Tag Archives: Scott Morrison

How to avoid the democratic process within your own party

7 Jun

power

 

In December 2014, then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made this alarming lunge for sole power over citizenship decisions without recourse to judicial review:

The DIBP submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values. This particular insight therefore qualifies Morrison to overrule AAT decisions. It is the bill’s intention to grant a minister, in this case Morrison, the power to determine an individual’s “good character” or otherwise, regardless of any ruling made by the AAT. Morrison’s decision will be unchallengeable.

Peter Dutton has now replaced Morrison as Minister for Immigration and is in the process of attempting a similar grab for sole power over the stripping of citizenship from those he alone deems unsuitable to retain it.

No citizen can have confidence in a government or an opposition that supports one politician being granted absolute power over such decisions. It is absolutely contrary to all democratic instincts and practices. The question we must ask is why is it thought necessary to invest one politician with this much power? The answer is obviously that the government cannot risk internal debate, and is determined to avoid that democratic process. The Minister is answerable to no one within his party, let alone outside of it. It is only a matter of time before more Ministers are granted similar authority over who knows what circumstances, and anyone who believes or trusts otherwise has their head in a sack. The government has no mandate to invest a Minister with absolute power, not even within its own ranks.

 

 

There are currently so many disturbing events initiated by the Abbott government it’s difficult to triage, however, surely one of the more alarming is the decision to imprison for up to two years doctors, nurses and teachers who disclose adverse conditions at asylum seeker detention centres on Manus and Nauru.

In spite of the border protection rhetoric that surrounds this decision, it’s apparent to anyone with a brain that the only interests served by imposing these draconian restrictions on professionals who, in Australia, are mandated to report abuses they become aware of in the course of their work, are the interests of the Abbott government, supported by the Labor opposition.

Neither major party wants us or the rest of the world to know what goes on in the off-shore detention centres. Knowledge of abuses inflicted upon the detained cannot possibly be a threat to our national security, and if that is what the major parties continue to insist, they need to explain exactly how they justify that claim.

Indeed, if there was any logic to the government’s argument the ill-treatment of asylum seekers ought to be trumpeted from the rooftops as a deterrence to anyone else attempting to come here by boat. Not only will you never be resettled in Australia, you and your children will be subjected to inhumane treatment and conditions in tropical hell holes as well.

As head of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs so eloquently pointed out, we are currently being subjected to an erosion of rights that ought to have us taking to the streets in protest at the over-reach of executive power by the Abbott government. It is not far-fetched to imagine that a government prepared to imprison professionals for doing their jobs in off-shore detention centres will extend that threat to professionals doing their jobs in the homeland, should it serve their interests. There’s certainly no future in entreating the ALP to take a stand, indeed, the ALP seems more than happy for Abbott to do this dirty work.

And now Morrison (yes him again) denies us our history

5 Jan

Woomera Detention Centre Riot SMH

 

Author Peter FitzSimons recently completed a documentary on the history of race riots in Australia. The first episode of “The Great Australian Race Riot” aired on SBS on January 4th.

FitzSimons wanted to include the 2001 riot at the Woomera Detention Centre. However, then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison (yes, him again) refused FitzSimons access to the long-closed facility, and demanded the crew not film within 150 metres of the site.

“That furiously annoyed me,” says FitzSimons. “We couldn’t shoot in Woomera itself, which staggered us. We were attempting to take a serious look at a sometimes difficult multicultural society.”

This is a deliberate attempt by the Abbott government to control a historical record of racial unrest in Australia.

The 2001 Woomera riot took place on the Howard LNP government watch. It is a period steeped in turmoil over asylum seekers arriving here by boat. It was at this time the notorious Tampa stand-off took place,causing an international incident between Australia and Norway as well as profound domestic political unrest as then Prime Minister John Howard made his infamous declaration: “We will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come.”

