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The life of a little girl and our dignity as a nation, hang in the balance

Peter Dutton has a particular view on children born in this country of parents who had sought asylum after entering Australia without the proper paperwork. ‘Spud’ called them Anchor Babies.

What ‘Spud’ was trying to imply was that asylum seekers who had babies, frequently whilst in detention, did so for the purpose of using their babies to ‘anchor’ their ability to stay in Australia.

This is nonsense as the The Australian Citizenship Act does not confer Australian citizenship on a person simply by virtue of them being born in Australia. Section 12 of the act states :

Citizenship by birth

(1) A person born in Australia is an Australian citizen if and only if :

(a) a parent of the person is an Australian citizen, or a permanent resident, at the time the person is born; or

(b) the person is ordinarily resident in Australia throughout the period of 10 years beginning on the day the person is born.

So the notion of ‘anchor babies’ as applied to the ‘Biloela family’ is a mischievous fallacy promoted by the Morrison government as Australian law does not allow the parents to use their Australian born babies – Tharunicaa and Kopika – as an automatic right to residency. However, the minister does have discretion to allow them to stay but this is rarely if ever exercised : this government it seems would prefer to fight the matter through the courts and in the meantime hold the family in detention, at a reported cost of six million dollars a year

Now three year old Tharunicaa is in hospital in Perth, she had reportedly been unwell for ten days with high temperatures, vomiting and diarrhoea, as her family called for more medical help. It now appears that she has untreated pneumonia that led to a blood infection.

Tharunicaa, together with her parents and her sister, Kopika, have been in detention on Christmas Island since August 2019.They are the only two children in immigration detention in Australia.

The family had initially settled in the Queensland town of Biloela where they were welcomed and quickly became contributing members of the community until early one morning their home was raided and the family was taken into custody by Australian Border Force personnel in March 2018 – they have been detained since.

The family has been engaged in legal appeals since 2012. Tharunicaa’s father and mother are both Sri Lankan nationals who arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum in 2012 and 2013 respectively. They arrived without visas and are considered in law to be “unlawful maritime arrivals.” Although Tharunicaa and six-year-old Kopika were born in Australia, they too are “unlawful maritime arrivals”.

Former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton (now Defence minister but with considerable authority within Cabinet) has repeatedly said the family is not owed protection. They are part of a caseload who had their claims for refugee status determined and denied under a “fast track” process. The Australian Human Rights Commission has found significant issues with the “fast track” process and has called for a compassionate response to this family.

The current drawn out legal action centres around the obligations of the government to consider whether Tharunicaa can apply for a visa in Australia. This can only happen if the new Home Affairs Minister (Karen Andrews) personally intervenes, which it seems she must in the prevailing circumstances.

Only minister Andrews or Immigration Minister Alex Hawke have the power to allow the family to live in the community whether it be on Christmas Island or in Biloela on bridging visas. Andrews recently said she was still taking advice on whether she would allow them to live in the community. Her difficulty will come from Dutton who is taking this issue personally. But both he and Morrison are alert to public calls for this to end. They would both be aware that in 2018, following a similar medivac situation a Queensland coroner found delays in diagnosing and removing Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei from Manus Island directly contributed to his death from septicaemia.

Karen Andrews, as the senior minister responsible, is under increasing public pressure to do more for the family and she should now accept an offer by our more compassionate neighbours, New Zealand, who have indicated that they are happy to take the family and resettle them.

However, we know from past experience that what seems sensible, humane and compassionate doesn’t necessarily intrude on the stubborn intransigence of ‘Spud’ Dutton. Morrison could step in but he is wary of the Right wing faction led by Dutton. So this could be a big test of his authority as prime minister.

Whatever happens, the next few days are critical and this little girl should she survive, cannot be returned to detention on Christmas Island or elsewhere.



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  1. Jack Cade

    An evil government led by someone who is utterly lacking in empathy but apparently believes you can learn it.

  2. Ill fares the land

    The only element missing from a very good article is that Potato Head and Promo Morrison care way more about playing to their racist supporter base than they do about Australia’s global reputation. The issue of refugees is, in their minds, the stuff that election wins are made of, and even if that is exaggerated, they are convinced that letting any refugee into Australia is an election-loser. Why else is Promo babbling about how “seriously and studiously” (well, if not that then as he put it in the same sentence – patiently ….. and urgently! Is this guy for real?) they are managing Afghan interpreters, when I suspect they are categorised, electorally, as “refugees” and hence “tantamount to “boat people”. The notion that if you let in a child, or an adult who is at serious risk into Australia, they will later apply to get their whole family admitted – that opens the floodgates. That’s not an issue for me, but it is something of a cliche in conservative-voter territory and it captivates and terrifies them – that’s why Potato Head (he of mediocre intellect) plays that card regularly.

