Tag: Blood on Morrison’s hands

Stitched up by Abbott, Scott Morrison falls on his sword.


“He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” Benjamin Franklin

THE man who stopped the boats yesterday declared he will now stop the bludgers. In a sweeping cabinet reshuffle, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison will now be tasked with putting rorters back to work and creating a new families package. Dubbing himself the “Minister for Economic Participation” the new Social Services minister has the task of clearing up the billions taxpayers fork out on people who would rather claim welfare then work. The Daily Telegraph 22 December 2014

The final nail in the coffin of the Abbott government was not the whiff of scandal emanating from the Pyle-Ashby nexus; the malodorous political corpse of scandal-in-waiting Mal Brough; the Credlin-Abbott power nexus; the stench wafting down from ICAC in Sydney.

Nor was it any number of other things such as the crushing unpopularity of a government that couldn’t take a trick without a dirty trick or two involving phone calls from asylum seeker children to cross-bench senators or the desperate plundering of Foreign Affairs’ money-box to pay for guns and gunships, sovereign borders, Federal Police, the Reserve Bank, Direct Action and sundry other lapses of impulse-control.

Nor was it the failure of all the PM’s snipers, ASIO operatives, terror squads and secret intelligence to protect Sydney from a notorious and threat-listed madman who somehow dropped off the list, resulting in the tragic deaths of two innocent civilians.

No. None of these. It was to prove Abbott’s last act of bastardry that did him in. The ‘promotion’ of Scott Morrison. How this came about is a curious tale of a most curious individual, in curious circumstances, for Morrison is a man conflicted in so many ways: by his beliefs and his actions; by his words and meanings; by his ambition and his embarrassing public displays of servile devotion and unquestioned obedience to his leader, whoever he or she may be.

Flushed with his self-proclaimed triumph of stopping the boats, First Sea Lord Morrison, reportedly repeatedly, relentlessly badgered his leader, the beleaguered, self-deluded Tony Abbott for promotion. ‘I am your stand-out star performer, he is believed to have said on every occasion and many would-be, could be, not-quite and not at all occasions. I stopped the boats…’

It was a poor career tactic. Morrison’s persistent attention-seeking self-promotion not only provoked displeasure in many of his naturally unpleasant or jealous cabinet colleagues, it prompted his boss or his boss’s boss, Peta Credlin, or both, to have him moved sideways.

Yet it was Morrison’s unctuous protestations of unhesitating loyalty to his boss that were the last straw. He would, he lied, with nauseating eagerness and frequency, do whatever his Prime Minister, said he should do. Someone give him a suicide vest and a one-way ticket to Iraq, please, Credlin murmured under her breath. Aloud she said to Tony, why don’t we give him Kevin’s job? It made sense. Couldn’t be any worse than Andrews, they agreed. And Kevin’s already cut all the agencies. Saved us a quarter of a billion. Glad we could help him out with getting the credentials for his counselling outfit.

Morrison’s conduct has been overweeningly, dangerously ambitious, even for a party built out of overweeners. He has put Julie Bishop to shame, but without the jewellery, couture or the jogging; Murdoch’s press loved him and his amour propre, affectionately describing him as a tough guy who got things done. That hurt. So, in the end, Abbott was persuaded by Credlin, he had to be taken care of.

Liberal Party Chairman Brian Loughnane, Peta’s husband, a dab hand at such matters, was in attendance, to ensure proceedings served the party’s interests, its heritage and its principles of unbridled pragmatism, expediency and leaving all the rest up to the market.

And so it goes that Mad-Dog Morrison, once and forever garlanded with the reeking albatross of Immigration and Border protection – the  moral, economic and policy failure of Immigration, tracked his execrable political corpse for the last time into the boudoir of power, Abbott’s own throne and star chamber, newly-renovated and replete with bar fridge, overnighter and bicycle by the wall, the Prime Minister’s office. He knelt at Peta Credlin’s size 11 stilettoes. He talked about himself, pleading his case.

