part of the swap deal

    Wow! so many choices but don’t mention New Zealand !!

    I told you not to mention New Zealand and now you’ve gone and done it

  15. Jack

    Back in 2007, Mr MT(Iike it Zoltan) didn’t know anything about politics and thought he could just stand up and say what he believed and everyone would follow. He still hasn’t learnt much, but he’s learnt that he needs the ‘network’ to survive. Tricky Bill learnt this long ago, which was how he was able to maneuver JG, KR and Albo out of the picture. Now if only he could tell Mr Bean to pull his head in. Maybe say he has undiagnosed Aspergers

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    Don’t forget a simple fact that all lawyers have to learn to present in the courts their client’s side of the story. Have to sound genuine & passionate whether they believe the story or not.

    the PM has shown he has learnt that skill well over the last few weeks. So passionate, that he sometimes brings tears to one’s eye.

  17. Kyran

    “Hundreds of my constituents, since I announced my candidacy for parliament, have contacted me on the streets, by letter, by email and by telephone about this matter.”
    So, if ‘hundreds of constituents’ swayed the invertebrate back when he allegedly had a vertebra, in 2005, how many will it take in 2017? Most of the ‘advocacy’ groups have had a campaign going for more than a week now to phone Mal, (02) 6277 7700, just to say ‘Hi’ and let him know what you think about this issue. There has been no formal acknowledgement by his office if they have kept a register of calls and there has been no publication of how many calls have been received. There has been a lot of reference by people saying they have made a call and ‘speculation’ is that there have been 100’s of 1,000’s.
    Admittedly, back in 2005, he also believed in FTTP, climate change action, marriage equality, etc.
    “The complexity of the process that we currently have is not required by any concept of natural justice. It is certainly not required under international obligations and, as I said, it wreaks great hardship.”
    ‘Natural justice’?
    ‘International obligations’?
    ‘Great hardship’?
    He is now presiding over a system that denies any semblance of ‘natural justice’ and trashes our ‘international obligations’. As for ‘great hardship’, he has made death a viable alternative.
    “But that is what happens when you have a spineless hypocrite in charge whose main concern is his own survival.”
    The only critique I can offer of that last sentence is that his own survival is not his main concern. It is his only concern.
    Harquebus’s point is pertinent.
    “So Malcolm Turnbull is a hypocrite. Who would’ve known?
    I am just trying to think, which of our politicians isn’t?”
    The only addition I can make to that is to point out the one thing it ignores, and which turnbull and the media often seem to forget.
    HE. IS. THE. P.M..
    Ah well, at least he’s not the leader of a church, trying to be ‘diplomatic’ when excusing, by omission, the slaughter of innocents.
    “The ghostly writing is eventually interpreted to mean, in part, “your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians … you have been weighed in the balance … and found wanting”.”
    Yep, that’s telling them.
    “Instead, the Pope walked a delicate diplomatic line.”
    Like our ‘P.M.’, who doesn’t seem to know he’s the P.M., the Pope thinks he’s a diplomat. He’s the feckin Pope, FFS.
    “ “The reality is that a Christian leader — even someone of his enormous global stature — would be very unlikely to shift the calculations of the key political and security actors in Myanmar,” Mr Horsey said.
    “So this was very much more about him coming to meet the Catholic community, managing the risks and at least being able to give a moral view from the outside about what was happening in Myanmar.” “

    When it is accepted that leaders won’t lead due to their fear of offending some notional sensitivity, they don’t seem to understand that this makes their ‘leadership’ redundant. Irrelevant. Of neither consequence or significance.
    A commenter (whose name escapes me) made reference some time ago to turnbull being a ‘Nowhere Man’, as per the Beatles. There are now so many ‘leaders’ in that category. And they wonder why they are not believed, or trusted. Let alone listened to.
    Thank you Ms Lee and commenters. Take care

  18. Kaye Lee

    Kyran, I just had a look at Malcolm’s contact page and the following caused me to guffaw,,,,

    “The Prime Minister encourages the general public to consider sending contributions to their favorite charity in lieu of any gifts to the Prime Minister.”

    Perhaps he should mention that to his Chinese buddies.

  19. Frank Smith

    Kaye Lee, perhaps that “favorite charity” he refers to is the Liberal National Party. Mr Bean only asked for pocket money.

    My grandchildren love to rot their teeth on those sweet jellied condiments called “Snakes”. Dress one of those yellow ones up in a well cut suit and a blue tie and we could have a PM.

  20. Zoltan Balint

    thats nice … but … Potato Head …

  21. Kyran

    You’re a wag, Ms Lee. From that same link;
    “Correspondence, including those sent via Australia Post, containing threatening content or advocating illegal activities will be forwarded to the AFP.”
    Does advocating for the release of political prisoners count, when it’s the Australian government detaining them? If the government are acting legally then, presumably, advocating to the contrary would be illegal.
    As for the donations, he’ll only take them if you buy him dinner. He does have some standards, you know. It must be akin to “Will you respect me in the morning?”
    If ever you need a chuckle, go to his face book page. Every post put up gets a lot of comments. Suffice it to say, he gets more brick bats than bouquets. There is many a guffaw to be had.
    As for the donations, by way of suggestion (given the content of the article);

    Default online donation (SEO) /donate-now

    Wonder if he’d put a link for that on his contact page?
    Mr Smith, I had to check. Snakes are vertebrates. The one thing turnbull will never be accused of.
    Take care

  22. Kaye Lee

    In a meeting late yesterday with AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, ruled out facilitating an AMA–led group of independent medical experts to assess the health and wellbeing of the asylum seeker men on Manus Island

    “Our discussions were open and robust, and focused on the health and wellbeing of the asylum seekers,” Dr Gannon said.

    “It is not the AMA’s job to delve into immigration policy.

    “I explained to the Minister that the AMA Federal Council, the membership, and the whole medical profession hold broad views about the treatment of asylum seekers, but the overwhelming view of the AMA leadership and doctors who have contacted the AMA directly and indirectly is that we have an ethical responsibility to look after the physical and mental health of asylum seekers.

    “These people have endured incredible hardship, both in their homeland and in their current situation. They are now in the care of the Australian Government.

    “It is the AMA’s long-held position that it is our responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of these people, and provide them with a safe and hygienic living environment.

    “That is why the AMA has advocated strongly for independent health assessments of the men embroiled in the current crisis on Manus Island.

    “Unfortunately, despite our strong arguments, the Government has at this stage rejected our request.”

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