  3. Keitha Granville

    Inhumanity, evil, totally lacking any kind of human emotion. This is a government that claims Christianity as its base, but does everything that suggests the opposite.

    Jesus would weep.

  4. Kerri

    Peter Dutton is taking this personally?? And so he should! He should also be made liable, with Morrison, for the exorbitant waste of taxpayer funds by their cruel and idealogical and largely internationally scandalous actions.
    #Ill fares the land?
    Nailed it!

  5. Phil Pryor

    Heartless, gutless, brainless, hopeless, thoughtless, soulless, the list goes on to describe a government of droppings, dregs, scum and scourings, intent only on cashing in, careerist pose, domineering triumphalism, righteous rectitude, pushy putritude, massive mediocrity, critical criminality, obsessive obstinacy, all with a self contived imagery of mighty masturbatory magnificence. They stink, ruin our future, destroy our reputation, threaten the vulnerable, rule for bumboy mates, encourage lying, theft, rigging, rorting, immoral and unethical dealing and decision making. Disgrace. Our P M, a putrid Mentality and Pathetic Misfit, is overseas, an object of international derision, SHAME.

  6. Dave G.

    The statement “ashamed to be Australian” usually brings condemnation from ones fellow citizens but the shameful treatment,torture being metered out to the Biloela family is beyond anything a civilised country should do.We must be down there in the Human Rights scale with El Salvidor.Hear ye Australia I am ashamed to call myself a holder of your tarnished Passport.


    And the stupid bloody Australian voters will back these bastards at the next election, because “they are fighting to maintain the harsh immigration guidelines to deter queue jumpers and other dark skinned illegal arrivals” What a bloody country we have become where one little innocent girl can be the reason of such nationalistic angst. and bull shit. $6m is nothing as long as we can all feel justified in practicing cruelty. Have we no compassion at all ??

    Dave G…… They can shove their bloody passports up their fucken arses.

  8. Philip Parker

    This is a child safety issue. Federal Government and Christmas Island detention centre should be subject to a thorough investigation by FACS. There are significant resources available to support this family – squllions of dollars already spent and an open invitation to relocate this young family to NZ. The Feds are able to meet all their needs – but are not willing……. criminal and abusive

  9. leefe

    First she gets injured while in detention, and then the authorities let her get that desperately ill before they get proper care for her. Dignity? What dignity? There’s nothing in the slightest bit even approaching dignity in the way our misgovernment and authorities have treated this family.

    Anyone who does not utterly despise the miserable bastards who are doing this, and those who approve of it, must be … what’s that line … “first up against the wall when the revolution comes.”

    I hate this country.

  10. pierre wilkinson

    How low can this fascist government stoop in its’ desire to be politically and ideologically bereft of compassion?
    I wonder if they would indefinitely incarcerate an anglo child in similar circumstances?

  11. Brynn Mathews

    Hopefully the doctors in Perth will refuse to release Tharnicaa back to a proven unhealthy situation on Christmas Island and we’ll end up with a refugee activist, doctors and nurses blockade of the hospital to prevent her forced removal. This happened in Brisbane in 2016 at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital with baby Asha and Dutton was eventually forced to release her into community detention with her parents.

  12. Ally Morgan

    And there was $190,000 of taxpayers’ money squandered on an “Empathy Consultant”….clearly he wasn’t up to the job.

  13. Stephengb

    Racist dog whistling is rife among many many Australians, as it is among my own countrymen, but I tell you I do not believe that the level of hatred as displayed by the majority of the Australian brand of racists, is far beyond any of the racism I witnessed in my 27 years living in the UK.

    I note that many Australians would be all hurt and angry at being called a racist but as they say those that are so hurt and angered should heed the meaning of those immortal words “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” Shakespeare had a canny understanding of the double speak uttered by those who look like a Duck, walk like a Duck and quacks like a Duck.

    A person with only minimum of morality and the investigation of empathy has to conclude that the treatment of foreigners (and the REAL Australians) with a darker pigment of their skin, is in fact a Racist !