Naturally, Morrison, explained, he had effected a little career enhancement of his own, as it were, on the job. His genius constrained by the plain title ‘Immigration’ he had cleverly expanded his importance by announcing that he was adding Border Protection but stopping short of explaining this was in order to imitate his mentor Howard in creating and maintaining an Australian phobia of asylum-seekers as a threat to the nation. The new title went with trimmings including an exalted four star general, Angus Houston, and lots of staff in uniforms. He sighed happily.

Morrison militarised his department, he went on. He gave regular briefings where he couldn’t answer any questions or else simply failed to turn up. He changed the law, putting himself, if not exactly above it, at least in the next best available position.

But every dog has its day and so it was on this day, a few days before Christmas. Arise Sir Scott, John, Morrison, said Abbott, only half in jest for a knighthood had been dangled over him.  Arise Sir Scott, Knight of the boats, the olds and the bludgers.

It was, he knew it, Morrison’s day to be shunted out of contention as a leadership rival.  Social Services was snatched from the safe hands of Kevin Andrews and thrust upon the newly dubbed has-been with some extras tacked on for show.

Time to take stock. Granted, the amalgamation of childcare, welfare and family leave create the appearance of a super ministry but it was hardly a reward. For starters, Morrison has no budget and beyond that he is singularly ill-prepared by his experiences in Immigration to begin to cope with Social Services, albeit the new, enhanced, expanded model with extra child-minding.

In brief, Morrison is clueless. He has no idea of how to go about his very different new job. In a stroke of either genius, pure malice or instinctive vindictiveness, Tony Abbott has checked the career of his ambitious over-reacher, Morrison with a poisoned chalice.

What can we expect? From the past, we can expect silence. Already Morrison has declined to be interviewed on ABC on the subject of the ‘defunding’ of disability advocates, homelessness and all other groups representing the poor and needy. Certainly, they had no idea that funds would be cut by a quarter of a billion dollars.

Naturally there will be a change of name to fit the neo-con mould of veneration of economics. Expect the Ministry of Economic Participation, caring for at least half a million who through no fault of their own are excluded from participation.

We can expect more manipulation. This will follow the trail blazed by the way he got children to phone cross bench senators such as Ricky Muir but just in case they may have got bamboozled: there are still hundreds of children in detention in Australia. Plus over 150 on Nauru. Peter Dutton could well attend to this in his first act as Minister.

Above all we can expect propaganda and lies about the NDIS being too expensive to run without swingeing cuts to other welfare spending. Here it will be imperative to remind Morrison of the facts. The NDIS was funded by a 0.5% increase in the Medicare Levy in July. The increase – from 1.5 to 2% – took effect in July 2014 and is expected to raise $20.4 billion by 2018-19. The NDIS is estimated to cost just over $22 billion a year when fully operational in 2019-20.

The cost per taxpayer is minimal. Average Australian taxpayers, in full time work the ABS calculates enjoy incomes of $74,724, before tax, it means around $350 per annum or $7 per week. Those on $110,000 will pay $500 or $10 per week.

There was bipartisan support for this Labor initiative but now it suits Scott Morrison to claim that welfare cuts are needed to pay for the NDIS.

In the end, however, we can expect the same crass ineptitude that is the Abbott government’s signature. Only this time, it will be visible and not enveloped by a pseudo-military operations secrecy. And Social Services won’t be militarised so readily although don’t discount the formation of a dole-bludger-busting squad trawling through Brandis’ metadata and even out on the street, lifting blankets, inspecting limbs, checking the real mobility of those in mobility scooters.

Morrison can’t refuse to speak because it is an ‘in-bed matter’ or an ‘in wheel chair matter. He won’t be able to ship oldies and other recalcitrant pensioners off shore, as much as he would like to. He may of course, resort to proposing military training for dole bludgers but it’s unlikely to be a runaway success, especially given poor morale in the forces because of low wages, poor conditions and so on.

