Tag Archives: Malaysian solution

Malaysian solution: Judge complains government case is “half-baked”

8 Aug

In the High Court hearing on the Malaysian solution this afternoon, Justice Kenneth Hayne reprimanded the Commonwealth Solicitor-General for appearing before him with a”half-baked” case. Considering the government’s frequently expressed confidence that it has all the legal bases covered in the matter of its expulsion of asylum seekers to Malaysia, it’s remarkable that they should have irritated the judge so early in the piece. Perhaps they are not as on top of things as they would have us believe. As pretending to be on top of things while flying by the seat of its pants  is pretty much par for the course for the Gillard government, one ought not to be surprised at the “half-baked” comment. Nevertheless, I was surprised to hear they are already in disarray.

Justice Haynes extended the injunction that prevents expulsion of asylum seekers until arguments on the lawfulness of the government’s actions can be heard by the full bench.

One of the points that will be contested is that the agreement with Malaysia, in which that country has undertaken to provide certain protections for the 800 asylum seekers from Australia, is a political not legal agreement, and therefore unenforceable. This casts doubt on Immigration Minister Bowen’s declaration, in which he unequivocally states that Malaysia is a safe destination where human rights and protections will be observed. As Malaysia is not a signatory to any UN Conventions, asylum seekers will not have the protection of international law either.

I wonder what effect these shenanigans will have on Australia’s bid for a seat on the Security Council, so single-mindedly pursued by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd? Helped by some $10.5 million in promotional funding over the next two years?

Ministerial Declaration process corrupted by Gillard’s political and personal ambition

8 Aug

Lawyer David Manne and his team have succeeded in obtaining a temporary High Court injunction preventing the transportation of asylum seekers to Malaysia, planned for this morning. They will return to court later today seeking to extend the injunction, and to argue against the legality of the Gillard government’s Malaysia solution.

Manne’s team will argue that Australian law permits asylum seekers to request refugee assessment in this country, and that as the guardian of unaccompanied children, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will be putting his charges in harm’s way and abandoning them if he sends them to Malaysia.

It’s been revealed that on July 25th, Chris Bowen made a Ministerial Declaration on the suitability of Malaysia to receive asylum seekers Australia refuses to process. In his Declaration Bowen claims that Malaysia is a safe destination, and that the country offers adequate human rights and protections, despite the fact that it is not a signatory to the UN Convention, and is globally renowned for its harsh attitude to refugees.

The government’s agreement with Malaysia was accompanied by considerable hype, however the Minister’s Declaration was nowhere mentioned, and was revealed only in the court action taken by Manne yesterday.

Ministerial Declarations are powerful instruments. The government believes Bowen’s Declaration is protected from being contested in the High Court, alleging that the Court has no jurisdiction to review these Declarations. Manne’s team will challenge the government’s position, and argue that the Court can and should review Bowen’s Declaration.

The danger with allowing this Declaration to stand is that in the future any minister can make any such Declaration about any country with impunity. Clearly there is plenty of evidence to contradict Bowen’s assertions about Malaysia. The Minister has ignored this evidence, and has made his declaration for purely political concerns. This is an abuse of power, and the raw exercise of political power for political gain is not the purpose of Ministerial Declarations.

What is most disturbing is that Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Conventions that set the standard for the treatment of refugees and also of children, refugee and otherwise. The Gillard government refused to use Nauru as a dumping ground for asylum seekers, because that country is not a signatory either. Gillard took an ethical and moral stand on this. That stand is now revealed as a concern held for a nanosecond by the fake Julia – the real Julia doesn’t give a fig about non signatory countries if they’ll take asylum seekers off her hands.

Political expediency, and utter desperation at hideous polls, have corrupted Gillard and Bowen’s moral and ethical perspectives to the degree that not only are they now willing to use a non signatory country, they are also willing to abuse their power and to lie in a Ministerial Declaration, in the hope that they’ll shore up electoral support for their “solution.”

