Archive | April, 2016

Senior DIBP official overrules medical experts yet again.

30 Apr

 

 

 

 

FOLLOWING ORDERS

FOLLOWING ORDERS

 

The case of an African asylum seeker detained on Nauru and known as S99 is currently before the federal court, in an effort to have her brought to Australia for termination of pregnancy as a result of sexual assault.

S99 suffers from epilepsy. Whilst lying unconscious after a seizure, she was raped.

S99 is currently in Port Moresby where one David Nockels, senior bureaucrat in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, insisted she be sent for an abortion.

Abortion is illegal in PNG, and Nockels has not sought legal advice as to the consequences for S99 of undergoing termination in that country.

Further, Nockels has been advised by no less than five medical experts, including a neurologist and a psychiatrist, that S99’s condition is such that the procedure is far from straightforward, and must be carried out in a hospital and by medical staff with far more expertise in their various fields than is available in Port Moresby.

David Nockels has refused S99 permission to travel to Australia. He admitted to the court that he would consider flying an entire medical team, including an anaesthetist and all necessary equipment to Port Moresby before he would agree to S99 being transferred to this country.

“That is why we have Manus and Nauru,” David Nockels told the court.

The Guardian also reports Nockels admitted:

that a phone call to an obstetrician at the Pacific International hospital, Dr Mathias Sapuri, who had no expertise in neurology, psychiatry or PNG law, had reassured him that the abortion could be carried out in Port Moresby.

Further:  In his evidence, Sapuri admitted he had a financial interest in the Pacific International hospital as a shareholder, and that his private obstetric practice merged with the hospital. He did not say what proportion of the shares he held, other than it was “small”.

Ron Merkel QC, representing S99, asked Nockels why he valued the opinion of one doctor with an interest in attracting patients to the hospital over the advice of multiple medical experts provided by IHMS and lawyers representing S99.

In response, Nockels reiterated his confidence in Dr Sapuri’s advice.

It has also been revealed that the refugee known as Omid, who died yesterday after self-immolating on Nauru, was not evacuated from the island for 24 hours after suffering serious burns. The explanation for this delay is that DIBP could not find a pilot.

Omid was denied pain relief for several hours, and there was no appropriate treatment available at the hospital, causing risk of serious infection.

Two days ago I wrote about the unnecessary death of refugee Hamid Khazael on Manus Island from a simple scratch on his leg that led to septicaemia. This is a story of yet another overreach by a DIBP official who took it upon him or herself to ignore medical advice and deny Hamid treatment that could have saved his life.

DIBP is a government department rapidly coming to resemble a bureaucracy out of Kafka. Its secretive, punitive and murderous culture has no place in a liberal democracy.

DIBP is apparently staffed by individuals willing to follow to the letter the obscene orders of their ministers. Its default position is that asylum seekers and refugees who’ve arrived here by boat are not entitled to be acknowledged and treated as fully human. Even when granted refugee status confirming the horrors from which they’ve fled, DIBP officials, following orders, still treat those in off-shore detention as dispensable, and unworthy of proper attention and treatment.

The pathology and psychopathy starts at the top in any organisation. But after Nuremberg, that no longer excuses those who carry out the obscene commands of their superiors. DIBP is full of bureaucrats such as David Nockels: if it were not, the system would collapse.

In an ideal world DIBP staff would stage a full-scale revolt against their criminal masters, however I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

In what world does a bureaucrat have absolute control over the medical treatment, and indeed, the survival of a detained person?

Oh, yes, we know all too well the precedent for that world.

 

 

 

 

 

Let us not forget

28 Apr

Asylum in Australia

 

As we are dragged kicking and screaming into interminable weeks of sickening electioneering that will, yet again, have asylum seekers and refugees as one of its core bones of contention, let us not forget these facts.

Australia is a signatory to the UNHCR Refugee Convention.

This is an invitation to asylum seekers to request sanctuary in this country. They are not breaking any law by responding to an invitation we extend.

The manner of their arrival is irrelevant. There is nothing in the Convention stating that those seeking asylum in this country or any other, must not be waterborne.

The UNHCR requires that signatories to the Convention ensure domestic legislation is compatible with the undertakings of the Convention.

