Death by bureaucrat: this is not a metaphor

26 Apr



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.


59 Responses to “Death by bureaucrat: this is not a metaphor”

  1. Galavanting Gran April 26, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    Presumably the instructions to DIBP bureaucratics are that detainees must be kept out of Australia at all costs so now a man has lost his life. Those seeking asylum should not be held off shore but if they are then the vast amount of money this is costing must ensure adequate Australian standard health care is available and doctors are the ones to make medical decisions not bureaucrats thousands of miles away with no medical knowledge.

    We are constantly told we are now a 24 hour economy but apparently bureaucratics making life savings decisions are only available 9 to 5.

    Are there any comments/reporrts on the program in todays newspapers? I didn’t see any.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. doug quixote April 26, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    I have just watched the 4 Corners program. Whilst it is appalling it is not surprising.

    This affair has the potential to break down this incompetent administration. I nearly said “corrupt government” but it is probably just incompetent and uncaring.

    It has pervaded its attitudes down through the public service, as it strangles it of funds, demands more with less and seeks to silence dissent and criticism.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rhyllmcmaster April 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Jennifer, you took the words right out of my mouth – the public servants and the minister should be charged with manslaughter. I am heartened by the ethical stand taken by these doctors. I hope they win against this toxic bureaucracy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arthur Baker April 26, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

      One thing that does please me is that it seems unlikely these whistle-blowing doctors will be taken to court. They seem to have successfully called the government’s bluff. I mean, can you imagine the brouhaha if any of these doctors were sentenced to jail? The government doesn’t need that hassle right now, and its draconian legislation is starting to look like a paper tiger. Good on the doctors for (effectively) saying, stuff you, prosecute me if you dare. Turnbull, Morrison and Dumbarse Dutton haven’t got the ticker to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson April 26, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

        I agree, Arthur, the government prosecuting these doctors at this point in an election campaign wouldn’t be a good look.
        In a way I wish they’d try it.


        • Marilyn April 26, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

          And lest we ever forget this border force crap is still supported by the scum in the ALP and almost all of our racist media.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. gorgeousdunny1 April 26, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    When I retired I drafted a speech on the personal responsibilities of a public servant, specifically that they extended beyond the primary of application and obedience to the law and lawful instruction. I used as the first example the Eureka Stockade events.

    The first concerned the 5 pound licence to mine. It was discriminatory and excessive, designed only to drive men away from the diggings. It was rightly resisted as an unjust imposition in a free society. The second was Hotham’s direction for the cavalry to charge the stockade. It was bound to lead to widespread loss of life, and it was no surprise that a jury found Lalor and others not guilty of insurrection.

    I also referred to Eichmann, having at that time just read a study of him. What was striking about Eichmann was the banality of the man. He was, as he claimed, not a fanatic but merely a bureaucrat who had risen to a position of power merely by applying the directives of the laws in the most efficient manner. He never seemed able to review the wisdom, the morality or the humanity of the laws and his enforcement of them. So in some ways his defence of acting lawfully would seem a legitimate except for Nuremberg.

    The flaw in this defence was Hungary. By the time Eichmann was put in charge of expelling Hungarian Jews to the gas chambers (1944), the War was lost and it was a matter of time before the Allies won. That bastard actually accelerated the program of Jewish rounding up and deporting. The only motive seemed to be to try to complete the task given him by Himmler or whoever. He sped it up knowing he had limited time left for the task. It had no influence on the defence of the Reich or the outcome of the War. It was just how he saw his task as getting as much done as he was able until he was stopped. The true banality of evil.

    This is the risk that DIBP staff and all those feral contractors like Wilson and Transfield run in this destruction of human lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson April 26, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

      Yes, gorgeousdunny, while Eichmann is the extreme end of the continuum it is a continuum.
      When I was researching conditions at Woomera and Baxter I interviewed guards working there. Several of them told me they never revealed to family or anyone else exactly what they did at Woomera detention Centre because they feared they’d never be employed anywhere else.

      I found the language used by the DIBP staff absolutely chilling.


    • doug quixote April 26, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

      Eichmann’s defence was an exercise in turning reality on its head.

      His true view, borne out by his actions, in his own words:

      “If we would have killed 10.3 million Jews, then I would be satisfied and would say, good, we annihilated an enemy. … I wasn’t only issued orders, in this case I’d have been a moron, but I rather anticipated, I was an idealist.

