Early yesterday, 30 October 2016, Malcolm Turnbull stood in front of the press and announced new policy that would impose a lifetime ban for people who came to Australia by boat, seeking protection. Senator Hanson immediately stated her full support.
Hanson’s support colours the proposal in a way that should make us careful: it’s like getting an approving nod from Donald Trump.
Let’s hope the ALP has the courage to act like an opposition, by opposing the legislation: there are many problems with the proposal.
First: it means that people who have family living in Australia on Temporary Protection Visas will never be able to see their families again. There are men right now who are held on Manus who have wife and children living in Australia. The problem is that the family members are on TPVs: that means that if ever they leave Australia they will not be allowed back. these are people who we have recognised as refugees: people unable to return to their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of persecution.
The legislation, proposed by Turnbull, will break families apart permanently. It would be deeply troubling if Labor supported it.
Second: it achieves nothing at all apart from intensifying the misery suffered already by people held in offshore detention, at vast (and pointless) cost to Australian taxpayers.
Third: it involves a fundamental contradiction of Australia’s obligations under a range of international humanitarian conventions.
The Refugees Convention (1951) was designed to help spread the burden of refugee movement, so that all civilized countries would help protect refugees, rather than leaving the burden to countries adjacent to trouble spots.
The Convention Against Torture (1984) was designed to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We already breach its provisions by the way we treat people in offshore detention. The UN Special Rapporteur made findings against Australia in 2015, which the LNP government ignored.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) It is hard to imagine less humane treatment of a child than preventing the child from ever seeing one of its parents again. We already breach the Convention by our mistreatment of children in Nauru detention.
Fourth: apparently the government does not even understand its own proposal. As I write this, Barnaby Joyce is speaking to Raf Epstein on ABC radio. He seeks to justify the measures by the desire to stop people drowning in their attempt to reach Australia. It is hard to understand how anyone is saved by further mistreatment of people who have already risked their lives to get to Australia and have spent the last 3 years suffering on Manus or Nauru. In addition, he referred to them as people who had come to Australia “Illegally”. He is wrong: it is not an offence to get to Australia by boat seeking protection from persecution.
The big question is this: when LNP politicians like Barnaby Joyce, Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison refer to boat people as “illegal” and refer to fending them off as “border protection” are they misinformed or are they lying to the public.
In my opinion, they are lying.
They have had 15 years (since Tampa) to notice that boat people are never prosecuted for the manner of their arrival (because it isn’t “illegal”).
They have had 15 years to notice that it has been stated publicly and often that boat people are not “illegal”.
They have had 15 years to seek legal advice on the question.
In my opinion, when Barnaby Joyce, Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison refer to boat people as “illegal” they are lying. They are lying to help hold onto power. The public should never believe anything they say.