Howard exploited populist xenophobic fears incited by Pauline Hanson, then leader of right-wing One Nation, a conservative, anti multicultural political party. Co-opting Hanson’s xenophobic policies, Howard attracted her voter base and went on to win the 2001 federal election.

Woomera Detention Centre was central to the combination of circumstances that elevated the exploitation and incitement of xenophobia and racism to the central platform they remain for both the LNP and the ALP to this day. That period began what has become an increasingly isolationist and inhumane Australian response to the global problem of stateless persons.

The treatment of asylum seekers imprisoned in the Woomera and Baxter detention centres marked the beginning of increasing public acceptance of the state’s dehumanisation of those fleeing persecution, and laid the ground for popular acceptance of Morrison’s narrative of border protection. Morrison’s alleged “war” against waterborne asylum seekers has been used to justify the ludicrous and sinister secrecy in which the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is now irrevocably steeped.

It is astounding that the Abbott government has in this instance successfully engineered the recording of Australian history to exclude any reference to the Woomera riot. Fortunately many records of these events exist. Morrison and Abbott are fighting a losing battle if they believe the voices of this period of our history can be silenced. Indeed, their attempts to control information appear increasingly desperate and naive, as they consistently fail to recognise that what one attempts to omit from the narrative eventually becomes the narrative, and all they are left with are increasingly sullied reputations drenched to the bone in lies, secrets and guilty silence. History eventually will judge Morrison and Abbott, and the Australian Labor Party, and find them all excruciatingly wanting.

 

Woomera Riots Two

 

 

It’s MY prerogative: Morrison’s last despotic act as Immigration Minister.

4 Jan

One of the last despotic acts of former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was to threaten to revoke the power of Moreland City Council Mayor, Meghan Hopper, to perform citizenship ceremonies unless she agreed to read out his ministerial message during the ceremonies.

Moreland Council has a policy of welcoming refugees into the shire.

Ms Hopper stated: “I do not feel comfortable acting as a spokesperson when it comes to personal messages from the minister. I feel that the reading of a message from the minister in fact politicises what should be an apolitical occasion, as does threatening to remove Moreland’s ability to confer citizenship.”

The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code:  Citizenship ceremonies are non-commercial, apolitical, bipartisan and secular.They must not be used as forums for political, partisan or religious expression or for the distribution of material which could be perceived to be of a commercial, political or religious nature.

More from the SMH article: According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the reading of the minister’s message is not compulsory under legislation.

Despite that, Mr Morrison said in his letter to Ms Hopper that it was his “prerogative” that the message be read aloud, as it is an “integral part of the ceremony”.

As part of his response, Mr Morrison included a one-page “letter of agreement” for Ms Hopper to sign, stating that she will include the message as part of Moreland’s ceremony.

“If you fail to comply with this request by January 10 2015, I will withdraw your authority, and that of the deputy mayor and general manager, to preside at Australian citizenship ceremonies,” he said in the letter.

It is difficult to see this behaviour by Morrison as anything more than petty revenge against a Mayor and council who oppose the Abbott government’s refugee policies.

No one should be surprised at Morrison’s efforts at petty revenge. Such efforts are the hallmark of a government that has spent the majority of its time so far in office deliberately trashing previous ALP policies for no reason other than that they were ALP policies.

There is no legislation that requires any official performing citizenship ceremonies to read out a ministerial message. Regardless of the law, Morrison employed intimidatory bullying tactics to demand his speech be read in the future. This is, he claims, his “prerogative.” Note that legislation is irrelevant to this minister of the crown. What counts here is his personal “prerogative.”

As Morrison is now Minister for Social Services we can expect an ongoing disregard for legislation, and a lot more bullying on the grounds of his personal prerogatives.

A minister of the crown must uphold legislation or seek to change it. Deliberately ignoring legislation and instead attempting to impose one’s personal prerogative over and above it, is not acceptable ministerial behaviour. Ministers of the crown have a particular responsibility to respect our laws.

Morrison’s former department, when seeking extended powers for him, argued thus: The DIBA submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values. 

