Racist prophecies from Department of Immigration replace informed advice

8 Sep

In a briefing to Tony Abbott yesterday, Department of Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe warned the Opposition leader that on-shore processing of asylum seeker claims would lead to 600 boat arrivals a month. This would cause overcrowding in detention centres making community release inevitable, and this in turn would cause tensions between asylum seekers and the community comparable to those that allegedly led to the rioting in Paris in 2010, and more recently in London.

It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.

Without offering any evidence at all for this causal chain, Metcalfe takes it upon himself, along with his officials, to offer unsubstantiated opinion that is divisive, hostile, demonizing, racist and irresponsible. Is this an indicator of the culture inside the Immigration Department? Of course it is.

Metcalfe then makes a fantastical leap, linking riots in Paris with the riots in London and other UK cities, just because they’re all riots, I suppose. Just because people from non Anglo cultural backgrounds took part in both of them, as did whites, but don’t mention that. Just because immigrant families were involved in the Paris riots and some immigrant families took part in the UK riots. Or just because Mr Metcalfe and the Immigration Department don’t like refugee families who arrive by boat from the Middle East and Metcalfe just has a feeling in his water that they’ll riot if they get out into the community in sufficient numbers just like they have in Paris and London.

Metcalfe doesn’t have to substantiate this ignorant drivel before he and his staff broadcast it to Australia, it’s sufficient that they think it for it to become their professional advice to politicians.

Even the most superficial assessment of the Paris and London riots would concede that there were very different factors at work. The Paris riots broke out in a self-described immigrant ghetto on the outskirts of the city, where young French citizens, ostracised because of their skin colour and/or their immigrant parentage, rioted against French President Nicholas Sarkozy‘s right-wing anti-immigration rhetoric, and the miserable and disadvantaged circumstances of their lives.

The UK rioters came from a much wider demographic, and overt political protest was not a motivating factor. Few of the UK rioters could be described as living in ghettos comparable to those in Paris. But a riot is a riot, according to Metcalfe. Let’s not split hairs. If they’re from another culture, the Middle East in this case, if they’re refugees and if there’s enough of them, they’ll riot, causing social upheaval, fear and destruction in previously safe Australian communities.

The asylum seeker debate, (though to call it a debate is to dignify it) is top-heavy with unsubstantiated codswallop useful only to those who harbour the evil desire to whip up fear and uncertainty in the community. Has everybody turned into Pauline Hanson, because what’s come out of the Immigration Department in the last twenty-four hours could have been written by her.

We are awash with these generalizations, that are nothing better than lies and obfuscation. They are not argument and they are not debate. It’s unacceptable that public servants are given free rein to express uninformed and ignorant racial prejudices in the guise of advice to politicians. There’s opinion and there’s advice. The latter requires evidence and substance. Metcalfe’s conflation of the London and Paris riots is ignorant personal opinion, and to use ignorant personal opinion as the basis for policy advice to government and politicians is unprofessional.

On August 16 Andrew Metcalfe fronted a parliamentary inquiry into mandatory detention of boat arrivals, and suggested that politicians should consider the usefulness of detention as a deterrent. He also urged them to consider how to achieve a better balance between our international obligations and our need for border security. At the time, some of us were encouraged by Metcalfe’s stand, however in view of yesterday’s irresponsible claims, it would seem his racist fear of rioting Middle Eastern immigrants trashing our communities will inevitably dominate and prejudice his thinking.

Is this another example of senior public servants telling politicians what they think the politicians want to hear? Or have we been granted an insight into a racist culture in the department that nicely corresponds with both government and opposition policies? Is racism so ingrained in this country’s asylum seeker/border protection policies that neither senior public servants nor politicians no longer feel any need to even attempt to conceal it?

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5 Responses to “Racist prophecies from Department of Immigration replace informed advice”

  1. Marilyn September 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    DIAC got Afghan cases wrong 86% of the time last year, DIAC staff are using bogus DFAT cables to claim that hazara are safe and still that dickhead moron Dullard says they are good.

    I am with Bob Brown – they are turkeys and if any other department was wrong 86% of the time they would all be fired.

    Gillard claims she spoke to New Guinea and Nauru as if they are so stupid they can’t read great blaring headlines ‘IT’S ILLEGAL AND INVALID”.


  2. AJ October 24, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    Im so at 6’s an 7’s over this one. On one hand our need to fill our International obligation appears to be motivated by a political desire to be acceptable on the UN
    Security council….an there has been a measure of policy alteration purely for this reason. The on or offshor debate is moot to some extent in this, since in either case we are processing people for eventual entry or refusal to enter the Australian community regardless of where refugees are initially accomodated. It’s true that there has been much drum and chest beating on this issue and to a large extent a deliberate attempt to confuse public debate by ignoring the difference between illegal immigrations and genuine asylum seekers. Throw in LEGAL immigration applicants and you have a mess. No-one has yet been terribly succint in actually outlining the terms of the debate…its minestrone soup masquerading as clear soup. So where to?


    • Jennifer Wilson October 24, 2011 at 9:39 am #

      If the debate was about policy instead of politics we’d get somewhere. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. With the arrivals of more boats in the last few days, the whole thing will no doubt be ramped up again for political gain – the cringe making sight of opposition and government blaming one another. There’s a Four Corners investigation into our detention centres on ABC tonight.


  3. paul walter October 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Well, you wonder at where all the fear comes from?
    It seems to spread out from the”experts” government and the People are beholden to- the likes of Metcalf and Marilyn’s pet aversion,Sandi Logan.
    Can you imagine what would happen to a ( Labor, in particular ) government forsaking this sort of more or less formal advice for a more enlightened approach, particularly when a few boats have begun turning up?
    This is leaked Gretch style later, via Greg Sheridan or some other megaphone within the Murdoch press and Abbott, amplified by Jones, ACA and every other black propaganist in the country begins chuckinghisincendiaries about. We are thrown into another convulsion of fear, loathing and “othering” as the peasantry, kept in the dark and fed on bullshit retreat into a sort of antebellum Dixie mentality, allowing Abbott and his hard-c ores in to dismantle what little of democracy remains here still left undamaged by previous governments.
    It’s wrong?
    Of course it’s wrong!
    So was what happened in the US deep south for a century, Armenia nearly a century ago and with Hitler’s Germany. I dont know what the solution is.
    But if impotently scolding our so called leaders and the aroused peasantry from the sidelines is the best we can put up, it’s so much later than we think, which I agree is unnerving and Kafkaesque in the epiphany and its implications.



  1. No Place for Sheep features at Newsnet 14 « No Place For Sheep - October 24, 2011

    […] Racist prophecies from Department of Immigration replace informed advice […]


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