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Ruddock: The man who called a refugee child “it”

In August 2001, 6 year-old Shayan Badraie, an Iranian asylum seeker who arrived by boat in Australia with his family, became seriously ill with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder after spending seventeen months in the Woomera and Villawood detention centres.

During the time he was detained with his family, Shayan witnessed suicide attempts, and great unrest within the Woomera prison. A letter I received from an asylum seeker described the conditions thus:

I see hundreds of people begging and crying, and I see people dehydrating in the sun. I see people with sewn lips and buried in the ground ’cause that’s what they did. I see people slash up and cut their throats and arms.

Shayan refused to eat, drink, and walk. After his plight was exposed in an ABC TV investigation of Australia’s detention centres, public outrage was focused on the Immigration Minister at that time, Philip Ruddock.

Ruddock claimed Shayan’s illness had nothing to do with his experiences in the detention centres. If the child was ill, Ruddock claimed in an interview with Kerry O’Brien on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report, it was because “it was not a natural child of the mother, it’s a stepchild.”

Ruddock referred to Shayan as “it” throughout the interview.

Philip Ruddock is an enthusiastic stamp collector. As Immigration Minister, he took the stamps from letters he received from people all over the world, requesting asylum, and requesting information about loved ones in Australian detention camps. Letters forwarded to him by Amnesty International, of which organisation he was a member, and whose badge he wore with pride. Amnesty eventually attempted to distance themselves from Ruddock’s inhumane policies by publicly requesting that he not wear their badge, as did his daughter, who was so distressed by her father’s position on indefinite detention, especially of children, that she left the country to work for an aid organisation.

Ruddock’s wife gave him a Chinese cabinet with many drawers, in which to store his stamps. He joked that it was one of the good things about getting so many letters from Amnesty, a growing stash of stamps for him to sort in his retirement.

With what hopes were those stamps bought, what fears, what dreams? Stamps on envelopes containing stories that might break your heart. In a chilling act of appallingly twisted appropriation, Ruddock took the stamps for his hobby, while simultaneously writing into history a narrative that transformed asylum seekers into criminals, terrorists and potential murderers of their own children:

Philip Ruddock has just been appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to chair a panel tasked with reviewing religious protections, perceived by the right-wing as threatened after the recent marriage equality YES vote. As John Howard’s Attorney-General in 2004, Ruddock introduced the bill that prevented marriage equality by changing the wording of the Marriage Act to describe the institution as legal between a man and a woman only.

Here is a piece I wrote on Tuesday for Independent Australia on the separation of church and state, increasingly threatened by demands from conservatives for laws that protect their “religious freedoms.” When I wrote the post, I had no idea of Ruddock’s new role.

Australia has been torturing refugees who arrived by boat for seventeen years. Ruddock was an essential part of the early and illegal inhumanity during his time as Immigration Minister.

These people have attempted to invade our sovereign territory, he said of the waterborne asylum seekers. They have jumped the queue of legitimate refugees legally attempting to achieve asylum in this country. They have broken our laws.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. babyjewels10

    And Ruddock, now retired, on a government pension, is Mayor of Hornsby, has been selected to decide whether a homophobic baker should be allowed to exercise his discrimination. What a pathetic mob at least half of us voted for!

  2. Kronomex

    Gosh, I wonder if he’ll do the job for nothing out of sheer goodwill and the kindness of his shrivelled excuse for a heart?

  3. Patagonian

    I’d like to give that revolting specimen of humanity a stamp, but not the postal kind.

  4. Florence nee Fedup

    I recall his daughter when young was so ashamed of him, she left the country. #auspol

  5. 245179

    baby j……..we do it, we do it…..we re elect some monsters back to canberra. We re elect absolute inept self indulgent career politicians, we do it, we do it……….go figure.
    The “pool” offered every election just gets more and more embarrassing. And we MUST vote for them……it’s crazy.

  6. Glenn Barry

    The interview with Virginia Trioli and Pater Reith which follows the linked video above is also very insightful

  7. roma guerin

    And we never learn from history. Fancy digging this psychopath out of retirement for such a self-serving position. I feel sick.

  8. Jon Chesterson


    Great article and I thought it had disappeared there for a moment this morning!

    This all began more than 16 years ago and it indoctrinated the Australian people into its hardline, lies, prejudices, hatred and treatment of ‘humanitarian’ refugees; those fleeing their country in fear of their lives, genocide or war. We ended up with John Howard’s ‘Pacific Solution’ [no solution; the lie] and the legacy of human rights abuse, illegal imprisonment, expenditure of obscene amounts of Australian money to continue that abuse, which is still going on today as we speak, on Manus Island and Nauru. The government and now their dominant vocal minority of hard nosed Australian supporters and sycophants are in bitter dispute, hatred and denial, refusing any peaceful fair solution, natural justice, preventing even Canada and New Zealand with their offers. Just how can Australia block this unless we admit this to be modern day slavery – State sanctioned terrorism or oppression depending on which side of the fence you chose to sit; against a minority population group with the intention of doing harm and extinguishing any rights including freedom or access to law and representation. Even muzzling their voice, the press and scapegoating human rights advocates.

    Bottling Flies to Tear Off Their Wings: Overseas to Nemesis by Barddylbach

  9. Phil

    A vile man. I detested him then and I detest him now. Dutton is an equally vile man. Morrison is a vile man. In fact the Liberal party is brimming with utterly vile men competing for the helm of the immigration portfolio to demonstrate vileness to their vile colleagues.

  10. margcal

    Florence beat me to saying that Ruddock’s own daughter disowned him.
    More guts than Abbott’s sister.

  11. Aortic

    off topic but just wondering if the doubling of Oscar Pistorious sentence would have taken the legs from under him.

  12. Roger

    A individual without a heart is forever doomed to create more injustice.

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