An index to this blog (alphabetical order)

A Blunt Assessment
A Brief Account Of Australias Offshore Detention Regime
A Christmas Letter From Manus
A Classic Rant Against Peter Dutton
A Letter To Minister Dutton From A Refugee Advocate
A New Account Of The Ways We Manage To Mistreat Asylum Seekers. Read This And Blush
A Plea From Manus
A Proposed New Refugee Policy For Australia
Accomodation For Refugees
Ai Weiwei
An Alternative To Offshore Detention
An Angel Visits Malcolm Turnbull
And More Bad Goings On At Manus
Australias Offshore Torture Regime
Befriend A Child In Detention
Benaud Piano Trio Seeking Sponsor For Composition
Bigotry And Terrorism In More Than 140 Characters
Border Force
Border Force Cracking Down At Mita In Victoria
Calling Boat People Illegal Is A Lie
Cash For People Smugglers
Conditions In Immigration Detention Deteriorating
Corruption On Nauru Your Taxes At Work
Cruelty In Australias Offshore Detention Camps
Data Retention Legislation Act Now Before Its Too Late
Detainees In Manus Island Face Grim Prospects
Detention Australian Style
Detention Is Torture
Detention On Manus Illegal Supreme Court
Deterrents And Disincentives
Dutton On The Rampage
Fact Checking Pauline Hanson
Fare Go Report Rethinking Public Transport
From The Big Bang To The Present In 12 Months
Gillian Triggs, John Basikbasik, And Politicians Who Play God
Guards Conduct In Nauru Getting Worse
Haitch Or Aitch
Hal Wootten Lecture 2015 The Bludgeoning Of Chance
Islamophobia Rampant
Kate Durhams Speech At The Opening Of Home Here And Now
Keep The Arts Alive At Fortyfive
Let Them Stay
Lets Get Labor To Tell The Truth About Refugees
Letter From Manus
Letter From Manus
Letters To Nauru Now The Department Lies Again
Lnp Only Pretends To Be Compassionate
Magna Carta, 800 Years On
Manus Island: What Will It Take To Shock Us
Manus: An Emotional Rant
Manus: Bad And Getting Worse
Mistreatment Of Refugee Brought From Nauru For Treatment
Mohammad Albederee Update
More Bad News From Manus
More Bigotry From Sonya Kruger
More Horrors At Mita
More Misery Christmas On Christmas Island
More Mistreatment On Manus
Mourning And Weeping From Hell
Myki: Authorised Officers Behaving Badly
New Get Up Campaign To Get Dutton Out
News From Australias Gulags
News From Nauru
No Kindness For Mojgan
Norfolk Island
Not In My Name
Offshore By Madeline Gleeson
Rebranding The Nation
Refugees In Terror On Nauru
Refugees Write To Png Supreme Court
Remembering Refugees As Christmas Approaches
Schrödingers Refugees
Solitary Confinement In Manus Detention
Stopping The Boats Doesnt Stop The Deaths
Strip Searched In Lygon St
Strip Searches On Nauru
Supporting Human Rights Or What Is Left Of Them
Thailand Prosecutes Phuketwan Journalists
The Australian Border Force Act Labors Role
The Australian Border Force Act: Trying To Silence Health Workers
The Australian Now Quotes Twitter
The Border Force Hits Town: Operation Fortitude
The Drowning Argument
The Drowning Excuse
The Election
The Impact Of Cuts To Art Funding
Threatening Our Way Of Life
Tim Wintons Palm Sunday Plea: Start The Soul Searching Australia
Tom Ballard
Tom Ballard Writes About Refugee Stories
Tony Abbott Is A Bully Over Un Convention Against Torture
Turnbull Posing As Compassionate
Two New Projects Which Bear Witness To Mistreatment Of Asylum Seekers
Un Rapporteur Australias Treatment Of Asylum Seekers Breaches Torture Convention
Unrepresented Refugee Applicants
Update From Manus
What Manus Is Like
What Sort Of Country Are We
When People Bother To Ask Me Why I Support Refugees
Why Gag Doctors In Detention Centress What Are We Hiding
Why You Should Care
Wilson Security
Wind Farm Music Dedicated To Tony Abbott
Write To Federal Mps About Refugee Policy
Year 12 Student Taken From School And Put In Detention
Young Boy Held In Manus
Zaky Mallah, Steve Ciobo And Q & A

More bigotry from Sonia Kruger

Sonia Kruger went full Trump on morning television today.

A colleague of mine contacted Channel 9 and made a few points about her experience of Islam.  Here are some of the points she made:

-As a refugee rights advocate, around half my friends came here by boat. Most of them are Muslim, or from a Muslim background.
-I have attended a Mosque, and worn a hijab by choice; I actually decided never to do it again because of the way I was treated in my local shopping centre when my head was covered because I was on my way to the Mosque. I did not feel safe, and I’m not a person who scares easily.
-Never have I been disrespected by any of my Islamic friends for not being of Islamic faith, or for engaging in practices considered ‘Haram’ ie forbidden and unholy. (Trust me, I am the worst. Nobody has ever said a word about this.)
-Never have I heard anything other than condemnation from them about terror attacks practised in the name of Islam.
-Every single time somebody is given a platform to condemn the Islamic faith on national television in Australia, it has an impact on my friends, because then Aussies think it’s a good idea to racially abuse women wearing hijabs on trains-in the street-in the shops, for some reason. This is a problem we as a friendship group have almost exclusively with the 9 network.
-I am perfectly safe in Parramatta and Blacktown, where a large proportion of the population is Muslim, but I had to quit my job in my (extremely Caucasian) hometown due to sexual harassment on the way to and from work from Aussies in utes – men who are visibly not from Islamic backgrounds. I wish I was joking. Sadly, I’m not. I also had to quit jogging with my daughter when she was in her pram for the same reason. Again, a huge proportion of the people (including men) I associate with, and spend time around, are of Islamic faith. Never once have I had even a moment where I felt unsafe around any of them.

So there you have it: most Muslims are polite and respectful.  Many Aussies are not. A tiny percentage of Muslims are extremists: and a tiny percentage of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Bhuddists etc are extremists.  It is extremists we should fear.

And hate-mongers like Sonya Kruger and Pauline Hanson.

Fact Checking Pauline Hanson

Senator Pauline Hanson must be grateful to Senator Brandis.  He declared that every one has the right to be a bigot.

Pauline Hanson is a bigot, and she revels in it.  Her bigotry is accompanied by ignorance, which makes her public utterances ugly and dangerous, because bigotry is as contagious as the plague.

Pauline Hanson has made inflammatory statements about Islam: statements which were not only offensive but also plain wrong.  Here is a brief summary of some of the things she has said about Islam FactCheckHanson

And here is a link to a detailed fact check.

It is easy to discount Pauline Hanson as a joke: but a lot of people are not laughing: they are lapping up all her anti-Islamic sentiments because they need an easy hate-target.  We have seen the same phenomenon before.  It is always ugly, and it always turns out badly.