It’s a very dangerous situation when an individual minister can exercise this amount of power. That power can be, and some argue is currently being, exploited for the advancement of political and self-interest, with little regard for the human beings involved. No matter what your position on asylum seekers, this ministerial instrument of power should give you pause for thought.

If Bowen’s Declaration stands unchallenged it will mean that in theory, any minister can order the refoulement of refugees, despite our agreement with the UN to not engage in such practices. The present government can be grateful to John Howard for making this situation possible. In amendments to the Migration Act brought in by the Howard government, the Immigration Minister may unilaterally decide if another sovereign state  is considered suitable to receive asylum seekers. The law says the minister may declare that a specified country “provides protection for persons seeking asylum” and “meets relevant human rights standards in providing that protection”. The fact that the UNHCR has failed to support the Malaysian solution and has expressed concerns over the Malaysian government’s treatment of refugees is in conflict with Bowen’s assessment. The Howard amendment does not appear to require that ministers substantiate their declarations with evidence.

Some of the most recent boat arrivals have claimed fear of persecution in Malaysia on religious grounds however, Bowen’s Declaration pays no heed to these considerations, as he has declared that country safe. If his Declaration is allowed to stand by the High Court, we will know we are living in a country in which a government minister has absolute power that cannot be challenged, no matter if it is unjust, dishonest, self-seeking and corrupt.

These cynical moves by the Gillard government are beyond despicable. They are an insult to our democratic process, and to the trust we place in politicians to use the powerful legislative processes available to them wisely and compassionately. Instead, they have employed this instrument solely to advantage themselves, and as a consequence are putting the lives and well being of asylum seekers, including children, at risk.

One would hope that a minister would inform him or herself on all aspects of a situation before issuing a Declaration that is apparently uncontestable in law. This is the trust that we place in those to whom we award high office. Once that trust is betrayed, the fabric of our society is torn. Once that trust is abused, and political expediency and personal ambition are placed above the rule of law, our democracy is in deep trouble.

We can only hope the High Court is able to challenge Bowen’s Declaration, for the sake of asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and all Australian citizens.

Bowen claims he believes it is safe for asylum seekers in Malaysia. Well, Tony Blair and John Howard believed there were WMD’s in Iraq. We know and knew at the time, that they based those beliefs on insufficient evidence because they didn’t want to hear the UN weapons inspectors’ reports that contradicted their beliefs.

The selective beliefs of politicians should not be allowed to take us into war, or to expel vulnerable people to countries where they are at further risk. In both cases, evidence was ignored in the pursuit of political gains. This story is becoming way too familiar in our political system.  We cannot trust politicians with the powers we give them, and those powers urgently need to be curbed.

The war you don’t see; Blair wows the msm, and the Malaysian solution becomes a reality

1 Aug

Whatever the criticisms of John Pilger, he has achieved the remarkable feat of keeping alive his indignation towards government and media manipulations and duplicities for decades. His recent documentary The War You Don’t See is no exception. I rather belatedly sat down to watch this yesterday.

Pilger takes the global media to task for its sycophantic coverage of the Iraq war, when journalists had to be embedded if they wanted to work for any of the mainstream press, and once embedded, were compromised as to what they could reveal and what they would have to conceal.

As with any account of events, current or historical, there is much truth to be found in the authors’ silences. What has been omitted and why is perhaps the first question a discerning reader needs to ask. In the case of Iraq, there are alternative sources such as Al Jazeera, independents and blogs and of course Wikileaks. Pilger has gone to these sources as well as interviewing big names such as Dan Rather  and a couple of very defensive and pedantic VIPs at ITV and the BBC.