      “I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”

      That is not banality, that is ideology and fanaticism.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson April 26, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

        It was Arendt who spoke of the banality of evil, I think. I always thought she meant that the perpetrators are outwardly so ordinary.


        • doug quixote April 26, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

          Yes, Arendt saw only skin deep. She was wrong, wrong, wrong.

          There are no doubt banal evildoers. but Eichmann wasn’t one of them. He acted a part for the Court, as if he had a chance to survive.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Moz of Yarramulla April 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

      I was thinking about this “I just apply the rules” today in a completely different context. It occurred to me that if a defence lawyer can drive a complainant to suicide by vigorous questioning in court, they win. Specifically through the practice of prolonged, invasive questioning of complainants in sex crime cases. Within the rules, and arguably required under the “best representation” lawyer rules.

      Technically there are limits, but I have seen behaviour accepted in court that made me question why so many people in the legal system would recommend a victim take their complaint to the police, let alone to court. The percentage who do, BTW, is scandalously low, but inexplicably high.

      I do wonder whether there’s a place for a justice system that would rehabilitate those people so they could become functioning members of society again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter April 27, 2016 at 10:52 pm #

        Moz, it puts me in mind of Julie Bishop and asbestos victims, complaining that there should be a delay in proceedngs so the victims could die, obviating further action… all very Grisham.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson April 28, 2016 at 6:47 am #

        This post has resonance for me, Moz. I was advised by a senior legal practitioner that going to court over a matter would be a hell like no other. There has to be a better way than our adversarial system.


      • doug quixote April 28, 2016 at 8:04 am #

        That sounds OK to you now, but put the shoe on the other foot.

        YOU are accused of sexually assaulting some person. You didn’t do it, of course but the person made a complaint to police and the police know now that once a complaint is made you must be guilty. It’s in the papers, the media are demanding action, your workmates are supportive, but looking twice at you.

        You are in Court – the judge says the complainant cannot be attacked by your lawyers, what do you have to say in your defence?

        “I didn’t do it your honour!”

        “Hmmm, sorry that won’t wash. I sentence you to 15 years in prison. Take her down.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson April 26, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

      Well, here’s an interesting turn of events.


      • paul walter April 26, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

        Outsider’s take: Yes, you are being gloomy and by crikey, who would blame you.

        I think commenters here are a little 2007- if enough issues stack up at the one time there can be “critical mass”.

        It hasn’t quite happened yet because the Coalition is exceptionally facile in shoring up its target demographic.

        I say this a quarter of an hour after doing a phone survey with ERM.. the wordings included a lot of “trigger” or click- bait stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 26, 2016 at 8:59 pm #

          Nobody ever phones & asks me to do an interview.


          • paul walter April 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

            Because they must know you are too smart to be fooled..metadata trawling.

            Must be why they picked on me…

            Liked by 1 person

            • paul walter April 26, 2016 at 9:43 pm #

              If you like, send me your dog and bone and number and I will ring you and get you to do a survey, then you will feel included.

              “Don’t wish too hard
              for what you can’t have,
              or then you might get it
              and then you might regret it”

              Loosely, Carole Bayer Sager.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson April 27, 2016 at 7:10 am #

                You wouldn’t like it because when marketing people ring me up I use bad language

                Liked by 1 person

                • paul walter April 27, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

                  You are a woman after my own heart.


            • Jennifer Wilson April 27, 2016 at 7:09 am #

              Oh, that is too kind, PW. 🐬


    • doug quixote April 26, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

      Yes, this incompetent government will have to remove all its detainees forthwith.


      “Both the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments shall forthwith take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island and the continued breach of the asylum seekers or transferees constitutional and human rights,” the judges ordered.

      Back to Christmas Island??

      Or to the mainland!

      Schadenfreude rides again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson April 26, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

        As we speak the Border Force have been dispatched to find a new gulag.


        • Marilyn April 26, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

          I don’t think they will find another buyer, after wasting $6 billion on this torture chamber it’s time they just stopped it,.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. doug quixote April 27, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    Dutton insists the Turnbull government won’t allow any refugees (for they are genuine refugees, not just asylum seekers) currently held on Manus Island into Australia.

    That could be wishful thinking as the Australian government will soon be in contempt of Court. Not a good look internationally, I would think.

