Tag: Asylum seeker policy Australia

Asylum seekers need our compassion and our help, Scott Morrison, not “enhanced processing” or expanded powers.

asylum seeker boat


A trawler carrying 38 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers was intercepted by an Australian border protection vessel off Cocos Island two weeks ago and handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy. There were six children aboard. The Sri Lankans are the first to be turned back in five months as Australia’s highest court hears a test case challenging the government’s right to intercept asylum seekers’ boats outside its territorial waters.

At the same time, the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Bill which is currently before the Australian Senate represents an unparalleled aggrandisement of the Immigration Minister’s authority and an all-out assault on refugee law.

The recent dilatory disclosure of the latest interception, well after the event, is disturbing in many ways. First, there is once again that toxic smoke-cloud of secrecy which enshrouds so much of our immigration policies. It cloaks all dealings of the tirelessly self-promoting Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison and the increasingly arbitrary actions of his own paramilitary Sturmabteilung, the Australian Border Force.

It is added to by a layer of befogging sophistry and specious argument often blended with a testy belligerence such as Morrison’s infamously disingenuous justification of his policy of deterrence as proceeding from a desire to prevent accidental drownings. It is present whenever he is publicly questioned such as his offensively belligerent and shamefully disrespectful hectoring of Gillian Triggs at the Australian Human Rights Commission recent inquiry into the detention of asylum-seeker children.

Morrison’s latest act of piracy or ‘interception’ was not reported immediately but hidden, it seems, for as long as possible. This has become a pattern, although on this occasion the fact that the action was illegal and that the ‘enhanced questioning’ was both wrong and against international law might have also contributed to its suppression. Whatever his precise motive, he was, however, just following the LNP coalition party line of being lean or mean with the truth.

For a party that promised the high road of open and transparent government, the LNP Coalition has done its best to crawl in the opposite direction. Delaying, suppressing, concealing, disputing and denying have now become its typical response to challenges. The Abbott government increasingly stands revealed as a government of broken promises and lies whose behaviour has cost it both credibility and legitimacy. Its governance lacks principle, its day to day conduct is dictated by a desperate necessity to pick a winner.

Nowhere is all of this better seen than in Morrison’s regime. Ruthless expediency and duplicity combine in what it grandly and falsely represents as border security and control. It’s touted as a runaway success. Yet Morrison’s operation, in fact, represent a callous indifference or calculated cruelty to others and a wilful determination to dishonour or evade Australia’s international obligations. It is illegal. It is wrong. It is dangerous. Shame on you, Abbott; shame on all of us.

The Abbott government has rightfully earned Australia United Nations’ censure for its indefinite detention, its detention of children. Its ABF shames us before the rest of the world. Yet, with characteristic hubris, Scott Morrison has recently blithely dismissed all such criticism with the line that that Australia’s immigration policies ‘will always be made in Australia’ as if we can walk away from the law or our international obligations any time it suits us.

His department’s secrecy has been defended by the Minister in several unsatisfactory ways, including his infamous ‘on-water matters’ excuse which is predicated on the fiction that ‘border protection’ would be somehow jeopardised if made public. ‘Loose lips sink ships’ was a British propaganda poster slogan of the last world war. Morrison is clearly either in some time-warp or he is labouring under the misapprehension that Australia is at war with asylum seekers. Nothing is further from the truth. They are part of our human family. We owe them the duty of care we owe to our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons. Most of us know this instinctively. Yet for Morrison and Abbott, they are the enemy. Horrifying as it is, it is not Morrison’s or his party’s only delusion.

Morrison likes to hark back to his party’s campaign slogan, stop the boats, as if successful government were merely a checklist of promises to be kept to the electorate by any means. He is also a little too interested in his own image, paying staff to google his name and to monitor his press. Little concern is spared for reflecting on the ways turning back the boats represent a scandalous abandonment of all civilised behaviour and a wilful flouting of all relevant international agreements and expectations.

If Morrison’s habitual secrecy is a continuing concern, what it covers on this occasion is even more alarming, the introduction by stealth of so-called ‘enhanced screening’. Were it not tight-lipped about its covert operations, the ABF might divulge the nature of its new, improved, streamlined fast-track ‘enhanced’ screening process, a self-parodying ‘process’ which in Orwellian Newspeak manner grotesquely distorts the meaning of the word enhancement to mean impoverishment and debasement.

Flouting accepted international practices, asylum seekers face a set of simple questions on the spot from an ABF operative with translator. It is brutally swift and unsatisfactory. There are enormous flaws in this impromptu, unsupervised, unscrutinised ‘process.’ Not the least of these faults is the likelihood that the subject of interrogation does not understand the seriousness of his entrapment.

Enhanced screening’s worst feature is, of course, that it is a cruel and cynical hoax, an instrument of coercion and duplicity contrived to return asylum-seekers hastily back where they came from – and further persecution. It is a shameful deception.

