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.