And just in case you are wondering: I am not a Muslim; I do not adhere to any religious tradition.  I think that some of the conspicuous Christians in our Parliament (Abbott, Morrison, Turnbull …) have grotesquely distorted ideas of Christian doctrine, and have betrayed the religion they profess to observe).  Likewise, Muslim extremists debase the religion they claim to observe.  I am opposed to all extremism, whether it is based on religious or political or other ideology.

Islamophobia rampant

I have had an interesting exchange of correspondence with someone I have never met.  He has emailed me a number of times warning me about the dangers of Islam in Australia.  Here are our last exchanges (for obvious reasons, I have removed any identifying details):


French PM Manual Valls has told the French people that they have to just live with Muslim terrorism.

Do you believe that Australians just have to live with Muslim terrorism?

Cheers, P

Dear P

What Muslim terrorism has there been in Australia?

Do you think the risk of Muslim terrorism is affected at all if Muslims are publicly vilified?

Very best wishes



To date around 200 Australians died at the hands of Muslim terrorists most of them overseas. However fortunately Australia as yet does not have the same level of Muslim population as France and other European countries caught up in World War III.

We must never let it get close to this level. The Muslims bred like rabbits as they live on welfare payments to get even more.

Religion is a life style choice. An attempt was made to indoctrinate me into the religion of my parents but I was not interested.

All Muslims living in Australia have a choice to make – they can repudiate the evil religion of Islam or get out of our great Country.

I do not see why this should be such a difficult choice for any reasonable human being to make.

Any person who supports the deliberate killing of babies in prams while the citizens of a country celebrate a day of freedom or the killing of teenagers at a concert or cartoonists who have the right to express their views are fully deserving of being vilified.

I did not reject one religion to adopt the religion of “political correctness“.

After Muslims attacked Australians in 1915 Billie Hughes established concentration camps and locked all Muslims up without trial as well as German and Turkish sympathisers. I have no problem with that because it worked. No more terrorist attacks during WW1.

Cheers, P

Dear P

So it comes to this: we will adopt intentional cruelty to innocent human beings (asylum seekers held in offshore detention) and we will actively discriminate against members of a particular religion (Islam) just in case we get Islamic extremists doing here what they do in Europe.  Brilliant solution: we abandon our own principles just in case another group comes along and trashes our principles – we can do the job for them.

Now to some details about this brilliant idea.  Should we expel all Muslims from Australia or just stop new ones from coming here?

And who do we include in the group to be excluded: ones who go to the mosque each day, or each week, or just sometimes, or never?  Or do we do the German thing and check their heritage back through a few generations?

Is it possible that we could just target the extremists?  Or would that deny us the fun of generalised discrimination?

I am sure Pauline Hanson would like your ideas; I don’t.  I will go further: I think your ideas are grotesquely at odds with the Australia I grew up in, and they are probably dangerous.  But Pauline Hanson has scratched up quite some popularity, so I am probably wrong, and the mob is probably right.

Very best wishes


His reply (how sad is this):

…Well here are my principles:

– Australians should determine who comes into our Country. Japan does not allow Muslim refugees into Japan so why should we?

– People who we invite to come to Australia must have a genuine commitment to support democracy and the liberty of others

– People who have no genuine desire to work but wish to exploit our social safety net are not welcome in Australia

– People who pay people smugglers to jump the queue of genuine refugees are deserving of no special treatment, especially when they are economic refugees and not genuinely in fear of their safety

– People who promote cruelty to animals are not welcome in Australia

– People who regard women as property and second class citizens are not welcome in Australia

– Freedom of Religion has its boundaries – hate preaching must be banned and any place hosting hate preachers must be closed down. By hate preaching I mean telling others to kill those who do not believe in the same religion.

–  People who celebrate the killing of women and children are not welcome in Australia

– Religion is a lifestyle choice so do not complain if you are vilified for supporting an evil religion

– any politician who does not subscribe to the wisdom of Cicero Salus populi suprema lex esto is not worth voting for.

– any politician who puts “political correctness” such as hosting a Ramadan Dinner with Australia’s version of Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) before the security of those who vote for him is not worth voting for

– politicians should be prevented from taking the oath of office on the Qu’ran since this evil book requires that politician be committed to the killing of “kafirs” , non-Mulsims (Ed Husic was the first politician to take the oath of office on this evil book and he should be the last).

I’ve showed you my principles which I am not about to abandon – now you show me yours!

By the way Islam is not a “race” – it is an ideology more akin to Nazism that to what most people would consider a “religion“.  World domination by violent means is what they have in common. I have no time for racially based laws and “native title” laws were the thin edge of the wedge for apartheid in Australia which will be confirmed if the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act is amended to give official recognition to “Invasion Day” and to entrench  racially bases laws in Australia. You are born with a genetic heritage which you can do nothing about. However religion is a lifestyle choice.

As Pauline says we should be “One Nation” where your racial heritage has no place for special treatment. But race and political ideology are two separate things.

Donald Trump is all for stopping Muslim immigration into American after the Muslim President Mr Obama, who was raised in the Muslim Indonesia  has opened the float gates.

I am not a lone voice. The days of the political elites who know what is best for the rest of us are numbered.


Conditions in Immigration Detention deteriorating

I have received several reports in the past few days which show just how bad things are getting in our ONSHORE detention facilities.

Some people – and that probably means most of the people who voted for LNP or ALP or One Nation on Saturday – don’t care, or prefer to turn a blind eye, or they’re just over it.  Anything to avoid the pain or recognising that terrible things are being done in our name.

But the judgment of history will not be kind to those of us who prefer to ignore what our government is doing.  It may be that the judgment of history will be so long delayed that today’s voters will have sunk into the grave, or dementia by the time it comes.

I only hope that the judgment of history will not be so long delayed for the real criminals: Abbott, Dutton, Morrison, Turnbull: The people who lied to the Australian public by calling boat people “illegal”, even though boat people commit no offence by coming here.  The people who built on that lie by calling the whole exercise “border protection” and persuaded the public that locking up innocent children would, in some unidentified way, protect us from terrorism.  The people who pretended to be devout Christians, but who willingly condemned innocent people to incarceration and torture and in some cases death.

So here’s the latest:

“SERCO and BorderForce are proud of their “New Operating Model- CONTROLLED MOVEMENT” which is causing great distress.

 The physical conditions at the MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, 120 Camp Road Broadmeadows in Victoria) are deteriorating weekly under BorderForce to a standard which fails in its duty of care provision and fails in providing safety.