Successive governments have justified the indefinite and off-shore detention of asylum seekers and refugees by claiming that refusing them sanctuary in Australia breaks a “people smuggling business model” in which those seeking to exploit asylum seekers take their money, in return for the false promise of resettlement in Australia.

Allegedly with the objective of discouraging asylum seekers from embarking on perilous journeys and so preventing them drowning at sea, successive Australian governments have accepted the physical, mental and emotional assault of asylum seekers and refugees, the rape of asylum seekers and refugees, including the raping, assault and complex deprivation of their children; the destruction of the mental health of children, the murder of asylum seekers and refugees, their indefinite detention, their self-harm, their severe mental deterioration, and their refoulement.

In short, successive Australian governments have justified torture by claiming it will prevent death.

The subjects of this ongoing legitimised human experimentation performed by successive Australian governments are people who have legally sought sanctuary in this country. Many of them have been assessed as refugees.

As the PNG Supreme Court has now decided, off-shore detention of refugees on Manus Island is illegal. This means that successive Australian governments have committed illegal acts against innocent people. We’ve always known this. It’s taken the PNG Supreme Court to articulate our criminality.

And let us not forget that on top of the billions already spent on detaining legal seekers of asylum, we face a possible $1billion in claims for false imprisonment now the Manus deal has so spectacularly collapsed.

It’s difficult to feel anything other than the most profound contempt for the politicians who are responsible for this situation. As we endure the endless weeks of their ghastly clamourings for our vote, let us not forget that they have brought us to this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death by bureaucrat: this is not a metaphor

26 Apr

DIBP-Large

 

On ABC’s Four Corners last night we heard a Department of Immigration and Border Protection employee make the chilling decision to override a doctor’s request that dangerously ill refugee, Hamid Khazael, be evacuated from the Manus Island hospital to Port Moresby, where he could receive antibiotics that were not available on Manus.

The bureaucrat is heard refusing the evacuation request, suggesting instead that the drugs should be sourced elsewhere and flown to Manus, rather than the much faster alternative in which the patient would be taken to the drugs.

Mr Khazael was suffering from sepsis, following a minor cut on his leg. Sepsis is treatable but time is of the essence. DIBP bureaucrats caused unconscionable delays in Mr Khazeal’s access to treatment, in direct and deliberate contradiction of medical advice, and DIBP bureaucrats are answerable for the circumstances of his death.

They should be named, arrested and charged with manslaughter.

As the story unfolds it emerges as one of rabid bureaucratic power. None of the public servants who contributed to the awful death of Mr Khazael is a doctor, and yet they took it upon themselves to question and ignore medical advice as to the seriousness of his condition. At one point it’s revealed that it was thirteen hours before a public servant read an email concerning Mr Khazael’s dire condition.

The Minister at the time was current Treasurer, Scott Morrison.

The culture of DIBP is toxic. Its bureaucrats are protected by a cloak of secrecy and lack of accountability, instigated by successive ministers whose dark ambition it is to create and maintain a government department with absolute power, answerable to no one.

The doctors who spoke out on Four Corners last night have now broken the law that forbids anyone associated with off-shore detention from speaking of the conditions they encountered. This law in itself has absolutely no place in a democratic society.

Some doctors are at risk of arrest and prosecution. I have no doubt that should Immigration Minister Peter Dutton decide to put his money where his mouth is and have them arrested, there’ll be legal teams lining up to defend them. Should Dutton not act, then he confirms the suspicion that the law is intended to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence, rather than be enacted against them.

As I watched  last night I inevitably thought of Adolf Eichmann, who has become the universal symbol of the bureaucrat who is just following orders. For such personalities what seems most unthinkable is that they disobey instructions. Their obedience can and does result in suffering and death, however, that is of little consequence compared with the personal repercussions of disobedience.

Listening to the  DIBP bureaucrat refusing to authorise Mr Khazael’s transfer to a hospital which could properly treat his condition on the sole grounds that the policy is to fly the drugs in, not the dying man out, I though immediately of Eichmann, of the banality of evil and how it flourishes when good men [sic] do nothing.