The rest of us are expected to observe the laws that govern community standards and values. If an elected member of parliament and minister of the crown so conspicuously fails to do this, and instead threatens and bullies others on the sole grounds of his personal prerogative, we do not have a democratic government, we have a burgeoning dictatorship.

And this comment from @ForrestGumpp:

Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp)
January 4, 2015 at 8:32 am Edit #
By what authority does a Federal government Minister get to directly require anything of a Local Government Authority? The question as to the recognition of local government within the Constitution was rejected at referendum in September 1988 resoundingly with one of the lowest ‘Yes’ votes since federation. Surely the federal Immigration Minister would have to work through the appropriate State Minister and legislation to make such demands?

 

despotism-aristotle

Morrison now seeks sole authority over citizenship decisions.

10 Dec

Diagram_of_citizenshipThe Department of Immigration and Border Protection, under the authority of Minister Scott Morrison, is in the process of seeking amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 that will give the minister draconian powers over not only asylum seekers, but  anyone who has become or wishes to become an Australian citizen.

The Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, will give Morrison the power to set aside decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on the character and identity of those applying for citizenship or who have already received it, in a public interest test determined solely by the Minister.

The DIBA submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values. This particular insight therefore qualifies Morrison to overrule AAT decisions. It is the bill’s intention to grant a minister, in this case Morrison, the power to determine an individual’s “good character” or otherwise, regardless of any ruling made by the AAT. Morrison’s decision will be unchallengeable.

The bill also aims to give Morrison the right to determine “fraud” or “misrepresentation” in applications for citizenship. In such instances Morrison can revoke papers regardless of whether or not the individual concerned has been convicted of either offence. 

That is, Morrison or the minister concerned has the power to determine “guilt” outside of any criminal proceedings, denying individuals the presumption of innocence.

The notion that anyone has particular insight or is entitled to absolute power because he or she is an MP and minister of the Crown is extremely dangerous. It is confusing the office with the human being who holds it. High office does not automatically endow its holder with integrity or insight. We are all too familiar with “killers in high places who say their prayers out loud” as Leonard Cohen puts it.

Morrison’s ongoing lunges for absolute power must be challenged. This is a liberal democracy. We do not have ministers who overrule the expert opinions of experienced tribunals. We do not have ministers who are above the rule of law and entitled to deprive any human being of the presumption of innocence. We do not have ministers who are answerable to nobody, whose decisions are unchallengeable, and who are allowed to carry out their department’s business in absolute secrecy. No, we do not.

Morrison’s powers: nobody will know who he’s sent back to be killed

7 Dec

scott morrisonMinister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, is the only minister who is not answerable to anyone for his decisions, with the exception of the decision to take us into war, which can be made by the Prime Minister alone.

New legislation passed this week gives Morrison unprecedented, unchallengeable and secret powers to determine the futures of those who come to Australia seeking sanctuary from homelands that are no longer hospitable to them. This includes the practice of refoulement, the ability to return asylum seekers to situations that are hostile and in some instances deadly without first determining if they are at risk, a practice that is inconsistent with international refugee law: Section 197 gives the government express permission to engage in refoulement irrespective of whether there has been an assessment of Australian obligations to that person. 

Morrison is not required to determine in advance what risks an asylum seeker will face in being returned to the country they’ve fled, therefore, he has the power to send human beings to endure torture and death, and nobody will ever know he’s done it.

Within his area of responsibilities, Morrison is now a dictator. In the midst of a government determined to be as small a government as possible there is a department with a dictator at its head, whose control over some human beings is absolute.

In principle giving any politician, or any human being for that matter absolute power over anything, cannot be good. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Why is it necessary?

Of course, it isn’t necessary in any way other than the political. It serves the government’s purposes to cloak the fates of asylum seekers and refugees in secrecy. It doe not make our borders any more secure, it does not prevent us from being attacked by terrorists. What Morrison’s new dictatorship does do is fly in the face of the tenets of our liberal democracy, specifically its opposition to: suspicion of concentrated forms of power, whether by individuals, groups or governments.