    This article examines the issues:

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter April 27, 2016 at 10:48 pm #

      DQ, beat me to it..watching the news, the Manus detainees want to come here and typical dour fashion, Dutton was unyielding.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson April 28, 2016 at 6:47 am #

        I fancy I can hear the frantic grinding of Dutton’s brain as it struggles to catch up


    • Jennifer Wilson April 28, 2016 at 6:45 am #

      Does the government actually care what we look like internationally? I thought they took pride in giving internationals the finger. Aren’t we all *sick of the UN reprimanding us?*


      • doug quixote April 28, 2016 at 7:55 am #

        Probably true, but there may be people wavering in their voting decisions who do care. The best hope for a humane resolution to all this mess is to throw out this government.

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter April 28, 2016 at 8:56 am #

          The spin battle is going to be intriguing.

          Can the Looters resurrect more fear and loathing, or will people either oppose outright or, default, follow dq and not jump to conclusions until what is happening becomes a bit clearer.

          Pray god, the nation is finally a bit less naive than with Tampa and Children Overboard, nearly fifteen years ago.. there are only a couple of thousand offshore and they are no threat, surely- just poor miserable suffering folk who have surely paid their dues enough by now. They must be running out of arguments to present to courts also.

          Bring back Habeas Corpus and the Fair Go.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Marilyn April 28, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

          Why, Marles said yesterday it’s the greatest public policy in the history of the universe.

          Liked by 1 person

          • paul walter April 28, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

            Marles is a talking jellyfish. However, I wonder if they are nervous at being outflanked by racist spin again, feel they have to do “me too”.

            Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter April 28, 2016 at 9:02 am #

        The UN “telling us off” is actually click bait, when properly spun in the tabloid msm. Out in Boganland they will bridle and bristle and say, “who are these off shore f—ers, to tell us what to do”.

        Ressentiment will bubble up again and attention can then be diverted from the sort of things that Dutton and co are losing out on… just about everything else.

        Remember Howard and “We will decide who comes here”?

        Liked by 1 person

        • helvityni April 28, 2016 at 9:32 am #

          There is something rotten in Aussieland, when even a country like PNG has higher morals than us.

          For crying out loud, take those 800 men from Manus, or is Mr Mutton dreaming of sending them to Germany or Sweden, as we don’t seem to have enough room, or was it water as some blogger on ABC suggested.


          • helvityni April 28, 2016 at 9:35 am #

            …just tell the poor blokes to shower only on Sundays, and drink beer when the drinking water runs out…

            Liked by 1 person

          • paul walter April 28, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

            So it has come to pass..

            Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson April 28, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

          PW There has been an entertaining variation on Howard’s proclamation, to do with the revelation in New Matilda that he does not believe there is such a thing as female ejaculation:
          *We will decide who cums in this country and the manner in which they cum.”


          • paul walter April 28, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

            Could explain the discontent, aggressive look on Janette’s face most of the time.

            Do we also have an answer to the engima of Margie’s down trodden expression?

            Ekkkk, ’nuff said.

            Liked by 1 person

          • doug quixote April 28, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

            The matter requires further close study. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  6. pd April 29, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

    Eichman was right. Charge abbott and morrison and now turnbull and dutton.


  7. doug quixote May 8, 2016 at 10:34 pm #

    Returning to the subject of Eichmann, we saw tonight a dramatisation of the Trial.

    (and see SBS On Demand)

    In it we saw a normal human being trying to find an emotional reaction from a psychopath. A psychopath moreover who was ideologically certain and convinced of his own fanatical correctness. Watching Eichmann watching the graphic holocaust films and listening to the testimony of witnesses, we might as well have been watching him watching a film about exterminating termites. He had no emotional reaction to the slaughter.

    To us it beggars belief and it seems incomprehensible to a normal human being that such people exist; but they do. And given the right circumstances it could happen again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson May 11, 2016 at 6:38 am #

      Thanks for linking DQ. I missed that, having largely given up television.



  1. Australian government, stop imprisoning refugees, Papua New Guinea court decides | Dear Kitty. Some blog - April 27, 2016

    […] Death by bureaucrat: this is not a metaphor […]


  2. Senior DIBP official overrules medical experts yet again. | No Place For Sheep - April 30, 2016

    […] 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 […]


  3. Senior DIBP official overrules medical experts yet again. By Jennifer Wilson – winstonclose - May 1, 2016

    […] 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 […]


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