There is not yet a situation in this country that permits the scale of murderous obedience enacted by Eichmann. We are only beginning to travel down this road. The fact that we are indisputably setting out on this journey ought to terrify us into stopping right now, and taking stock.

At his trial Eichmann claimed: There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.

The toxic culture of DIBP nurtures Eichmann-like attitudes. This government department should not exist in its current form in our democracy. It’s time to shine a light into its darkness. It’s time to make bureaucrats accountable for just following the orders of their leaders, and to make the leaders responsible for the intolerable demands they impose on people who are, after all, servants of the public not agents of its persecution.

 

The Circular Ruins

24 Apr

Prince Quote

 

In an effort to rid myself yet again of the mother of all ear worms, Prince’s Purple Rain, I turned this morning to Jacqueline du Pré’s performance of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor, which decision brought with it a whole other unanticipated spectrum of matters to do with grief and loss.

My late husband, Arnie, decided in his seventies to take up the cello. This was after the guitar and the ukulele, and contiguous with Hebrew lessons and teaching Shakespeare’s comedies at U3A.

His cello playing was excruciatingly awful, yet he bent to his task as if he were Yo-Yo Ma.

I can’t hear a cello without seeing Arnie, lost in the joyous experience of wresting music from the instrument, so engrossed in his mission as to be entirely oblivious to the tortuously mangled sound he actually produced.

There is the manner in which we mourn for the ones we loved but did not know, such as Prince, Bowie, and for me James Gandolfini whom I still miss, and when Leonard Cohen leaves I don’t know what I’ll do. And then there is the manner in which we grieve for our partners. The former is a but a pale imitation of  the latter, nevertheless, it has the power to evoke the devastating loss of far more powerful and intimate loves.

Each of us finds our own way to live with our grieving, because what else is there to do?  Yesterday I found myself re-reading a story by Jorge Luis Borges, The Circular Ruins, about a man who dreams a man, only to understand that he himself is the product of yet another man’s dream. Borges begins with a quote from Through the Looking Glass VI : And if he left off dreaming about you…

I read this story again because it was one that delighted Arnie, he read it to me many times. I wanted to read it through his eyes, I wanted to understand why it so delighted him.

I wanted to be with him again. Which of course, I can never be.

The enormity of loss and grief makes itself evident intermittently. Were it otherwise, it would be intolerable. We must get through this thing called life.

But if we leave off dreaming about them…?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now cracks a noble heart / Goodnight, sweet Prince…

24 Apr

 

Thrilling deconstruction of Prince’s performance in the above video from Daniel Ralston here 

 

 

 

The most disrespectful question: why doesn’t she just leave?

22 Apr

Why doesn't she just leave?

 

The question “Why doesn’t she just leave” continues to be asked of and about women who live or have lived with domestic violence.

Aside from practical considerations such as ever-decreasing government funding to frontline refuge and legal aid services that make it difficult for a woman to find somewhere to go and access the trained assistance she needs.  Apart from the acknowledged fact that attempting to leave is the most dangerous time for women and children, as her desperate assertion of independence can incite a perpetrator to even greater brutality as he attempts to maintain control of her.

Aside from those considerations, there are the well-documented complexities of human reactions frequently demonstrated in situations when violence is inflicted by those upon whom we are in some way dependent. Even a rudimentary understanding of these complexities will expose the question “Why doesn’t she just leave” as the statement of monumental ignorance and cruel disdain it actually is. A question that reveals far more about the questioner than it ever can about the questioned.

What it reveals about the questioner is that they are ill-informed, simplistic in their thinking, lazy,and lacking the ability to imaginatively transpose themselves into the shoes of another. They are also likely living comparatively safe lives, and haven’t been unduly challenged. They are disturbed by domestic violence and wish it would just go away, or that the victims would just leave and then it would all go away and most importantly, cease disturbing them. It’s a question always asked with an undertone of exasperation and an overtone of blame: why can’t you take responsibility for yourself? What’s wrong with you?

It is an accusatory question that blames the victim.

In short, the question is utterly disrespectful.