“Well, it depends what you mean by the word links,” the ITV VIP argues, in a pathetically unsuccessful attempt at sophistry that serves only to confirm Pilger’s allegations of sycophantic bias. ‘Blair was very careful when he chose to use the word links,” the ITV Blair apologist continues, demonstrating in one sentence the entire Pilger thesis of conspiracy and collusion between government and mainstream media. (Of course, we know even more about this parasitic relationship since the recent Murdoch News of the World downfall. Say what you like, Pilger’s still on track.)

Under Pilger’s politely unrelenting pressure, these media bosses acknowledge their obsequience to their government in the matter of their reportage of the Iraq invasion, as well as WMD’s and chemical weapons allegedly held by Iraq and used, falsely, to justify the invasion.

The footage of the suffering of Iraqi people is horrific. Up to 90% of those injured and killed in this war are civilians. This is of course a reflection of the increasing sophistication of weaponry: in the first World War there were comparatively few civilian casualties. “Collateral damage” in wars has increased exponentially with the aggressor’s ability to bomb the living shit out of anything that moves.

As I wrote here this documentary was banned from screening at some events in the US and Pilger’s invitation to speak was revoked. Having watched it, I can see why it is perceived in some quarters as a threat, as it clearly explains the role of media as the servant of government  in the propaganda of war.

Alleged war criminal Tony Blair has been in Australia this past week, and has been predictably courted by over-awed mainstream journalists. Blair, a convert to Catholicism, is promoting a faith-based attitude to global affairs and has harsh words for secularists like Julia Gillard, who he seems to feel are missing the point.

Personally, I’m unable to take Blair out of the context of his slavoring admiration for  George Bush, and his lack of judgement on the Iraq invasion. There was plenty of evidence available at the time to cause any serious-minded political leader to pause and re-consider his position.

Blair, like John Howard, did not do this, and took us to war in spite of a great deal of opposition from their respective electorates. The consequences of this were and continue to be death, death, and more death with a very large dose of suffering thrown in.

Aren't I having fun?

The first fifty asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia were intercepted yesterday. They will be taken to Christmas Island, and held for 72 hours for preliminary health and identity checks before being flown out.

As another example of how government propaganda works through information that is either omitted or collectively and consistently ignored, nobody wants to address the small matter of our laws. In domestic law, asylum seekers are permitted to arrive in Australia in any manner whatsoever, with or without papers, and to request protection while their refugee status is ascertained.

I would sincerely like to know why there is no move to rescind this law, seeing as we have no intention now or in the future of upholding it. Like the human appendix, it would seem to be a useless evolutionary remnant, and we should get rid of it in case it turns septic and poisons the whole system.

Apart from that, it is psychologically unhealthy for an individual or a country to exist in a state of cognitive dissonance. No good can come from it, and we ought to be lining up our laws with our actions if we don’t want consequences.

I would also like to know why asylum seekers who arrive by plane are not sent to Malaysia. Why do we have this two tier system in Australia, and why are we creating a two tier system in Malaysia? How to explain this peculiar attachment to promoting inequality amongst the world’s most vulnerable and desperate people?

Of course, I am asking the wrong questions, that is, the ones nobody wants to hear, but there’s nothing to be done except to keep on asking them.

Everybody knows that none of this has anything at all to do with asylum seekers and refugees per se. It is solely to do with “stopping the boats” in the desperate hope of shoring up the increasingly tenuous possibility that the Gillard government will survive the next election. Asylum seekers arriving by boat are collateral damage in this domestic battle. Strangely, many of them are already collateral damage as a consequence of the wars we’re involved in, in their home countries.

I guess there are just some human beings who can be damaged collaterally over and over again by the same people, and nobody thinks it matters.


The Malaysian solution, or why Gillard will never have my respect and trust

17 Jul

‘To shelter the other in one’s own land or home, to tolerate the presence of the land-less and homeless on the “ancestral soil” so jealously guarded, so meanly loved – is that a criteria of humanness? Unquestionably so.” Emmanuel Levinas.