In short, it will be a total disaster. Morrison will rush into savage cuts to pensions, allowances, and anything else he can get his hands on. The economy will change down another cog as a result. The public and the public servants will jack up.

Morrison will plead the need to fund the NDIS. He will bang on about safety nets and sustainability. But the Australian public will see him coming this time. They will resist. They will contest his every move, his every word and deed.

Not so fast, ‘mad dog,’ Australians will say, we’ve got your number. Get back in the Ute – and cut out that barking. We are taking you to the vet. Only it won’t be a vet, it will be a court of law requiring Morrison to answer charges relating to his time as Minister for death camps and detention centres. The long list will include charges of manslaughter, child abuse, obtaining benefit by deception and violation of human rights. Morrison will be advised to plead nolo contendere.  He will, by special arrangement, be incarcerated on Manus Island for the rest of his (un)natural life.

Blood on Scott Morrison’s hands.

funeral of bahari

Funeral of Reza Barati.

On 17 February 2014, men armed with guns, machetes, knives, pipes, sticks and rocks, systematically and brutally attacked asylum seekers detained on Manus Island. Reinforced by PNG Police and the PNG ‘mobile squad’, who pushed down a fence to join the fray, the assailants carried out acts of violent retribution to asylum seekers who had been protesting for three months, demanding that their claims be processed.

Reza Barati, a 23-year-old Faili Kurd from Iran was murdered in the attack. At least 62 other asylum seekers were injured. One man lost his right eye, another was shot in the buttocks and another was slashed across the throat.

The attack needs to be kept in sharp focus as the Abbott government, despite many protests and appeals from the local and international community, seeks to consolidate its high handed arbitrary approach while priding itself on the efficacy of its practices.

Changes to the Migration Act currently before the house, extend Maritime Law, redefine Australia’s responsibility to refugees and effectively give unprecedented powers to Minister of Immigration, Scott Morrison. Also slated is a plan to create a new super Ministry of Homeland Security with Scott Morrison at its head.

The legal changes proposed by the Immigration Minister would re-introduce temporary protection visas to be applied to about 30,000 asylum seekers still living in Australia. Asylum seekers found to be refugees would get a three-year visa allowing them to work, but they would ultimately have to return to their country of origin. Maritime powers would be expanded, covering people detained at sea, and allow Australian law to significantly limit the country’s responsibilities under international human rights laws.

Especially draconian is the intent to raise the risk threshold for sending arrivals in Australia back to another country. Currently, people will not be returned to the country they came from if there’s a 10 per cent chance they will suffer significant harm there. The Government will now raise that risk threshold to greater than 50 per cent. Mr Morrison says the higher threshold is the Government’s interpretation of its international obligations. Greens Senator Hanson-Young says the bill will result in more asylum seekers lives being put at risk. “This is a mean, dangerous law from the Government,” she said. “If this was not so serious, if it was not about life or death, it would actually be a joke.”

Whilst Morrison’s colleagues hold him to be one of his government’s ‘top performers’ for stopping the boats, this is no commendation. Indeed, their high regard is an indictment on the rest of the cabinet. It also reflects poorly on both sides of Australian government and, indirectly, on the Australian public who have allowed themselves to accept their country’s hard-line approach.

Morrison is not the man to promote. Not remotely. Outside of the government’s joy in turning back the boats, few Australians would approve of his self-abrogating approach or his performance in his portfolio. Most of us feel a deep sense of anger and shame. Many eminent Australians in many walks of life have called for the Minister to resign.

Julian Burnside added to the calls with his public claim this week that the Minister of Immigration bribed witnesses to Reza Barati’s death to retract their testimony in return for transfer to Australia.

Burnside’s claim is, sadly no bolt out of the blue. It comes at the end of a long series of sordid reports of cover up and whitewash by the Abbott Government.

It is, nevertheless, a typically courageous challenge by a highly regarded champion of human rights and deserves to be heeded as a timely reminder of the alarming track record of this government’s cruelly punitive approach to asylum seekers. Sadly it was rejected with typical hostility by Morrison who launched a libellous attack on Burnside for his opposition, malice and lack of evidence.