In the recent case, moreover, all but one aboard the trawler were returned to jail in Sri Lanka where they have been jailed while awaiting court cases set for May 2015 for illegally leaving the country. The all-but-one returned statistics reveal that the ‘process’ is a monstrous lie, a shameful sham and a travesty of due process. The world knows that on past evidence most, if not all, of these asylum seekers are likely to be genuine refugees. It is also widely understood that returning these people is to endanger their well-being. Experts attest that returning these Sri Lankans amounts to refoulement, or delivering them into the hands of their persecutors and oppressors.

The Tamil Refugee Council has said that the return almost certainly condemned them to persecution, including torture by returning them to their homeland. Furthermore, the screening system used by authorities is an illegal and insufficient test, the council said.

“The idea that you can properly test a person’s claim for refugee status at sea has been condemned by well-respected legal and human rights groups many times, yet this government cares nothing for its legal, moral or ethical obligations,” stated the council’s Trevor Grant.

For Australia, however, an arrogant ‘made in Australia’ evasion is all that Morrison bothers to offer to defend his proposed changes to the law. Then he repeats the lie that Australia has discharged its international obligations to refugees. He knows, like all tyrants, that to repeat a monstrous lie is to give it life. His latest moves serve to bring into sharper focus the cruelty and calculated inhumanity we now choose to inflict on asylum seekers; the bad faith with which we persecute those who in good faith seek asylum.

In itself, turning back the boats is a government’s disgraceful capitulation to the politics of petty ignorance, fear and chauvinism. Most of us can see it is wrong. Most of us know it is wrong. It is persecution and torture. It is a wilful denial of what makes us human.

What makes it even more disturbing is the perverse joy, and evident self-satisfaction, animating the Minister, his government and his key staff. Most Australians would blush with shame at the latest UN condemnation of our policy of indefinite detention as torture, but for Morrison and his government it is just another ‘on water matter’, an inconsequential irritation that will not deter him, nor cause him to reflect on the essential cruelty and betrayal of humanity that are the core of our immigration policy. The act does not need extending by legislation. It needs to be thrown out, along with its authors and supporters. Our humanity, our innate sense of justice and our compassion demand no less of us.

sri-lankan-refugees

Morrison stitches up deal with Cambodia in bizarre rewrite of Australia’s obligations to refugees.

A move within the Abbott cabinet to establish a homeland security super-ministry drawing together several major departments and functions looks to have been scuttled because senior figures viewed it as an attempt by backers of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to elevate him to future leader status.

The Age 1.10.2014 MARK KENNY AND JAMES MASSOLA

MORRISON: That you, Tony? Morrison here. Best on ground. Your star performer. Rising star. Team captain before too long. And on dancing with the stars. On hundred dollar bills soon.

ABBOTT: Scotty. Maaaate. [aside. God give me strength. The clowns I have to deal with. Some think they’re God Almighty. Or comedians. Or both.]

MORRISON: Are you free to talk, mate? Not got you at a bad time? Need a quick dicky. A quick word.

ABBOTT: Never a good time, Scotty. Not since opposition. Remember the days? Bag the shit out of Gillard all day and all night you could. Never had to do anything else.  Apart from sloganeer. And have Alan Jones blow smoke up my arse.

Ahhh … the slogans. You know tell I love them still. Axe the tax. Turn back the boats. Turn back the boats. Still good. Wake up at night. Find myself shouting it. And punching the bedroom wall.

And we did it. You did it. Always time for you Morrison, old cock. Time for you, Scotty. Time for you. Time for you. Time for you. You.

MORRISON: God Almighty! What the hell is that echo?

ABBOTT: Peta on conference phone. Credlin. The Boss. Oh and  ASIO, ASIS and the FBI. Of course.  Peta’s gotta to be working for them all I reckon. Smart girl that one. And the best arse in parliament.

CREDLIN: [aside: hold it right there, Abbott. Keep your hands in the open. Where I can see them.]

Scott Morrison! How the f**k are you. Back already? You lucky bastard! Didn’t step on a landmine, then. Kept out of bar doorways. No grenade in the kisser? Clap missed you, too I guess.  How was your trip?

ABBOTT: Near the doorway? Clear of doorways? Clap?

CREDLIN: Doors of bars in Shinaoukville. Rival owners on scooters. Ride up. Toss in grenades. Ride off.  Nobble the opposition. Disrupts trade. Smart tactic, though. Go well in Canberra. Not on Shorten, though. Be wasted. The bastard would fall on it like a giant wet weetbix. Smother the blast. Spoil the fun.

MORRISON: Place is f****d. Filthy. Stinks. Trash everywhere. Sewer stinks. Sex industry worse. Prostitutes everywhere. Ugly older men and young girls. Sleazy Europeans fondle teenage girls on their laps. Crawling with sex tourists and touts for child prostitutes. Children come up, begging or trying to get hold of groceries, snatching food out of your bag. Homeless kids live on the street. Crawling with children everywhere. Cambodian population mostly school kids. It’s what it looks like. Bird flu epidemic. Corrupt. Most corrupt country in the world. Or among them. Rampant corruption among judges, prosecutors and court officials. Slavery and child sexual abuse. Dangerous. You can get away with murder. And torture. You can die from just drinking the water. No-one in his right mind would want to go there. Live there. [laughs] Perfect place for asylum seekers.

