By David Marr
The secrecy that shrouds Operation Sovereign Borders is designed to foil the law more than frustrate people smugglers. This goes way back. Ever since Australia began its battle to stop the boats nearly 40 years ago, Canberra has tried to place the campaign beyond the reach of lawyers and the courts.
The law is the enemy within. That lawyers have won big victories along the way makes governments try even more ruthlessly to sideline them. The deep instinct of both Labor and the Coalition has been to battle the boats with as little interference as possible from wigs, gowns and the courts.
The crude strategy in the 1990s was to exile boat people to remote desert camps as far as possible from the lawyers of Perth and Adelaide and Melbourne. That hasn’t changed. Now we send them even further for the same purpose, to Manus and Nauru.
The Migration Act, as thick as an old-fashioned phone book, is always being tinkered with to try to keep the business of beating back in the hands of governments alone. Defeats in the high court have never deterred ministers for immigration. They keep tinkering.
Secrecy works best. The harder it is to know what’s happening on the Indian Ocean, the tougher it is for lawyers to get traction. So the Abbott government has invented the notion that “on-water” matters can never be revealed and the minister, Scott Morrison, now says he will only comment on “significant” events, which don’t include the sensational events of this week.
This government isn’t a pioneer. The Tampa operation was designed by the Howard government with exquisite care to prevent reporters and lawyers learning what was happening on the Norwegian freighter in that great maritime standoff more than a decade ago.
The SAS was sent out to the ship not because those Afghans were violent but because the military had no legal obligation to bring the refugees ashore, no authority to receive requests for asylum and could block public scrutiny and lawyers from making contact with clients on the deck.
Tactical errors lawyers made then are not being repeated now. They have gone straight to the high court rather dally in the federal court. And this time they will have instructions from named clients, something that proved impossible – and highly damaging to their case – back in 2001.
But the high court will be dealing with the same question the federal court stumbled over back then: what executive authority does the commonwealth have to send refugees trying to reach Australia by sea off to other countries?
The veil of secrecy having been lifted on Tuesday afternoon by the high court, we know the boat was stopped in the contiguous zone: the 12 nautical mile zone beyond Australia’s territorial waters. There seems little question that the commonwealth has the authority to repel a refugee boat from that zone.
But does Australia have any right to then take those refugees to another country – to Sri Lanka, Manus or Nauru? The commonwealth is arguing that because neither the Migration Act nor the Maritime Powers Act applies on the high seas, Australia can do what it likes.
read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/09/asylum-secrecy-on-high-seas-designed-to-foil-the-enemy-within-the-law
Australia's mainstream media failed to properly report on the extent of anti-Abbott protests last weekend, however the more honest overseas media succeeded. Alan Austin reports from France.
IN GERMANY, Radio Utopia highlighted Sunday’s protest marches across Australia with 'Volksaufstand in Australien' (Popular uprising in Australia):
'On Sunday, on the smallest continent on earth, occurred the biggest mass demonstrations for thirty years.'
Utopia claimed that 'a solid alliance of resistance across all strata of the population' had mobilised to protest 'the deliberate destruction of society by the Australian government'.
Brazil’s Boa Informaçao covered the protests, focussing on the government’s decision to return to Sri Lanka people
'...seeking asylum in Australia to escape the torture, rape and violence they suffer at the hands of the local army.'
Headlines around the world have condemned this, the latest of the Abbott government’s anti-refugee tactics. In damning terms.
‘Returning Sri Lankan refugees, Australia is inhumane’ translates the headline in Indonesia’s Jaring News yesterday.
Germany’s Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung published a disparaging piece titled 'Kein Platz für Flüchtlinge: Australiens Asylpolitik am Pranger'
read more: http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/abbott-continues-to-trash-australias-international-reputation,6652
The immigration department was warned that self-harm among asylum seekers in detention – particularly on Christmas Island – had surged since the introduction of mandatory offshore resettlement and would continue to do so, Guardian Australia can reveal.