The men in Bass 1 and Bass 2 are crammed in rooms approximately 3 metres by 2 metres in bunk-beds. They have no outdoor recreation space, nowhere even to cry privately. Their communal space is one room, which is the dining room, kitchen, TV, pool table and English class.  The result is chaos. Meals are brought in from a central kitchen to further limit contact between compounds. The men say the noise in the low-ceiling demountable rooms is unbearable. Frequent quarrels and fights erupt because of the close quarters in which they are confined. The Gym contains two or three walking machines or bike machines in a tiny room. In order for the men  Bass 2 to get to the visits area, they must pass through five locked gates under escort and check at each gate. Similar for other compounds. There are now togged up guards of five  full-time ERT (Emergency Response Teams) on each day – looking for trouble.

Even the SERCO boss (a former Prison commandant) admitted  in a private meeting that such conditions would not be allowed in the prison system. The men have nothing to do all day except sleep and hope that they are called to visits where they may see former friends from other compounds and outsiders. The Volley ball court, soccer pitch and outdoor areas are now out of bounds beyond the fences except for short periods when SERCO elect to let them out.

We are witnessing  the physical and psychological condition of all the people deteriorate under these high security, high surveillance conditions. Even the women are now double searched every time they leave the camp to go to hospital or CASA house appointments. First they are electronically scanned and then female guards hands squeeze up and down their arms and legs and body and take shoes off, before female detainees leave, and on their arriving back at the camp. Male guards film the body search. The male detainees are often handcuffed and have two guards holding their upper arms throughout their time out in public hospital outpatient waiting rooms. Many are now refusing to attend specialist medical appointments because, as one man said last week, “Where is my dignity?” Room searches are constant and unpredictable, early morning or late at night.”

Many reports of immigration detention onshore and offshore say that the conditions in detention and the treatment of detainees is far worse than in the prison system, including maximum security prisons.  But people in immigration detention are not criminals; they have committed no offence: they are locked up indefinitely at the discretion of the government.  And the Turnbull government, with the help of the Shorten Opposition, last year made it a criminal offence for workers in the detention system to speak about conditions in detention.  I guess they would be embarrassed if the public at large knew what we are doing to people who are innocent of any offence.

The election

The Guardian Australia today published the views of a panel on the effect of the election on various aspect of Australian life.  I was asked to contribute a bit about refugees.

The whole Guardian article is here.  My bit is set out below:

So far, the election result is too close to call with much confidence.

For refugees, it hardly matters which major party wins government, since both have struggled to keep their policies as close as possible.  The Coalition policy calls the exercise “border protection”.  Labor said it would “stand firm on maintaining a policy of offshore processing”, while claiming that it would be humane and compassionate to the innocent people it would lock up.

It looks as though the balance of power will not be held by the Greens, but by Pauline Hanson (whose attitude to refugees makes Nigel Farage look tolerant) and Nick Xenophon (who still needs to understand that calling boat people” illegal” is a lie).

Offshore processing and intentional cruelty seem likely to remain.

This  means that no-one seeking protection who gets to Australia  will be allowed to settle in Australia.  They will be taken, by force and against their will, to PNG or Nauru.  Their claim for asylum will be processed there (at Australia’s expense) but those found to be refugees will not be allowed to come to Australia.  Where they would be resettled is anyone’s guess.  How long they will be left on Manus or Nauru is anyone’s guess.

I expect a Liberal win by a narrow margin.  For several months I have been predicting the Liberal party room is likely to replace Turnbull with Scott Morrison.  Morrison’s track record for lying about boat people, and his strangely un-Christian attitude to them, means that the future for boat people (and this country) looks very bleak.

Australia’s offshore torture regime

Four articles recently published in the Journal of Medical Ethics / British Medical Journal have characterised Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention as involving or amounting to torture.

For those of us who  have been involved in the area for some time, this does not come as a surprise: the frequency of self-harm, attempted suicide and successful suicide give a fair pointer to what is going on.  And the Australian government makes it very difficult for ordinary Australians to find out what is going on in these places.  In fact, the Australian government has made it a criminal offence for anyone who  works in the detention system to disclose anything they learn in that capacity.

But some health workers in the offshore detention system have remained true to their ethical obligations: they are exposing the facts, even at the risk of prosecution.  [That risk is very low: the government knows tht, if it prosecutes any health worker in the detention system for disclosing the truth about what is going on, that person will get the best pro bono defence this country has ever seen, and their defence will involve getting into the witness box and describing in detail the sort of horrors these articles disclose.  See my analysis of how a defence would work]

Here are the four articles.  We should be grateful that the authors had the courage and decency to publish the facts we all should know:

Is Australia engaged in torturing asylum seekers?  A cautionary tale for Europe by J-P Sanggaran and D Zion

Torture, healthcare and Australian immigration detention by Ryan Essex

The clinician and detention by Howard Goldenberg

Are healthcare professionals working in Australia’s immigration detention centres condoning torture? by David Isaacs


Myki: Authorised Officers behaving badly

Here is another account of misbehaviour by Myki Authorised Officers, sent to me yesterday.  The Transport Minister, Jacinta Allan, says the culture will change: it needs to change really soon.  Calling it misbehaviour understates its significance: if the account is accurate,  the Authorised Officers clearly do not understand the law about allowing the passenger a reasonable time to produce his ID, and one of them committed a criminal assault on the passenger’s wife.

The person who contacted me has given me permission to quote her account of what happened.  I have edited the email so as not to reveal the identity of the people involved:

My husband left his wallet at home when he took the car to be serviced near his work. He took a tram home to pick up our daughter from childcare before 6pm, as the car was being serviced, and completely forgot to get a ticket. He was approached by Authorised Officers, who told him he must provide ID and that he could pay an on-the-spot fine or a higher fine at a later time. He said he didn’t have his wallet and then told them to wait while he called me.

He spoke to me at 5.40pm for 4 minutes. He said that he was near childcare but was stuck as he didn’t have a tram ticket or ID. He said that he couldn’t pick up our daughter before 6pm.

I said that I could walk there, picking up our daughter on the way before child care closed at 6pm, and would bring his wallet to him. While we were making this plan I could hear someone yelling at him in the background. He stopped the discussion with me a number of times and repeatedly asked them to please wait for a moment while he organised for his child to be picked up and for his wallet for ID and payment method. They refused to stop and were talking over him.

During the phone call with me he asked the Authorised Officers how long he was allowed by law to provide the ID and payment, as I was coming straight away. We live 4 blocks away from where he was. The officers said that it had to be a reasonable time, and he was not being reasonable.

Our phone conversation ended at 5.44pm.  My husband asked the Authorised Officers to wait while I brought his wallet, but they ignored him and began to write a report. And they called the police. My husband explained that I was picking up the child on the way, as her childcare closed at 6pm. The female Yarra Trams officer said that it was an inconvenience.

By the time I arrived at 6pm the police had arrived and the Authorised Officers were speaking with the police officers. I approached the police officer and said that I had brought his walled ID and payment method. The police officer drove away.

My husband said that he now had his wallet, so he had ID and payment method.  He said he was happy to pay the on-the-spot fine. The Auyhorised Officers said it was too late as they had completed paperwork.