In the Sydney Morning Herald today there’s an article revealing that in the last three months taxpayers have funded flights from the Christmas Island detention centre to the mainland totalling over $3 million. These chartered flights have transported asylum seekers from the over-crowded Christmas Island centre to other detention centres on the mainland.

Figures from Senate Estimates also reveal that for the 11 months to the end of May, health costs in detention centres exceed $95 million.

2010 Australian of the Year, psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, described Australia’s detention centres as “factories for producing mental illness and mental disorders.” In response, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “We believe mandatory detention is necessary for security reasons.”

And those security reasons are?

Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are security threats how?

Australia is the only country signatory to the UN Refugee Convention that detains asylum seekers until a decision is made on their application to be accepted as refugees. All other signatory countries allow community placement while the assessments are made. The only signatory country in the world that subjects asylum seekers to indefinite imprisonment in “factories producing mental illness and mental disorder” is Australia.

In Australia as in no other signatory country the asylum seeker, the ultimate foreign other, is co-opted as an imprisoned and criminalized scapegoat. This is intended to strengthen the boundaries of our nation state by uniting Australians not in recognition of our shared humanity with the stranger, but rather in a common rejection of the foreigners’ human rights and needs in the interests of maintaining a politically expedient ideology of sovereignty.

Julia Gillard has gone further than even John Howard in her proposed treatment of asylum seekers. She wants to send them “to the back of the queue” in Malaysia. No other Australian politician has proposed the trade in vulnerable human beings that Gillard is engaged in organizing.

The refugees from Malaysia we will resettle in exchange for the 800 boat arrivals Gillard plans to transport to that country have not “queued” in order to be granted visas to live here. They have applied for re settlement along with thousand of others, and they have been selected not based on a position they hold in a non existent queue, but on their suitability as citizens.

Does Australia select refugees on the basis of how long they have been in camps? No, it doesn’t.

Yet Gillard continues to misinform and mislead the Australian people on the matter of a mythical “queue” because it is politically expedient for her to do so. The fact that it is a lie is as irrelevant to her as it is to Alan Jones, and it serves both their purposes to continue to feed this lie to the public. To the PM and shock jocks alike, the stranger seeking asylum via the boat is assumed to be morally corrupt, a criminal and possibly a terrorist, by virtue only of the dire circumstances in which he or she finds themselves in their homeland. This is utter nonsense.

In the moral world of Gillard and the shock jocks, having the gumption to get yourself out of a high risk situation by entering into another high risk situation, all in the pursuit of life, liberty and safety, makes you a criminal and possibly a terrorist. The fact that you manage to get enough money together to pay for your dangerous boat journey is only further evidence that you should be hanged by the neck when you get here, metaphorically speaking.

Imprisoning boat arrivals is a dishonest, cruel, wicked and discriminatory practice. It does nothing to improve our society, and does everything to morally and ethically damage us. It does nothing to assist the thousands of refugees in camps around the world.

“He said to me: ‘You are an animal. We will deal with you like an animal.” Guard to asylum seeker detained in Villawood Detention Centre.

Julia Gillard is engaged in a process of dehumanizing both the boat arrivals and the Australian electorate. Our attitude to those seeking asylum is a measure of our humanness, just as Levinas claims. Our political leaders should care about our collective and individual capacity for humanness because no society can thrive and survive without this quality.

“We are not animals! We have eyes like you, we have hands like you! We are not criminals!” Thirteen-year-old male detainee.

The very thing the Gillard government does not want acknowledged is that the people in detention are in any way like us. If the humanity we have in common with asylum seekers is recognized, indefinite mandatory detention would become intolerable. The demonization of boat arrivals is a morally repugnant practice, and one which Gillard fully endorses. Politicians have always sought to demonize and scapegoat human groups in the pursuit of their own political interests, and she is no exception.