    Given that discrimination and racism, in particular, is a learned response, it can only be concluded that a government that dog whistles racist must be not only unfit for office, but must not be allowed to remain in office, pending legal accountability and appropriate sanction.

  14. Stephengb

    The follpwing qupte vrom my vomment is incorrect
    “I do not believe that the level of hatred as displayed by the majority of the Australian brand of racists, is far beyond any of the racism I witnessed in my 27 years living in the UK”.

    I meant to say
    I ‘do’ believe that the level of hatred as displayed by the majority of the Australian brand of racists, is far beyond any of the racism I witnessed in my 27 years living in the UK.

  15. DrakeN

    Stephengb, what you say is true, but in the UK “otherism” is, was and always will be a characteristic of the British mindset.
    It has been carefully cultivated over many millenia to keep divisions open for power and politcal purposes.
    Village against village, class against class, region against region and country against country within the questionably ‘United’ Kingdoms.
    To settle a family in a new community still needs several generations of residence, especially in rural areas.

  16. skip

    get over it white fellah rio bhp shell esso stralya u been doin it for 233 years

    a regular apartheid massacre machine destroyin Gaia’s most ancient

    shame on U who stay silent in the face of overt MURDER RAPE PLUNDER

    shame on u the ‘quiet white fellah stralyan’ apartheid occupier usurper!!!

  17. GL

    “Don’t look over there at that sick child on Christmas Island…look over there at all the horrible and nasty criminals I caug…I mean the police have taken off the streets.”

  18. paul walter

    The government is peopled by people who seem to experience an electric shudder of delight that runs up and down their spines when ever they commit some cruelty or other on people who can’t fight back.

    At least the school yard bully has the excuse of relative youth, but these LNP people never seem to have grown up.

  19. Stephengb

    DrakeN Racism, otherwise, ethensism purification, are all learned responses, but over The last 40 years these ‘isms’ have become stark and increasingly vitriol. Baring in mind Godwins Law, I fear that Australia is actually ahead of the UK and probably have overtsken the USA, in the game of scapegoating minorities. S

  20. Andrew J. Smith

    Hanging out babies, children and their families to dry is part of the US inspired ‘hostile environment’ observed in both Australia and the UK.

    The roots go back generations to Paul ‘population bomb’ Ehrlich’s ZPG colleague now deceased white nationalist John ‘passive eugenics’ Tanton, an admirer of the white Oz policy and visitor, who promoted the issue of ‘immigrants’, birthright citizenship and ‘anchor babies’, and the rest….

    Whole raft of negative articles about the same in Tanton’s journal (TSCP) ‘The Social Contract Press’ including one by him: ‘Jumping the Queue By John Tanton Volume 7, Number 1 (Fall 1996) Issue theme: “‘Anchor babies’ – the citizen-child loophole”

    According to SPLC TSCP is described as:

    ‘The Social Contract Press (TSCP) routinely publishes race-baiting articles penned by white nationalists. The press is a program of U.S. Inc, the foundation created by John Tanton, the racist founder and principal ideologue of the modern nativist movement. TSCP puts an academic veneer of legitimacy over what are essentially racist arguments about the inferiority of today’s immigrants.’

    There is not much new in this eco-system or ‘eco-fascism’ world except rebranding of the old eugenics movement (‘population growth’) joined at the hip with now radical right libertarians…. any nativist conservative agitprop e.g. the ‘great replacement’ theory in Oz can be easily linked back to the US, often decades old…..

  21. RomeoCharlie29

    I might venture a bit of disagreement here.I believe that most Australians,understanding the vindictiveness of Spud and Scummo, and realising how much of their money, that is taxpayers money, $6.7 million, has been spent to ensure this small family of four is not only kept out of the community, Biloela,which has unfailingly supported them, but out of Australia as well, would be, or are, as horrified as me, and the commentators above.

    I may be wrong, but I would hate to think that a majority would see this behaviour by our government as acceptable.

    I am not ashamed to be an Australian, I am ashamed that so many Australians think this government is acceptable, at any level.

  22. Terence Mills

    The immigration minister has broad and unparalleled personal discretionary powers under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth). Use of these powers is non-compellable and non-reviewable, and what is in “the public interest” is not defined in the legislation: it is effectively an unreviewable political decision.