My husband and I were both recording the Authorised Officers, but they told us to stop recording the discussion. I was then physically pushed repeatedly by one of the Authorised Officers. 

Border Force

Paul Stevenson has been sacked for speaking about conditions in offshore detention.  Among other things, he said conditions in the camps were “demoralising … and desperate. … It’s indeterminate, it’s under terrible, terrible conditions, and there is nothing you can say about it that says there’s some positive humanity in this. And that’s why it’s such an atrocity.” Now he has been told his contract has been summarily cancelled.  Sacking him was probably a breach of contract, but it is important to notice that he was sacked by his employer PsyCare.  It’s fair to assume that Border Force told his employer to sack him: they are too gutless to take direct action against him under the Border Force legislation, for fear of the consequences.

On 20 May 2015, the Australian Parliament passed the Australian Border Force Act.  The Act  came into force until 1 July 2015.

It includes secrecy provisions which have potentially very far-reaching consequences, but it is to be hoped that these provisions will be read down.  What is really alarming about the Australian Border Force Act is that it shows the willingness of the government to suppress the facts connected with its brutal mistreatment of asylum seekers.  I think the attempt will fail, but it should not have been made in the first place.  It is of a piece with Tony Abbott’s response to Q & A allowing a question from Zaky Mallah to go to air: instead of regretting an error of judgment, he asked “Whose side is ABC on?”.  Abbott appears to think that the best way to deal with the world is to ignore facts which contradict your view of it.

Section 42 of the Australian Border Force Act makes it an offence (punishable by 2 years’ imprisonment) for an “entrusted person” to “make a record of, or disclose” protected information.

Entrusted person” is widely defined, to include various officials in the Border Force, as well as officers of the Migration Department. This includes people who are “Immigration and Border Protection workers”. That class is defined as including people who have been designated by the Minister, as a class, to be officers. On 27 November 2003 the then Minister designated in writing employees of various service providers to be officers.

Accordingly, an employee of a detention centre service provider is, by definition, within the definition of “officer” in subsection 5(1) of the Migration Act 1958 and is therefore within the definition of “entrusted person” in the Border Force Act.

The restriction in section 42 is modified by a series of exceptions in sections 43 to 49. Most of those exceptions are not presently relevant. However the exceptions include these:

  • disclosure to an authorised person for a purpose relating to the protection of public health, or the prevention or elimination of risks to the life or safety of an individual or a group of individuals; (s. 44 & s. 45 in conjunction with s. 46(d))
  • disclosure to an authorised person for the provision of services to persons who are not Australian citizens; (s. 44 & s. 45 in conjunction with s. 46(j))
  • section 48 has arguably the most important exception:

“48 Disclosure to reduce threat to life or health

An entrusted person may disclose protected information if:

(a)       the entrusted person reasonably believes that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to the life or health of an individual; and

(b)       the disclosure is for the purposes of preventing or lessening that threat.”

In my opinion, if a health worker learned facts while employed by a service provider in detention and genuinely believed, on reasonable grounds, that those facts  represented a serious threat to the life or health of one or more asylum seekers, and, that disclosing those facts might help prevent or lessen that threat, the disclosure would not constitute an offence.

So far as I am aware, no one has been prosecuted under section 42, although there have been some high profile disclosures which on their face appear to breach section 42, although they would have a good section 48 defence.

Similarly, if any other employee of a detention centre operator formed the same belief, and disclosed the facts believing that disclosing them might help prevent or lessen that threat, the disclosure would not constitute an offence.

It is not clear from the Act whether disclosure is prohibited of facts learned before the Act came into force but disclosed after the Act comes into force. The normal principle against retrospective criminal laws tends to the result that the Act would not apply in those circumstances, but it is not clear.

Two practical matters remain.

First, the Act came into force on 1 July. Disclosure before then cannot be a breach of the Act.

Second, whether a prosecution would be brought in any particular case is hard to guess. If the disclosure was such as to attract a possible defence under section 48, a government acting sensibly would recognise that a prosecution would provide an opportunity for the accused to explain – in the very public forum of court proceedings – exactly what is going on inside detention centres and why those things present a serious threat to the life or health of an individual (or individuals) in detention.

The defence under section 48 is important.  It is arguably more powerful than normal whistle-blower defences.  The most disturbing thing about the Australian Border Force Act is its apparent attempt to hide the iniquities which are happening in immigration detention, on-shore and off-shore.

I have said it before, and I repeat it here: if anyone is prosecuted under section 42 after disclosing things about the detention system which, they genuinely believe, involve a serious risk to the life or health of a person, I will arrange the best pro bono defence ever seen in this country.

Shameful things are being done in our name, on out taxes and Australia’s reputation internationally is being degraded rapidly.  The only favourable thing which has been said about Australia’s policy in relation to asylum seekers was said by Katie Hopkins in the London Sun a few months ago.  Her compliment was diminished by the fact that she referred to boat people as “vermin” and “cockroaches”.  I would prefer Australia not to have the good opinion of someone who thinks like that.

Refugees write to PNG Supreme Court

Detainees held in the Manus Island detention centre have now written to the PNG Supreme Court, thanking the Court for the judgment, which held that their detention is unlawful and unconstitutional.

It is worthwhile  for all Australians to note that one implication of the judgment is that PNG’s human rights standards are greater than ours.  Here’s the letter.

Ltr to PNG Supreme Court

How sad it’s come to this.

New Get-Up campaign to Get Dutton Out

I don’t usually publicise Get-Up campaigns, but here is the text of their latest campaign.  I agree with them:

“In a disgusting ploy to win votes, Peter Dutton — the Minister for Immigration — just slandered many of our immigrant communities:

“They won’t be numerate or literate … They would languish on unemployment … These people will be taking Australian jobs.”1

This kind of rank bigotry and stupidity has no place in our politics. But it won’t stop until we make it cost votes and cost bigots like Dutton their place in parliament.

According to experts, Dutton is vulnerable in his electorate of Dickson.2 It’s no easy task unseating a cabinet minister, so to beat him, we’ll really have to fight.

But just imagine if we brought the full force of our national movement to bear on Dutton. That’s on the ground organisers, door-knocking, massive phone banks, a data-driven digital advertising program, sophisticated message testing and electorate-wide advertising.

He won’t know what hit him. And the only thing worse than enduring Dutton’s divisive drivel, is knowing we had a shot to end it, and didn’t give it everything we’ve got.

Can you chip in to our all out campaign to get Dutton’s bigotry out of Parliament?

Peter Dutton isn’t just the Minister for Immigration. He’s said to be the leader of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party, pulling our government and politics further to the right on everything we care about.3

And Malcolm Turnbull is so bound to the hard right of his party he couldn’t bring himself to rebuke Dutton yesterday — instead calling him “an outstanding Immigration Minister.”4 So if we want change, we’ll have to cut those strings to the hard right ourselves.

Even if we can’t get Dutton chucked out of office, cutting deeply into his vote in Dickson would deal a serious blow to his reputation and power in the party.

