Australia is in an interesting position, right now.
An election is due during the next 10 months; the government is daily embarrassed by the plight of the Sri Lankan family from Biloela (but currently held on Christmas Island).
The Sri Lankan family from Biloela, Queensland, are Tamils. If they are removed to Sri Lanka, which the government wants (or used to want), they face a very real prospect of being attacked by anti-Tamil forces. The Murugappan family have 2 daughters. They were born in Australia. The younger of the daughters, Thanikaa, was recently flown to hospital in Perth suffering sepsis. She should, and could, have been treated on Christmas Island, but the system is so designed to make their 1000 days on Christmas Island as miserable as possible that her treatment was needlessly delayed; she developed sepsis, and had to be flown to Perth, about 2000 kilometers away.
Thanikaa had her 4th birthday in the Perth hospital.
It is interesting to see news footage of the Murugappan family on Christmas Island: 2 adults, 2 small children and 4 guards. Yes: 4 guards. That’s part of the reason it has been so ferociously expensive keeping people in detention. When boats carrying people seeking asylum, our detention system was so expensive that someone worked out that, if we handed every asylum seeker a million dollars and told them to go to another country, we would have saved money. It would have been very bad policy, but the message is important.
The indefinite detention system provides, in substance, that if you are a non-citizen and you don’t have a visa you must be placed in detention, and stay in detention until you get a visa or you are removed from Australia.
Detention is like being in prison. Some people say it’s worse than prison. However that may be, conditions in detention are very hard. The idea is to act as a deterrent.
In August 2001, a refugee boat called the Palapa was heading towards Christmas Island. The Palapa ran into trouble. The Australian government radioed the MV Tampa and asked it to look for the Palapa. Tampa was heading from West to East across the top of Australia and soon found the Palapa. It rescued the people on board. The captain of Tampa thought the Palapa might have been carrying 50 or so people. He threw a rope ladder over the side of the Tampa and was astonished when 438 people climbed up it.
The people rescued by Tampa were mostly Hazaras from Afghanistan. Hazaras are visually distinctive: they look oriental. And many years after entering the place now known as Afghanistan, they converted from Bhuddism to Islam. (In the 6th century AD, they had built the famous Bamiyan Bhuddas, which were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001). The destruction of the Bamiyan Bhuddas gives an indication of the Taliban attitude to Hazaras: Hazaras from Afghanistan are as likely to be genuine refugees as Jews fleeing Germany in the late 1930s.
When the Tampa tried to put its unexpected passengers ashore on Christmas Island, the Australian government sent out the SAS, who took control of the Tampa at gunpoint. A standoff resulted. Action on behalf of the asylum seekers was started in the Federal Court of Australia. Judgment was given in Melbourne at 2.15pm on 11 September 2001. Hours later, the attack on America happened, and Australia’s then-Prime Minister, John Howard started calling boat-people “illegals”.
Later, Scott Morrison (now PM, then Immigration Minister under Tony Abbott) called the whole exercise “border protection”.
So, if a person from another country enters Australia, and does not have a visa, they would be put in immigration detention: even Hazaras from Afghanistan.
We jail people who have committed an offence. By calling boat-people “illegals”, the government creates the impression that we are locking up criminals. It’s a lie.
People who come to Australia seeking protection do not commit any offence. Australia puts innocent people in detention (jail) for years on end with no offence, no charge , no trial. If it was Russia doing it, we would be outraged.
Scott Morrison brags that he “stopped the boats”. He is much quieter about the fact that he locks up innocent people for years on end.
Is it just a matter of time before he creates a jailable offence of speaking against the government? There is a clear indication of this. He wants to be able to deregister charities which speak against his government. This is to be done by regulation.
Beware: this is the government stepping down a path which is dangerous for all of us.