There is no reason why the people of this country should be kept in the dark about our government’s decisions as to the fate of asylum seekers and refugees, or any other decision our government takes, unless it is a matter of security. No matter how hard the Abbott government has worked to frame waterborne asylums seekers  as a threat to our sovereign borders against which we are waging a war, they are not a threat and this is not a war.

The passing of the latest legislation finalises the relentless campaign conducted by both major parties to “stop the boats.” It has taken the matter of asylum seekers arriving by boat out of the public conversation. While this will come as relief to many politicians, the rest of us should be very afraid that in our treasured liberal democracy we have a minister who answers to nobody, and will conduct his nefarious business in absolute secrecy. This cannot be good for anyone.

Casualties of “Border Protection”

3 Dec

 

Operation Soverereign BordersIt ought not to surprise anyone that naval personnel are vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of implementing the ALP and LNP governments’ asylum seeker policies.

This investigative report by the ABC describes in detail what sailors are required to do in so-called “border protection” actions.

Over a decade ago I interviewed staff at the Woomera and Baxter Detention Centres. Many of them described the same symptoms of PTSD as do the naval personnel interviewed by the ABC. Those staff were, like the navy, caught up in a culture of deliberate dehumanisation of asylum seekers that first requires a dehumanisation of the self, in order to be implemented to the satisfaction of political masters in Canberra.

Both major parties have long known that the best way to calm an outcry about waterborne asylum seekers  is to hide them away from the public gaze, criminalise their perfectly legal right to come to this country by boat, and if possible never allow them to be seen as human. One sailor explained that the only way he could continue his work was to think of the asylum seekers as numbers, evidence that these dehumanising tactics work. Their consequences, however, manifest in both victim and perpetrator as post traumatic stress that can cripple a life and destroy a spirit.

Political masters are protected from the front-line traumas that are a direct consequence of their self-serving decisions, but in reality the blood both real and metaphorical of asylum seekers and the men and women who are directly involved with them, is on politicians’ hands and they cannot clean it off. The sight of MPs visiting workplaces is a common one, perhaps PM Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison might spend a day or two attempting to haul bodies from the sea and experiencing the horror of finding their hands full of drowned human flesh that has separated from drowned human bones.

One of the sailors interviewed expressed the opinion that current secrecy surrounding “Operation Sovereign Borders” exacerbates the difficulties and traumas experienced by those charged with its front-line implementation. The potential danger of secrecy is well-known to anyone who’s worked in mental health. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the combination of the work they are called upon to do combined with the strict secrecy surrounding it, is likely to result in traumatic stress.

It’s outrageous that any government should demand its employees endure such extreme working conditions outside of war (despite what Morrison has claimed we are not at war with people smugglers, though many of us are at war with budgie smugglers) and purely to win that government votes. I can’t forget that the trauma endured by asylum seekers remains largely unacknowledged, is exacerbated by the continuation of dehumanisation after they’ve been despatched to off-shore detention centres, and ongoing uncertainty about their futures.

While a culture of dehumanisation adversely effects everyone involved, at least naval personnel and other staff have some hope of escape from their situations, and treatment.

Obviously the answer is for politicians to cease their barbaric practices and treat both their employees and the asylum seekers with at least a modicum of concern. Politicians are destroying people, literally, in their pursuit of power. Is it any wonder so many of us despise them?

Asylum Seekers: what it costs Australian governments to persecute stateless persons

12 Nov

 Asylum Seeker Three

 

The foreigner is the political precondition of the nation state… Costas Douzinas.

Australia, while remaining a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees, long since gave up any pretence of observance of international human rights in favour of a nationalistic observance of state sovereign rights. State sovereignty permits governments the right to exclude persons the state deems unworthy of inclusion.

The power of the state to exclude is perhaps the fundamental state power.

Ideological, racial, economic and political factors are the criteria for deciding who is and is not included in the nation-state. As Hannah Arendt noted, statelessness is not a problem of geographical space, but of political space.