CREDLIN: Spare us the travelogue, Scott. We didn’t send you over to dip your wick. Cut to the chase. Did you get us a deal or not? Where the bloody hell are you?

MORRISON: The Deal? Yes. Got good news and bad news, PM.

ABBOTT: Let me guess. The telegram that said your mother had died?  Turned out to be your mother- In- law? You drop 40 million at the casino. Turns out to be someone else’s money? And your boss gives you a pay rise?

CREDLIN: Keep it brief guys. Tony, you and I have a briefing soon. No time to listen to a couple of galahs rabbiting on.

MORRISON: Briefing? Course you do, Peta. What on? How to tell Obama’s arse from his elbow? Hope he’s in on it. Someone needs to tell him! Seriously. Where the border between Syria and Iraq is? Jesus! Better let the Syrians and Iraqis into that. Or how we wasted all those years and all those billions training up an Iraqi army who can’t fight its way out of brown paper bag. Whose battle plan is to drop their weapons and run away? We’d all love to know the answer to that.

ABBOTT: Enough of that, smartarse. Deep briefing from top brass on keeping our boots off the ground.

CREDLIN: While we fight the mother of all battles. Aleppo. Baghdad.  Armageddon.

MORRISON: Not another oil war in the Middle East. You know they are unwinnable. Got your head up your arse again, Tony. First we arm and train ISIL against Syria. Now we turn them into Anti-Christ. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper just to take more Timor oil? I know some good lawyers.

ABBOTT: [changing subject] How’d the bubbly go? You really know how to seal a deal, Morrison. But if you want Moet, by Christ, we’ll give you Moet. But we do expect you to turn up on time. And not to spill their drinks.

CREDLIN: Yes. We heard you turned up half an hour late. Crashed a tray of Cambodian glasses and then pretended to toast the deal for the camera. Poor bastards didn’t even have empty glasses to raise for the photo-opp.

MORRISON: It’s not all bad. Good news is the Cambodians agreed to take a few. From Nauru. Now that we’ve redefined our refugee obligations. So that we don’t have any part in looking after their welfare.

CREDLIN: In legal terms, the deal represents an abrogation of Australia’s responsibility to refugees who have been found to legitimately need our protection. Moving refugees somewhere else does not absolve Australia of its legal obligations. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, describes it as “a worrying departure from international norms”.

ABBOTT: [ignoring Credlin] A few hundred? Morrison, you are a legend. A few hundred, you say?

MORRISON: Not that many.

ABBOTT: A hundred now. Five hundred next year?

MORRISON: No. Two or three at this stage. They will see how they go.

CREDLIN: See how you go, you mean! You gave them 40 mill? The 40 million we gave you to sweeten the deal. $40 million over four years. No strings attached. No questions asked. And they are taking just two asylum seekers?

MORRISON: Two or three. It was news to me too. They call it a pilot programme. But just wait. There’s a bit you haven’t heard yet. They keep the bastards in Phnom Penh a year. After that they are relocated.

ABBOTT: Jesus. Your  Cambodian officials will all be down the casino now. Just imagine it. $40 million. Pissed up against the wall. Then it’s return to sender? God almighty!

MORRISON: No. They send them home.

CREDLIN: And where would that be?

MORRISON: Where they bloody came from. And don’t you worry about the 40 million being spent by officials. Any spend’s a good spend. It’s bound to trickle down. Create opportunities.

ABBOTT: So what’s the bad news Scott?

MORRISON: We still have to pay them.

CREDLIN: Pay them?

MORRISON: Yes. Everything you do in Cambodia costs money. Haven’t worked out how much yet. Under wraps. Christ, they know how to haggle. Basically, Australia agrees to pay the board and lodging. And …

CREDLIN: And?

MORRISON: Agrees to let Cambodia set the fee.

CREDLIN: Which is likely to be how much?

MORRISON: Billions.

ABBOTT: Mary, mother of God! Tell me again. Why did we send you Morrison? What in God’s name possessed us?

MORRISON: I’m the Immigration Minister. I am the star of Sovereign Borders. Soon I will be the head of Homeland Security.

ABBOTT: And?

MORRISON: And I’m way out in front in the opinion polls. You’re in negative territory. Going backwards. I can do what I like. Get away with anything. The country thinks your government is shite. Your budget stinks. Your terror diversion isn’t working. Your Royal Commission is a waste of money. You couldn’t lie straight in bed. No wonder Australians don’t trust you. But they know where they are with me.  Gotta go now, Peta and Tony. Mission accomplished. Leave you two to sort out the invoices.