“This is a false and offensive suggestion made without any basis or substantiation by advocates with proven form of political malice and opposition to the Government’s successful border protection policies. The government once again rejects these claims,” Mr Morrison said. Yet there is independent evidence that Burnside’s account is correct.

An asylum seeker at the Manus Island detention centre has alleged 3 November that he and another detainee were tortured, physically assaulted, threatened with rape and forced to sign papers withdrawing their witness accounts about the night Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati died.

The man, aged in his 20s, has spoken publicly for the first time about what he said Wilson Security guards and Transfield staff did to him in a secret compound called Chauka. The asylum seeker making the claims said he was too scared to be named.

Ben Pynt, director of Human Rights Advocacy at Humanitarian Research Partners, a non-profit human rights and humanitarian research organization is clear that the witnesses are speaking the truth.

“The specificity of their claims is such that you couldn’t make it up. Dates, times, places, people and then the documents corroborate all of those things,” he said.

“It really makes me think there’s no doubt.

“Quite frankly, I don’t believe the Minister and neither should the Australian public. The Minister’s denial has no factual basis.

“He hasn’t responded to any of the individual claims and he hasn’t asked an independent person to find out what happened.

He has been in regular contact with the two asylum seekers and raised their allegations of mistreatment with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

What caused the violence in February on Manus Island? It was not the suppression of a riot. The savage attack was the authorities’ response to a protest. More an armed attack than a ‘response’, the action was utterly unjustified, totally inappropriate and, in Reza Barati’s case, ultimately fatal. Detention Centre personnel were not attempting to quell any riotous assembly at the detention centre despite Immigration Minister’s version of events. Indeed, it seems, at the time of the incident, things had settled.

The previous day, 35 protestors had escaped. Yet by the day of the attack, only one individual remained protesting. The brutal, violent assault has been widely misreported as a riot in a whirlwind of spin generated by Morrison and his department in order to shift the blame from those running the camp and by extension himself.

How did Reza Bararati die? Julian Burnside QC gave this account last Wednesday. One G4S worker bashed the Iranian asylum seeker with a piece of wood which had two nails driven through it. His scalp torn open, Barati fell to the ground and was then kicked repeatedly by a dozen employees from within the detention centre including two Australians.

They kicked him in the head and stomach as he tried to protect himself with his arms, Mr Burnside recounted for the audience at his Sydney peace prize award last Wednesday. He said another employee took a rock and smashed it on Mr Barati’s head with “such ferocity, it killed him”. Other reports had stated that Mr Barati died of a head injury on the way to Lorengau hospital in PNG.

The morning after Reza Barati’s death, the story had been given a different spin. Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison laid the blame squarely at the feet of the asylum seekers.

On 26 May, retired senior Australian Public Servant Robert Cornall’s report found Barati’s death occurred after guards entered the centre to suppress the protest. His ‘administrative review’ for the Federal Government revealed that contractors working for the Australian government were responsible for the death of one asylum seeker, the serious injury of others, and the mass trauma of dozens.

Yet Scott Morrison took the review as an exoneration. The evidence? Morrison instances the fact that Cornall found it was not possible to isolate one factor that could have mitigated injuries or damage.

Cornall’s 107-page ‘administrative review’ concluded that the ‘incidents were initiated by transferee protests’.

Its recommendations included increased security and reducing the processing time for refugee claims. It reaffirmed that no one could be resettled in Australia. By and large it said what the government wanted it to say. It sent the ‘right message’. Yet it must not remain unchallenged.

Long before Barati was killed, whistle-blowers provided sufficient information to prevent his tragic death. He did not have to die. But Morrison does have to come forward, accept the truth and his responsibility.

Former G4S former safety and security officer Martin Appleby quit because he found management ignored his concerns about the violent and volatile conditions.

“I couldn’t handle what was going on; no one wanted to listen,” he told Crikey. “I wrote many reports, and nothing was ever taken up. The lead-up started a long time ago.”