We drive these people mad through the use of  indefinite mandatory detention. Then, when they act out their mad despair, we punish them for it. Now Julia Gillard like Pontius Pilate, has decided to wash her hands of the fate of the boat people and send them to Malaysia, a non-signatory country where we will have no control over what happens to them. Indeed, singling out a particular group for some kind of “special” UN protection is likely to make them even more vulnerable to attack and discrimination in a country where there are tens of thousands of displaced people, all of whom are struggling for survival in an environment that is hostile to them.

What Gillard is doing makes the Howard government’s off-shore policies look reasonable. Many refugee advocates now prefer the Pacific solution to Gillard’s Malaysian plans. That Julia Gillard should have brought us to such a choice!

I should respect this woman? I should support her? I should trust her?

I should be a proud feminist because Gillard is our first female PM?

The Malaysian solution is a bloody disgrace to this country. Nothing Gillard achieves in other areas will do anything to mitigate the immorality and inhuman cruelty of her plan. Neither will anything mitigate her continued support of indefinite mandatory detention while refugee claims are being processed. Gillard continues this, despite everything we know after ten years of the practice about how it damages and destroys the human beings we incarcerate.

Gillard’s world first: state sanctioned trade of children

14 Jun

The Gillard government’s deal with Malaysia on asylum seekers has taken yet another turn. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has now conceded that he will decide whether or not to send unaccompanied children to that country’s refugee camps on a “case by case” basis. In coming to this decision he has dramatically shifted from his original position that all unaccompanied children who arrive here by boat will be sent on to Malaysia.

This backflip raises many questions, of which two are particularly pressing. The first is, what criteria will the Gillard government use to determine which unaccompanied children to export to Malaysia, and which to allow access to refugee processing in Australia?

In the Malaysian camps unaccompanied children are at risk of physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse leading to long-term psychological and physical ill health. They are at risk of exploitation of all kinds, as well as inadequate nutrition, and inadequate education. In short, they are at risk of a complete loss of childhood, to which the UNHCR Convention on the Rights of the Child (yes, we signed that too) states all children are entitled.

We have failed to protect children in Australian detention centres from extensive and long-term harm. How then do we propose to exert any influence over their treatment in another sovereign state?

We need to know as a matter of urgency just what guidelines the Gillard government intends to use to enable it to judge which unaccompanied child is suitable for exposure to these risks in Malaysia, and which child is not.

Will there be a checklist test of a child’s resilience? How has this minor withstood the traumas he or she has thus far endured? Reasonably well? OK, off to Malaysia.

Is the assessment to be left to officials in the Department of Immigration? Or does the government intent to employ experts in child psychology and psychiatry who will present informed opinion on which child has a better chance of survival in Malaysia, and which child does not? I use “survival” in a broad sense, not necessarily referring to their death, though that possibility cannot be discounted.

Protocols such as the Gillard government needs now, will create a groundbreaking global benchmark for the establishment of innovatory assessment processes for child asylum seekers who arrive unaccompanied in Western countries. The processes will necessarily be designed to determine the type of personality unaccompanied minors must have, in order to be judged capable of surviving the dangers of camps in countries that are not signatories to any human rights conventions. As far as I am aware, no such assessment process of lone children seeking asylum exists anywhere else in the world.

The second pressing matter we need to consider is that Chris Bowen is the legal guardian of all unaccompanied minors who arrive here seeking asylum. The welfare of children in his care must be his first priority if he is to fulfill the legal, ethical and moral requirements of guardianship.

How would we deal with any other legal guardian who subjected his or her charges to risks of this magnitude? We would find it entirely unacceptable that a guardian would consider putting any child in his or her care on a continuum of risk that includes rape, exploitation, hunger and death. We would likely incarcerate such a guardian. We certainly would not allow them to continue to be responsible for children who have no one else to take care of their wellbeing.

Does Bowen therefore have a conflict of interest in these circumstances?  If his duty is first towards the vulnerable children in his care, might this not conflict with Gillard’s demands that he send any of these children to Malaysia?