The stateless person has as their only descriptor the fact that they are human. Ironically, this strips them of their right to human rights, rights which are only available to them if they are citizens of a state. It is not enough to be human. One must also belong to a state in order to claim human rights. Arendt suggest that the only fundamental human right is the right to have rights. Asylum seekers who have a legitimate right to arrive by boat in Australia are stripped of the right to have rights once their vessel is intercepted by Australian authorities.

 

Stateless Persons UNHCR

Persons seeking asylum from persecution who attempt to access Australia by boat are singled out for exclusion, and though their method of arrival is perfectly legitimate under the Convention, they are criminalised and detained in off-shore camps. Detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island are all that is offered to de facto stateless persons, that is, refugees unable to claim the human rights afforded by citizenship. Persons detained in these camps are exempted from “normal” laws. The methods of addressing their plight are containment and repatriation, or resettlement in another country, rather than granting asylum and legal integration into the Australian nation.

This action against asylum seekers is justified as being in the “national interest,” an abstract concept in which the mystical “nation”  is prioritised over the interests of singular human beings who are dispossessed non-nationals, and therefore considered rightless.  The state is committed to protecting only legitimate members of the nation, the rights of asylum being in conflict with the rights of the state. There is in Australia no concept of offering sanctuary and refuge to those fleeing persecution who arrive by sea. Their loss of place in the world, their loss of belonging, has the effect of reducing them to physical objects, bereft of human dignity, because without rights one is not a person, one is not an agent in the public realm.

In reaction to this deliberate and systematic dehumanisation, asylum seekers held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru behave as did those held in mainland camps such Woomera and Baxter. They sew up their lips in a symbolic protest against the silencing of their voices. They harm their own bodies. They suffer depression and anxiety, and hopelessness. Their suffer the abjection of those who have ceased to belong to any state.

Asylum Seekers Two SMH photo

 

Sovereignty, like religion, is a constructed knowledge imbued with faux mysticism. The Abbott government’s “Operation Sovereign Borders” appeals to this pseudo-mysticism, offering citizens the opportunity to come together in unity, led by a concerned, fatherly government to protect our nation against the breaching of its borders by the unwanted, stateless foreigner. As Douzinas points out, there can be no nation state without the foreigner; one must have someone to protect oneself from in order to maintain the perceived power of sovereignty.

The asylum seeker is equally imbued with mysticism, of the most negative kind as the assumption is peddled that merely due to the fact of her search for asylum she is morally corrupt and corrupting. Her crime is breaching sovereign borders. She is used as a scapegoat to unite citizens and strengthen boundaries, ultimately supporting the ideology of sovereignty.

What we are doing in this country is wrong. The idea that we must treat people horrifically in order to discourage others from attempting sea journeys is morally corrupt. Action the state is legitimised to take against one group can be and will be extrapolated to other groups, when the state deems it in the national interest. When the fate of human lives is secondary to the rights of the state, we are all at risk.

Is it really in the interests of the citizens of this country that so many billions of taxpayer dollars are eaten up in the pursuit and detention of a relatively few people who arrive here by boat, in the pursuit of the maintenance of our sovereign borders? No, it isn’t. It is, however, in the political interests of both major parties. The cost to the taxpayer of pursuing these political interests is obscene, and it is rising, as this graph from The Conversation shows:

 

The Conversation

 

The major parties continue to persecute stateless persons seeking asylum and refuge, solely because of their method of arrival. Australia moves further and further away from the undertakings we made when we signed and later ratified the Refugee Convention. Human beings suffer appallingly in concentration camps, out of sight and out of mind. The matter of the future of stateless persons is a massive global problem, and one that will continue to increase. Australian governments have long thought it is a problem that they can continue to outsource to countries far less capable than are we of providing the possibility of a decent life to those who by no fault of their own, are dispossessed of the lives they once had. This cannot go on. In all conscience, it cannot go on.

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