It’s likely difficult or impossible to prove this theory, but I’ve been thinking for some time now that lack of concern for violence against women by governments (amply demonstrated in reduced funding, lack of refugees, denied access to legal assistance and the rest, in spite of many grand words about “respect”) is underpinned by the question “Why doesn’t she just leave?” In other words, violence against women continues with little and indeed lessening government alarm, because women are judged as not having the sense or the willpower to leave situations that are patently bad for themselves and their children, so why, if they won’t help themselves, should governments and taxpayers bother?

Do governments also secretly ask “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

People who ask this question have the emotional intelligence of a turnip. I’d like to know, though I probably never will, just how deeply this attitude is entrenched in politicians who make decisions about combating intimate violence against women. Do they secretly believe all a woman needs is to have the guts to walk away, to somewhere, into the sunset perhaps? And does this explain the lack of interest in assisting her?

There is no sensible explanation for the general lack of political will to do far more about intimate violence than has yet been done. The options for women attempting to leave violent partners are decreasing. Police have fewer refuges to which they can take victims. Specialist domestic violence services have been subsumed under the umbrella of homelessness. And the numbers of dead and injured women and children keep rising.

When someone asks “Why doesn’t she just leave” maybe it would be interesting to respond “Why are you asking that question?”

Women enduring domestic violence and its aftermath ought not to be subjected to such questioning, overt or covert and I suspect the question, and the attitude that makes it possible for such a question to even be asked, is somewhere close to the heart of an explanation of why governments will not act in ways commensurate with a crisis that, like it or not, affects everyone, even the complacent, in some detrimental way.

 

 

Not the full quid

20 Apr

 

Ceci n'est pas un chien. Image: Daniel Munoz

Ceci n’est pas un chien.
Image: Daniel Munoz

Barnaby Joyce is always saying something remarkable for its inanity, and the last couple of days he’s done nothing to cause me to reassess my low opinion of his tortuous thought processes.

I watched him on ABC News 24 as he descended into red-faced blather on the subject, yet again, of Johnny Depp’s damn dogs, free associating like a unicyclist careening around the pavement whilst juggling plates about at any moment to topple, on the dangers Depp’s canines presented to our biological security. Not that I wish to play down Depp’s arrogant offences but Barnaby in the mix can reduce almost any topic, however serious, to farce.

Barely recovered from that comedic interlude, I was almost immediately subjected to Barnaby’s strident claim that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should be returned as PM on the grounds that he, unlike Opposition leader Bill Shorten, has made a quid in his life.

I confess myself somewhat unnerved by this narrative newly entering our politics and seeking normalisation, that the only requirement for holding high office is the demonstrated ability to make a quid, or rather, millions of them. It matters not how the quid is made, indeed the less said about that the better, it’s merely the having of the quid that counts because having lots of quids equals substance and talent sufficient to run a country.

By this measure it is only a matter of time before one of the Kardashians runs for public office.

Those of us who have not made a quid, and I use the phrase as a metonym for wealth rather than the middle-class comfort that aspires to and imitates the shenanigans of the wealthy, are in this narrative called upon to respect the rich and accept the fact of their greater wisdom because after all, nongs like us are disqualified from power having not earned it, because we haven’t got the nous to acquire the requisite quids.

This attitude has been joyfully embraced by right-wing Christian fundamentalists, who have now incorporated as evidence of God’s love and favour the possession of wealth. You have quids because god wants you to have quids and if you don’t have quids it’s because god doesn’t want you to have quids because you haven’t been sufficiently subservient to him and you haven’t done his will.

This combination of politics and religion creates a powerful discourse in which having quids is normalised as a measure of  sacred and profane achievement. Ultimately it relieves both religion and politics of the burden of giving a damn about anybody with less quids: either you haven’t earned it when you should have, or god doesn’t love you enough to let you have it so why should we?

As we approach the next federal election, assume the crash position and kiss your arse goodbye, because barring a miracle, this poisonous narrative will have found the normalisation it seeks, and the majority, who continue to show themselves as being far from the full quid, will keep the conservatives in place, normalising inequality, normalising lack of health care and education, normalising draconian police powers and further normalising the outrageous privilege of those with quids.

It is astounding how some people most disadvantaged by conservative ideology continue to support its rhetoric.

 

 

 

 

 

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