Critically, it would prove that bigotry doesn’t win votes or elections — it causes you to lose them. That’s the message we need to send to Dutton, Turnbull and politicians everywhere.

Can you help fund our all out assault against bigotry in our politics?

Our strategy to beat Pete is big, strategic and sophisticated:

  •    On the ground. On the ground organisers in Dickson — who know the people, know the streets and know how to organise. They’ll be leading door-knocking events, starting next week.
  •    On the phone. Massive phone banks, with the power to make thousands of calls a week to the people of Dickson — straight through to the voters who can make a difference.
  •    On message. A sophisticated, data-driven program to identify the swing voters in Dickson and determine the messages that will influence their vote.
  •    On the airwaves. Ads in cinemas, on the streets, in papers and online with the messages proven to shift the most votes away from Dutton.

It’s a lot to do, and we have to put it in place right away. Can you chip in to make it happen?

Thanks for all you do,
Shen for the GetUp team.

PS – And if running offshore detention camps doesn’t convince you, here’s 10 more reasons Peter Dutton needs to go.5 Click here to chip in, when you’ve heard enough.

Here are some of Dutton’s “achievements” in parliament:

  1. Forced a raped, pregnant asylum seeker onto a late-night charter flight to Nauru.
  2. Only front bencher to boycott the apology to the stolen generations.
  3. Sent text calling a journalist a “mad f—ing witch” (to the journalist).
  4. Spent $55 million to resettle almost no asylum seekers in Cambodia.
  5. Responded to two refugees tragically setting themselves on fire by blaming activists.
  6. Caught joking about climate impacts on low-lying Pacific Islands while on diplomatic visit.
  7. Border Force’s ‘Operation Fortitude’ fiasco to randomly check visas of Melbourne pedestrians.
  8. As Health Minister, cut $57 billion from our local hospitals.
  9. As Health Minister, tried to bring in a GP co-payment.
  10. Voted “worst Health Minister in 35 years” by doctors.

[1] “Peter Dutton says ‘illiterate and innumerate’ refugees would take Australian jobs”, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 18 2016.
[2] “Queensland: up to 10 LNP seats could change hands in federal election”, The Guardian, April 29 2016.
[3] “Peter Dutton supersedes Scott Morrison as Liberal Party’s conservative champion”, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 1 2015.
[4] “Election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull backs ‘outstanding’ Peter Dutton after refugee comments”, ABC News, May 18 2016.
[5] “View from the Street: Peter Dutton, strategic Coalition distraction-goose!” The Sydney Morning Herald, May 18 2016; “Refugee rape victim says Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is telling lies about abortion”, Sydney Morning Herald 19 October 2016.

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Update from Manus

Delta Compound: recommended capacity by Red Cross: 225. Current reality: 255 and increasing as more Positive outcomes are handed down.

Oscar Compound: 270 refugees using a total of 6 washing machines , 6 dryers, 16 toilets, 20 showers. Water bottles are used for toilet use. Toothbrushes: currently none in stock. Each dormitory has around 30 refugees, so no privacy, doors slamming, broken air conditioning etc.

Benham Satah, eye witness to the murder of Reza Berati, is more scared than ever.  He continues to live in fear. He is in Mike compound, where his friends guard him day and night.

Norfolk Island

Natasha Blucher got a lot of stick recently about a proposal she authored ages ago.  It dealt with the idea of using Norfolk Island instead of Nauru or Manus, on the footing that it would be available (in principle) to the Australian government, and would not be as bad as Nauru or Manus.

The Norfolk Islanders didn’t like the idea (good on them).

Now the press are trying to criticise Blucher for the proposal: a proposal she does not now advance.  She has issued this statement:

Norfolk Island Proposal

Among other things, she says:

“As a Norfolk Islander who has been living in Australia for the past 10 years, it is absolutely not my place to represent Norfolk Islanders who are currently living on Norfolk, or their views.” said Blucher. “The proposal was written 18 months ago as a suggestion for the island and its government and people, and was never meant to be pursued against their wishes.’’

OFFSHORE by Madeline Gleeson

On 9 May I launched OFFSHORE by Madeline Gleeson (NewSouth Publishing, 2016, paperback)

Madeline is a Research Associate at the wonderful Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law

It is a terrific book.  Buy it; read it; ask yourself: “How did it come to this?”

Here is my speech at the launch.

I have launched quite a few books in my time.  I always read a book before launching it.  It can be a chore, at times.

I have never launched a book which is as compelling as Offshore.

I thought I knew a fair bit about the treatment of asylum seekers in Manus and Nauru.  But Offshore brings together so many compelling details, many of which I was unaware of, that I was torn: part of me could not put the book down; part of me could not cope with more and more searing detail of our cruelty to men, women and children who have had the courage to risk their lives on the ocean in a search for a safe place to live.

This book is meticulously documented: every assertion of fact is attributed to a verifiable source.  In fact, this must be the only book ever published which has nearly 100 pages of footnotes, but is genuinely compelling to read.

It covers Australia’s offshore detention regime since 2012.  What comes through is quite clear: Australia takes boat people and mistreats them in order to persuade others not to even think about seeking safety in Australia.  This is, ostensibly, to protect them from the evils of people smugglers, as if people smugglers were all morally  identical. If that were so, the worst imaginable people smuggler would be in the same moral basket as Dietrich Bonnhoeffer, Oskar Schindler and Gustav Schroeder.  (Gustav Schroeder was the master of the MS St Louis who tried valiantly to find a safe country for 900 Jewish refugees in 1939, but was eventually forced to return them to Europe where more than half of them perished in concentration camps).

Bonhoeffer, Schindler and Schroeder were people smugglers who made dangerous choices for principle against politics and pragmatism.  We honour their memory.

For political leaders in this country, especially self-proclaimed Christians, to prefer politics over principle is as disappointing as it is familiar.  This book could be first on the indictment of Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton for crimes against humanity.

Although it only gets a brief mention in Madeline Gleeson’s book, it is interesting to recall that, in 2015, a suggestion emerged that Australian Border Force people had paid $30,000 to a people smuggler to turn back, and take his passengers back to Indonesia.  The story was picked up by the Opposition, but suddenly disappeared.  But it draws attention to Australia’s law which makes people smuggling an offence.  It has just 3 elements.  The person arranges or facilitates the entry by a person into a country, of which that person is not a national, without going through the ordinary passport controls.  Let’s see how that lines up against our much promoted “turn back” policy.  We turn suspected people smuggling boats back to Indonesia – if necessary, we put the passengers into special orange lifeboats.  So, we facilitate the entry of those people into Indonesia.  In fact, we make their entry into Indonesia a practical certainty, unless they drown on the way back.  Do we think they are Indonesian nationals?  Probably not.  Do we expect that they will go through ordinary passport controls? Probably not.

Australia has boasted about this activity, but it means that Scott Morrison directly authorised people smuggling, as that offence is defined in our law.