    Peter Dutton used these powers when he was immigration minister to stop two foreign au pairs from being deported after they had arrived without the correct visas.

    I am assured that had nothing to do with the colour of their skin………………

  23. Robo31

    When I think/hear about Dutton and Morrison I’m reminded of the following brilliantly insightful quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:

    “But thus I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. They are people of a low sort and stock; the hangmen and the bloodhound look out of their faces. Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! Verily, their souls lack more than honey. And when they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had—power.”

  24. Terence Mills

    ”My message to the Liberals who say privately they want the Biloela family to go #HomeToBilo:

    Speak Out! Tell Karen Andrews publicly what you’re saying privately!

    What is the point of being an MP, unless you are willing to use your voice for justice, compassion and the fair go?

    — Kristina Keneally.”

  25. Terence Mills

    I hadn’t planned on doing a running commentary on this tragedy but things have changed and not for the better.

    At one stage it seemed that the family going to New Zealand (or possibly the US) was the only way this government could be brought to their senses. But then minister Karen Andrews came out and said that as we had not determined that this family were genuine refugees they could not go to New Zealand. You will note that it was not New Zealand who had said they couldn’t be resettled there, it was our minister – it is quite possible that New Zealand weren’t even consulted and that the invitation is still open.

    Then minister Andrews was evidently ‘got at’ when she sheepishly declared “I am not going to have people dying trying to come to Australia by sea on my watch, I’m not going to open the gates to the people smugglers.” WHAT NONSENSE !

    At that point it became obvious that this new Home Affairs minister had been going through old Dutton utterances and that she was, in effect, washing her hands of the whole thing. She knew that she had a personal discretion and that she could have brought this to a conclusion and returned the family to Biloela but she chose to do nothing : shame on her !

    So, is it back to detention on Christmas Island ? I despair of these people.

  26. wam

    Yes, cuckoo, I hope the recent news will boost the number of signatures. It is not impossible that albo can find some angle to profit from the terrible plight of these Australians oops albo maybe you can call them australian married and australian born wouldn’t that be good??? well quoted robo, This government is deeply intent on punishment of people, even the innocent but robodebted welfare recipients without debts and the Australian born children, when it will garner votes but the outcry has accelerated movement and now ‘refugee’ is a non-term as the children are Australian? ps scummo wants the g7 to punish china for punishing australia

  27. GL

    Why is the bloody Treasurer telling us that the Murugappan family is to be reunited in Australia? Why couldn’t Alex Hawke just put out a quick announcement and say that more information will follow.

    “Immigration Minister Alex Hawke will detail new arrangements for the family later today, but it remains unknown if they will be granted new visas.” I will be astonished if they get new visas and can picture the family being shipped off back to Christmas Island once Tharunicaa is better. Let’s hope I’m very wrong.

  28. Terence Mills


    ‘Watching this carefully as there are those in the coalition who want to inflict more pain on this family.

    Simon Birmingham this morning said that much of the delay had been caused by the family pursuing the matter in the courts : he could have (but wouldn’t) noted that the government has pursued this matter vigorously in the courts to defeat the family using taxpayer money : the family have relied on the goodwill of pro-bono lawyers.

    There are those in the coalition who are adamant that they don’t want to allow the family to settle in Biloela.

    There is another problem and that is that we have no resettlement policy for the 1483 people in closed immigration detention onshore or the 125 people in Papua New Guinea and 108 on Nauru.

  29. Terence Mills

    The minister for immigration, Alex Hawke, has held a press conference to say absolutely nothing.

    He was asked if he would use the absolute discretion he has under section 195A of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to grant this family a visa to stay in Australia and he declined to answer this beyond saying that ” it remained government policy not to settle anybody in Australia who had arrived by boat”.

    He has refused to say that the family will not be returned to detention when the youngest child Tharunicca has recovered. In the meantime the family will be reunited in Perth.

    The section of the act reads :

    195A Minister may grant detainee visa (whether or not on application)

    Persons to whom section applies

    (1) This section applies to a person who is in detention under section 189.

    Minister may grant visa

    **(2) If the Minister thinks that it is in the public interest to do so, the Minister may grant a person to whom this section applies a visa of a particular class (whether or not the person has applied for the visa).**

    The minister (not a very impressive character) seems to be saying that the government will continue to fight this in the courts to achieve their stated objective of deporting the family.

    Not looking GOOD !

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