A leaked, confidential report by Serco – the security company managing all immigration detention centres in Australia – also shows the extraordinary measures being undertaken to tighten security in the detention network, borrowing from military practise and those used by Asio, and the relaxed regulation of the use of force.
The report contains previously unseen statistics showing that the rate of self-harm among asylum seekers was six times higher by January 2014 than in July last year, when the former prime minister Kevin Rudd introduced the so-called “PNG solution”.
“There has been an increase in self-harm, particularly on Christmas Island where the detainee cohort is most heavily impacted by new policies,” the report warns. It goes on: “as time in detention continues to increase, it is likely that a corresponding increase will be experienced more broadly across the IDN [immigration detention network]”.
On Wednesday Tony Abbott said the government would not be held “over a moral barrel” in relation to a group of mothers on Christmas Island who self-harmed and were placed on suicide watch.
The report says that since the introduction of mandatory offshore processing and resettlement an “unprecedented risk profile” has arisen, including increased tension, large scale protest, escape attempt, aggression towards staff and self-harm.
'Ambition is a good thing in politics, but the best way to secure a better job is to do your current job as well as you humanly can and fretting about the next job is not the best way to get it,'' he [Abbott] said.
Barbara Tregear Pleasure Point
My father died of malnutrition in a Japanese slave camp working on the Thai-Burma railway. I recognise that Japan has changed and I harbour no grudge against the Japanese people of today; in fact, to the contrary, I admire them in many ways.
However, I am extremely offended by our Prime Minister’s attempt, addressing Parliament, to air-brush history for political convenience.
The hide of this man to state that the Japanese soldiers were honourable. When will he get his foot out of his mouth and the thought-bubbles out of his head? It is a wonder he didn’t describe World War II as ‘‘shit happens’’.
Bert Candy Lemon Tree Passage
Tony Abbott’s reported comments to the visiting Japanese Prime Minister praising the honour of Japanese soldiers during World War II would, it seem, be another example of his speaking before thinking. As well as angering the Chinese, Koreans and numerous citizens of SE Asia, he has undoubtedly offended many Australians associated with that period of history.
Perhaps, if he’d spent less time at uni going the biff and a bit more time in the library boning up on history, he might have a better idea why people might be upset.
Rod Hughes Epping
Tony Walbran (Letters, July 10) has it exactly right. The government was given a mandate to ‘‘stop the boats’’, but to do so within the bounds of law and decency. There was never any question as to whether the boats could be stopped, it was just a matter of finding a way to stop them without engaging in vicious, cruel, immoral, unethical and illegal acts. The government has shown that it is capable of completing the first part, but totally incapable of satisfying the second part.
William Kennedy Blaxland
It was 8.35am on Wednesday and the locally engaged staff member at the Australian High Commission in Colombo whose job was to take media calls that morning was asked a simple question: What time was Scott Morrison attending the launch of the two patrol boats?
The Australian government was giving two second-hand patrol boats to the Sri Lankan government to help them rid the high seas of "the scourge of people smuggling" and the Immigration Minister had been sent over to officiate.
That Mr Morrison was frantically looking for a friendly government to accept 153 refugees being held at sea by the Australian government made the visit especially topical.
"Can I put you on hold?" said the man at the High Commission. A few minutes later, he came back and said: "We don't have any details at all about the minister's visit to Sri Lanka. We are not handling it. It has nothing to do with us."
Do you know if the High Commissioner Robyn Mudie is attending the event? After several minutes more on hold, the man came back with an answer: "No," he said. "We are not handling the minister's visit."
The Sri Lankans were much more helpful, and half an hour later Sri Lankan officials were offering shade and refreshments on the docks at a Colombo naval base ahead of the event scheduled to start at 10am. The place was crawling with Australian officials, of course, who did their best to glare and look daggers whenever a journalist came within three metres.
The opinions expressed in this site are those of the various authors and contributors and do not reflect those of the site, the site owners or hosting agencies.
Contributors please note that this site is archived in the National Library of Australia in perpetuity.