But Scott Morrison’s hypocrisy is clear to see elsewhere in the pages of Madeline Gleeson’s book.

He said Reza Berati had escaped from the detention centre at Manus and had been killed by locals. The fact was that Reza Berati was killed, inside the centre, by people paid by Australia to keep the detainees safe.

He said Hamid Khazaie had been medically evacuated to Australia and was receiving the best medical care.

He overlooked that Khazaie was already brain-dead because his evacuation had been so delayed and carelessly handled by the Immigration Department.

He sent children to Nauru against the clearest medical advice.

Under Morrison, detainees were the victims of sexual assault, but no charges were ever laid.

Self-harm and suicide attempts reached “epidemic” proportions.

Save the Children workers, desperate to do whatever they could to relieve the suffering of children in detention, were accused by Morrison of engaging in a “campaign to cast doubt on the government’s border protection policies”.  Months after Save the Children had been removed from Nauru, the Moss review found that the allegation was false. Just last week, it was revealed that we have agreed to pay secret compensation in an undisclosed amount.

And each Sunday Morrison went to Church to display his Christian virtues.

Peter Dutton was appointed Immigration Minister by Tony Abbott in early 2015.  His appointment was reaffirmed by Malcolm Turnbull.  He presided over the introduction of the Australian Border Force Act in 2015.  Among other things, the Border Force Act makes it a criminal offence for anyone who works in the detention system to disclose anything they learn in that capacity.  In ordinary civil society, if a doctor becomes aware of a case of child abuse, they commit an offence if they fail to report it.  Under the Border Force Act, if a doctor working in the  detention system becomes aware of a case of child abuse, they commit an offence if they report it.  In theory, they face the possibility of two years in jail if they report a case of child sex abuse in the detention system.  Madeline’s book reveals numerous cases of child sex abuse in the Nauru detention centre: she reveals them because doctors have had the courage to let their ethics transcend their personal interests.

No one has yet been prosecuted under section 42 of the Border Force Act, but its chilling effect is clear.

What Offshore makes clear is that Australia is brutalising anyone who risks their life to come to Australia to seek safety.  Given that Australia played an important role in the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the wake of the second World War, it is a sobering irony that we are now playing a leading role in degrading human rights, and we are doing it because of the dishonest rhetoric of politicians such as John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton.

Last week, Stephen Charles QC, a former judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal, published an opinion piece in the Fairfax press.  In it, he observed:

“The camps in Manus Island and Nauru have long since ceased to be mere detention centres.  They are now concentration camps.“

That statement, which 10 years ago would have been dismissed as hysterical alarmism, is now uncontestable.  But it provoked no great concern.  As we slip down a dangerous moral slope, our politicians assure us it is all for our own protection.

Modern human rights discourse started immediately after the second world war.  When the Nazi concentration camps were opened, the world drew breath in horror seeing proof of what had happened.  Most civilized nations resolved that it should never happen again. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was inspired by the horrors of the Holocaust. Most of the great human rights instruments came in the wake of the Universal Declaration.

But the tide turned on September 11, 2001, and I suspect that in many countries the idea of human rights is now seen very differently. People are more concerned with protecting themselves than with protecting grand ideals like human rights, probably because they think they’ll always be in the un-persecuted majority.

I have two fears – and I hope I’m wrong about them.

First, that in 50 years from now people might look back on the second half of the twentieth century as “the time when they thought about human rights”, like we look back to the first few decades of the twentieth century and say, oh, they used to talk about eugenics back then. Eugenics was the creation of Francis Galton in the late nineteenth century. It was taken seriously until Hitler gave eugenics a bad name.

In the late nineteenth century people used to talk about spiritualism. It was an area of thought that was taken seriously by many people, including seriously clever people.

You don’t hear about spiritualism or eugenics anymore. It’s not just that people don’t take them seriously as ideas anymore; people don’t think about them anymore. They are ideas which have been removed from the intellectual table.

It worries me that, in 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, people may no longer think about human rights.  It may just be seen as one of those historical curiosities that people used to think about.

My second fear is this: that Malcolm Turnbull will win the Federal election on 2 July, but with a reduced majority, and that he will be rolled in the party room…and Scott Morrison will become our Prime Minister.

As I say, I hope I am wrong about both these things

But if that is where we end up, Madeline Gleeson’s wonderful book will be an enduring reminder that human rights matter, and that right now, in Australia, our politicians are betraying the fundamental ideals of human rights.

And it will be a fitting epitaph to the political career of Scott Morrison.

News from Nauru

A colleague sent this recent message from Nauru.  The writer is not politically active at all.   We should all be grateful that there are people like this who are willing to report accurately, neutrally in such circumstances.

But in addition we need to remember that THIS government is responsible for the humanitrian cataastrophe which is offshore processing, and THIS opposition revived the idea of offshore processing.  And BOTH major parties campaigned in 2013, seeking to over-bid each other in their promises of cruelty to refugees.

The LNP and the ALP are beneath contempt.

Neither major party can claim the moral high ground.  They are as bad as each other. this election, consider casting your primary vote for any party, as long as it is not ALP or LNP.  One or other of them will win government, but they will see their primary vote fall.  In our democracy, that’s an effective way to send a mesage to people who have stopped listening.

Here is the message my colleague sent:

“They say bad news travels fast. A UNHCR review panel arrived on Monday and was doing some community consultation this morning to assess the refugees situation and conditions to report back to the Australian Government about the  progress towards settlement and prospects for longer term residence on Nauru. They got their feedback! Now we can all jump up and down because we have some dramatic news footage and we can see how serious the situation is. But it has been that serious for some time!!! The long term prospects are not good for a host of reasons. It is not a viable solution for the vast majority of people; individuals and families. People who have been declared genuine refugees after  exhaustive investigations and reviews in some cases are being given a very raw deal in order to advance and enforce Australia’s border control policies. We know we need to “stop the boats” but should these people be the sole/ primary strategy, incarcerated endlessly to justify the government’s political agenda. What’s Indonesia doing? What are our intelligence people doing? Their navy, our navy? Why should the refugees be held responsible for the actions of others following months /years later? And, we should keep in mind that many of them set forth before the policy, or as the policy changed. They were doing what refugees do; seeking passage to a safe haven by whatever means were available. Many of them had been in transit for some time / years.

“People are understandably shocked and distressed having witnessed or heard about the terrible incident today. It is NOT an isolated incident and we know they will continue and increase.
Please do whatever you can to keep up awareness of the issues being faced by people here. It is understandable that the government instigated policies to stop the boat smuggling but the people who have been used as policy “fodder”, as scapegoats deserve better……. deserve something!!! Someone’s life hangs in the balance tonight. He was not a criminal. He was a refugee.
I want to throw up when Peter Dutton boasts there are no children (that we are responsible for) living in detention. There are. I’ve seen some of them and I’ve seen some of the toll that detention on Nauru has taken. Whatever the faults or unfortunate decisions their parents have taken, the children did not choose this path. “That’s unfortunate but what can we do?” you might say. Well, we can lobby. We can ring up. We can write. We can talk. We can do something however big or small because so much that is happening here is wrong.