Manus Island is a hell.  The single men there face indefinite detention, without timeline, without information, without hope. Supplies are meagre. Facilities are few. It is hot and crowded.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Asylum seekers have been denied adequate water and soap supplies or even urgent medical attention. They suffer “snakes inside their accommodation, malaria, lack of malaria tablets, no mosquito nets, [and] inedible food that often has cockroaches in it.

Manus Island offshore detention centre represents a flagrant disregard for human rights, justice or compassion. It is, moreover, an expensive and indefinite detention. One billion dollars has been spent to detain 2000 asylum seekers offshore on Manus and Nauru but, since 2012, only one has been processed. All up the Coalition has budgeted $2.87 billion over the next year to run Manus and Nauru. Transfield Services’ contract alone is worth $1.22 billion to run both camps for the next 14 months. The cost of holding one asylum seeker in offshore detention was found to be more than $400,000 per year by the Commission of Audit. The Refugee Council calculates this cost to be five times that of ‘processing’ in Australia.

Yet for all the money spent, the quality of care provided to detainees is substandard. The death of 24-year-old Hamid Khazaei, an Iranian on September 5 was entirely preventable. A cut on his foot led to septicemia. The tragedy resulted from a simple lack of basic first aid. Not only was it totally unnecessary, it has come to represent the ugly side of a deliberate policy of deterrence. In most civilized societies, it would be regarded as an act of criminal neglect.

Political commentator, former diplomat, Bruce Haigh believes Morrison should step down, ‘The Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, should resign. He is not a fit and proper person to be responsible for vulnerable lives.’

Haigh instanced the Manus Island assault and problems with our neighbor, Indonesia. ‘Without any help, Mr Morrison has taken the relationship with Indonesia to its lowest point since the mid-1980s. He appears to understand nothing and listens to no one…’

Christine Milne has similarly called for Morrison to resign. Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie has formally asked the International Criminal Court prosecuting authority to investigate whether the treatment of asylum seekers contravenes international conventions.

In the meantime, immune to all criticism, the government presses on with its plans to settle 1000 asylum seekers in Cambodia. Scott Morrison is seeking to change the law to give the Abbott government even greater authority. To this end, he introduced the “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment” in September. Morrison argued:

“The new statutory framework will enable parliament to legislate… without referring directly to the Refugee Convention and therefore not being subject to the interpretations of foreign courts or judicial bodies which seek to expand the scope of the Refugee Convention well beyond what was ever intended by this country or this parliament.”

The controversial bill is now in its third reading. It is a bizarre attempt to twist a treaty to suit the Abbott government’s own agenda. “It’s a sudden and unilateral reinterpretation of a treaty which has been signed by 145 countries around the world and has been the cornerstone of international refugee protection for over 60 years,” according to Daniel Webb, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Cambodian officials are travelling to Nauru, for what Webb calls “an active selling of the refugee transfer arrangement by members of the regime that stands to profit from it”. 1,000 detainees from Nauru are slated to be transferred to Cambodia in exchange for US$35 million in aid. Cambodia has treated past asylum seekers poorly; it lacks the capacity to care for 1,000 newcomers.  Above all, details of the proposed plan have not been made sufficiently clear. The Australia-Cambodia Memorandum of Understanding does not specify how much money will be allocated for temporary accommodation and basic needs – or who will decide how the money is budgeted. It is simply one more damning move in Australia’s practice of deterrence which masks a callous indifference at best and at worst an unrepentant and calculated cruelty to innocent victims.

Under the Abbott government and its gung-ho Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, the treatment of asylum seekers is a travesty of our international obligations and an affront to our humanity.

Moreover, as Julian Burnside reminds us this week, we have a minister whose department has not only shown gross negligence leading to accidental death, it has also been complicit in the brutal suppression of a protest on its Manus Island detention centre in February which resulted in the murder of an innocent victim. All the evasions and forced retractions in the world cannot wash away the blood on the Minister’s hands.