Bowen has been quick to point out that the numbers involved are few. We aren’t looking at sending very many unaccompanied children to fend for themselves in Malaysia. This situation may change with the government’s recent decision. Denied income from adult cargo, smugglers may well resort to moving boatloads of minors, with the selling point that they do have a chance to stay in this country and it’s well worth the risk.

When Scott Morrison complained about the burial of drowned asylum seekers and their babies it looked as if we had reached an ethical and moral nadir in Australian politics. Now the Gillard government has again shifted the goalposts in the game to see who can stop the boats. Nauru is looking like the lesser of two evils.

What does it say about the character, competence and complete moral turpitude of our politicians, that the best choice they can come up in this situation has to be between two evils?

Gillard continues to pretend that the UN matters

10 Jun

It should be obvious to everyone by now that  being a signatory to a United Nations convention doesn’t mean anything in real terms.

Unless the UN is about to start hauling recalcitrant signatory countries before an international court, the conventions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Especially in a country that doesn’t have a bill of rights in the first place.

As proof of this, since 2002 the UNHCR has been castigating Australia about our treatment of asylum seekers. That’s ten years of being publicly reprimanded for our disregard of the Refugee Convention, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We breached these conventions ostensibly in the interests of protecting our totally unthreatened sovereignty. In reality it was done in the interests of self serving careerist, and immoral politicians.

Have we taken any notice? Have we been shamed? Who is there among us that really gives a stuff what the UN thinks of us?

John Howard started it by complaining that UN committees critical of his government’s stand on indigenous affairs and refugees were unfairly treating democratically elected governments. Howard didn’t acknowledge that the purpose of the UN was to look out for democratic governments that are also disregarding of human rights, as if such institutions couldn’t possibly exist:

Those who had argued before the UN that mandatory sentencing laws or native-title legislation were racially based were wrong, and it was absurd to let a foreign group decide such issues from afar. ‘ I mean, can’t these things be resolved by Australians in Australia and not us having to dance attendance on the views of committees that are a long way from Australia,’ Mr Howard said.

Things have gone down hill from there.

In a breathtaking act of hypocrisy, the Gillard government now expects us to believe that the UN has some control over Malaysia. Although the Gillard government continues to ignore the UN’s complaints about our treatment of asylum seekers, she simultaneously seeks its support to sell her Malaysian solution.

You can’t have it both ways. If you don’t give a damn about the UN’s opinions on our breaches of the conventions, you can’t then claim that their approval of the Malaysian solution carries any weight at all, let alone makes such an agreement safe and sound.

The UN conventions mean nothing. They are entirely dependent on signatory countries implementing the undertakings. Nobody really gives a stuff about a bad report from a body that has no legs and teeth. This is a post UN world. Catch up, Gillard. We see right through your spin.

4000 Refugees from Malaysia – how will ASIO cope?

9 Jun

Does anybody know where the Gillard government plans to put  4,000 refugees when they arrive from Malaysia?

Presumably they’ll be subjected to the same ASIO security checks as are the other people already granted refugee status in Australia. Even after achieving this status, refugees continue to be held in mandatory detention until the ASIO checks are complete.

Does this mean we’ll need detention facilities for 4,000 more while their security status is established? How long will this take?

How will ASIO, already apparently already coping with a backlog, handle an influx of 4000 refugees needing security scrutiny before they are allowed to start their lives in the community?

There are already some 1000 genuine refugees being held in detention, some for up to 12 months, awaiting ASIO clearance. Chris Bowen has vowed not to compromise our security systems.

Will the Gillard government change the rules for the arrivals from Malaysia, and allow them into the community while their security checks are conducted? How would that move contribute to the discontent of all those refugees who are already detained behind the razor wire? Will she let them out? Who will care for the unaccompanied minors we send to Malaysia? Are the feminists still happy with our first female Prime Minister?

Oh, what interesting times in which we live!

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