“Medical and psychiatric facilities are barely/not?  coping with the number of incidents and deterioration of health of many refugees and asylum seekers. Numerous people have been flown out after self harming or attempting suicide.  There are insufficient facilities and medications here and many of the emergency situations are handled by the police who are insufficiently  trained and ill equipped to deal with severely disturbed and distressed  people.  They have passed laws….. If you attempt suicide it is against the law and you could go to jail AND be fined.  Lucky they don’t have the death penalty for such a heinous crime!!!

“I have previously talked with some about the various employment schemes here and a large number of refugees have got work…… some in construction, mining, utility and retail services but the greatest number are working in security…….. not where it’s needed mind you.  There’s limited security for the refugees, some of whom have been set upon, assaulted and or robbed in locations or on tracks where they are forced to travel to get from A to B in a feasible time. Vehicles (motor bikes and bicycles), phones and money have been stolen and property has been damaged but much of this goes unreported because the police do little or nothing.  They either don’t care or don’t have the resources to respond adequately. More often the refugees have given up complaining because nothing is done. There is no redress. Many refugees will tell you that they work simply to maintain some sort of routine and their sanity.  Many are paid the princely sum of $2.70 per hour (the locals get a little more than that!). In some cases they get an additional living allowance but then you’d need that because apples and bananas can be $12 /$13 a kilo. A mango or an avocado will cost you $5 – $8. Everything here costs approximately 50% more than Australians would pay in Australia….. so go figure how far a weekly salary of $125 will go.  Some of the guys working in construction/ mining testify that a lot of the locals clock on, possibly work for a few hours, disappear and return to clock off and collect their 8 hours wage which pays them approx $250+ per week. When the refugees complained about the unfairness of this they were told it was none of their business and they shouldn’t be telling the supervisor what he should or shouldn’t do.  Wouldn’t you be mad.  I would!

“There is so much more I could mention.  There are so many injustices and inconsistencies in the way the system operates or doesn’t as the case may be.  People have been told they would be moving out of the large, extremely hot and un air conditioned tents into better more permanent accommodation but that has taken much longer to come on line than was at first indicated.
There is a shortage of accommodation and shortage of available building sites because many of the Nauruan landholders do not want the refugees here and even if offered a lot of money (believe me heaps has been paid out) they have not agreed to any proposals.  There is a whole accommodation block that was built some years ago. It’s on someone’s land and is sitting idle and empty.  The government has apparently taken over responsibility for it but nothing happens quickly here. And…… to all those  who think the refugees have got it pretty good with a roof over their heads and a fortnightly allowance….. Have they ever tried to live in a space approx 2m x 4m? with a window(s) that needs to be covered to maintain privacy. I might be wrong but check and tell me the size of a small container.

“Sorry to be such a grump but I’m just telling you the facts.  I am not huffing and puffing just for the heck of it. I’m glad I’m here and can see what’s going on. By the way if there’s any suggestion that the Manus Island people could be relocated here, please laugh loudly because it’s not feasible. As mentioned by Julian Burnside there is often insufficient water, food and petrol to service the current population.  The island simply cannot sustain the increase in Nauruan and refugee populations and their needs.  Mind you it’s good business for the government. They get $1000 per month for each refugee/asylum seeker they are “hosting”.  Our accommodation here costs over $200 per night.  With us and permanent local residents that runs into 100s of 1000s of dollars a month. The place is falling down…… leaks, rust, mould, cracks, decay. Return fares cost around $2000.  Visas for workers $1000. Nauru Airlines having lost a fortune in days of yore is now making a fortune again. It’s another cash cow for the government that has spent and promised very little towards improved infrastructure, educational  or health facilities for its people. The Australian Government is building a new hospital but things can’t happen quickly enough to service the great increase in demand. …”

Stopping the boats doesn’t stop the deaths

Successive Australian governments have boasted their success at “stopping the boats”  That is, they have stopped the boats arriving: we know they are still setting out, because our navy turn them back.

But are we saving any lives by stopping refugees from getting to Australia?  No, we are not.

Leave aside the refugees who are killed in detention (Reza Berati) or who die of medical neglect in detention (Hamid Khazaie) or who kill themselves in despair (Omid, just the other day, and others).

What happens to people who are deterred from fleeing to escape persecution and are killed by their persecutors.  Have a look.  Feel uncomfortable.  The main difference is that, if a boat sinks in Australian waters, we see it.  If people do not flee, and they are killed by their persecutors, we do not see them die:

Not drowning 8 Not drowning 7 Not drowning 6 Not drowning 5 Not drowning 1 Not drowning 4 Not drowning 9





Not drowning 3 Not drowning 2

A blunt assessment

A colleague just sent me a blunt assessment of where we have got to with our warehousing of asylum seekers.  It’s hard to disagree with any of this, but it is important to add that asylum seekers are NOT “illegal”: that’s just a political lie.  the Coalition have lied to us for years about this, then Scott Morrison linked it to the rhetoric of “Border protection”.  For a bloke who claims to be Christian, it is astonishing how he can lie to us and mistreat asylum seekers.  I guess he must have forgotten about his Christian beliefs for a few years.

If I am wrong, let Morrison or Dutton say publicly what offence is committed by boat people who come here looking for safety.

“Dutton is cruelly incompetent.
Go back to drawing board.
Intercept boats by all means.
Escort the boats back to nearest land.
But we have to clean up after ourselves.
The people damaged wholesale in Aus detention on PNG & Nauru have to be fixed up and/or sent to Canada & NZ with compensation.
Go talk to those nations.
That is part of the new roadmap.
Dealing with & improving hell hole camps in Indonesia & elsewhere is vital to Australian self- respect.
We must rebuild & support UNHCR.
Labor is the party of compassion.
Fix this and you’re home. There will
Be joy from every pulpit.
Yesterday 80% of ABC listeners surveyed want them brought here.
Sure, spooks & security & defence industry will come up with a false flag terror incident.
And Washington will be pissed off. All the nightmare shenanigans will happen. Again.
But it will give us back our self respect.
Out of control fascism is not worthy of this nation,
You have to draw the line at some point.
PNG stood up to Aus. They have grown in independence & moral stature globally as a result.
We must, too.
Xenophobic racism is intolerable.
This is the deal breaker, Bill.
Labor stands for compassion. Labor stands for policy coherence. Pull it together, please.”

I don’t necessarily agree with every sentiment, but I firmly support the main sentiment: we have to start acting humanely and recognise that Australia is capable of acting as a decent country.

Our politicians have betrayed our character.

Unrepresented refugee applicants

Refugee applicants in Australia face major hurdles.

They have difficulty getting legal representation, because there is a limited number of pro bono lawyers in the country, and many of the refugee support groups have lost their Federal funding (funny about that). Legal Aid won’t represent them, because it has funding issues of its own.

Unrepresented refugee applicants have to try and deal with a complex legal system, in a language they may not know very well.  And the functioning of the Courts is impeded, because Judges are entitled to expect appropriate help from both ends of the Bar Table.

So here is something unrepresented refugee applicants might produce to the court, or read out:

When they appear before the Federal Circuit Court – they should read the following statement:

“I am poor. I am uneducated. I am unrepresented.

I cannot afford legal representation. I do not understand the law. I cannot run this case myself.

I face serious consequences if I do not get a fair hearing, including death, torture, persecutuon inhuman or degrading treatment and arbitrary arrest.

I ask the Minister to provide me with legal representation as ismy right under the Constitution, the common law or customary international law.

Otherwise, I ask the Court to stay the proceedings until the Minister does so.”

If enough refugee applicants say this, the message might just get through that the actions of the Commonwealth mean that life and death decisions are being made in circumstance that no-one would think fair, even though the Courts do their best.

Dutton on the rampage

Latest report, 27 April 2015:

At 3.30am 7 SERCO ERT guards in blackshirts entered BITA detention camp in Brisbane and dragged three people out of their beds and out of the camp to a waiting ADAGOLD charter flight which departed at 5.35am. Among the three was a woman who had been viciously assaulted on Nauru. She was carried out by arms and legs. Another man who had his jaw smashed on Nauru and was brought to Brisbane to have it set and wired. Third man still to be identified. BITA camp in state of fear. This will spread today.

It is a tragedy for this country that the Liberals have lied to us for so long (calling boat people “illegal”) that they assume they can mistreat asylum seekers at will, and expect applause from the electorate.

The liars: John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton have told us boat people are “illegal”. It is a lie.. They have made great political capital out of it.

The truth: asylum seekers do not commit any offence by coming to Australia, without papers, without an invitation, so seek protection from persecution.

The present position: As Dutton’s recent conduct shows, the government apparently thinks it can act like the Nazi brownshirts because they are picking on vulnerable people who have been demonised, falsely, for years.

Welcome to Australia.

Detention on Manus “illegal”: Supreme Court

The PNG Supreme Court has handed down a 5:0 ruling that the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.  It breaches section 42 of PNG’s Constitution.

Section 42 of the PNG Constitution provides (in part):

”42. Liberty of the person.
(1) No person shall be deprived of his personal liberty except-
(a) in consequence of his unfitness to plead to a criminal charge; or
(b) in the execution of the sentence or order of a court in respect of an offence of which he has been found guilty, or in the execution of the order of a court of record punishing him for contempt of itself or another court or tribunal; …”

The Supreme Court ruling includes the following passages:

“68. … on 4th February 2013, the UNHCR published a
detailed report on the MIPC and concluded overall:

“Assessed as a whole, UNHCR is of the view that the facilities on Manus
Island lack some of the basic conditions and standards required. In
particular, the closed detention setting and the lack of freedom of
movement, along with the absence of an appropriate legal framework and
capacitated system to assess refugee claims, are particularly concerning.”

69. In the circumstances, I agree with the contention of the Applicant that
treating those required to remain in the relocation centre as prisoners
irrespective of their circumstances or their status save only as asylum seekers, is
to offend against their rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the various
conventions on human rights at international law and under the PNG
Constitution. …”

The question now is whether Australia will respect the Constitutionl ruling of a 5-member bench of the Supreme Court, or whether it will try to find a way around it.

A few things are clear:

  • The people held on Manus are innocent of any offence;
  • They were taken to PNG by force, and against their will;
  • They are being detained in breach of the PNG constitutional guarantee of freedom
  • Two of them have died there: Reza Berati was murdered by a person whose wages were paid, indirectly, by Australia. Hamid Khazaie died of septicaemia because of criminal neglect, in particular because of the stupidity or carelessness of an officer in the Australian Immigration Department.
  • Most people held in Manus have been there for more than a year, and (according to one doctor – see below) they are exposed to worse conditions and treatment than prisoners in maximum security gaols in Australia.
  • Here is a statement by an Australian doctor who worked on Manus.  It reveals scandalous mistreatment:
    1. I am a Medical Doctor, formerly employed at an Offshore Processing Centre (the “Manus Island OPC”) for some months. Whilst employed at the Manus Island OPC, my duties were mainly the supervision of the provision of medical care as provided by other doctors employed there, as well as the provision of medical care myself.
    2. My professional experience includes the provision of health care services in maximum-security prisons in Australia.
    3. On the whole, the conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC are extremely poor. When I first arrived at the Manus Island OPC I was considerably distressed at what I saw, and I recall thinking that this must be similar to a concentration camp.
    4. The detainees at the Manus Island OPC are detained behind razor wire fences, in conditions below the standard of Australian maximum-security prison.
    5. My professional opinion is that the minimum medical requirements of the detained population were not being met. I have no reason to believe that the conditions of detention have improved since I ceased employment at the Manus Island OPC.
    6. The conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC appeared to be calculated to break the spirit of those detained in the Manus Island OPC. On a number of occasions the extreme conditions of detention resulted in detainees abandoning their claims for asylum and returning to their country of origin.
    7. At the Manus Island OPC, bathroom facilities are rarely cleaned. There was a lot of mould, poor ventilation, and the structural integrity of the facilities is concerning.
    8. No soap is provided to detainees for personal hygiene.
    9. When detainees need to use the bathroom, it is standard procedure that they first attend at the guards’ station to request toilet paper. Detainees would be required to give an indication of how many ‘squares’ they will need. The maximum allowed is six squares of toilet paper, which I considered demeaning.
    10. A large number of detainees continue to be in need of urgent medical attention.
    11. Formal requests for medical attention are available to the detainees. The forms are only available in English. Many of the detainees do not have a workable understanding of English and the guards will not provide assistance.
    12. The medical request forms are collected in a box throughout the week, and then on the weekend the box (together with its contents) is disposed of in a waste bin without having been reviewed. I witnessed this on a number of occasions, and understood it to be common practice.
    13. On some occasions when I was given access to particular detainees to provide medical treatment, they told me that they had filled out and submitted more than 15 forms over many months but until now had not received treatment. The medical complaints they had were serious and in urgent need of attention.
    14. I have personally witnessed a number of instances of trickery and deception on behalf of Manus Island OPC guards. Medical treatment is often used as bait for removing detainees from their compound where a particular detainee has complained about conditions. Once removed, and prior to the provision of any form of acceptable medical attention, the relevant detainees are transported to the local prison as a form of punishment for agitation.
    15. I often expressed my concern about the lack of medical treatment provided to the detainees. Never were my concerns addressed.
  • And here is an account of the mistreatment of people under our care.  It was written by a detainee (misspellings in the original):
  • mistreatment in Manus