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Restoring integrity to Australia’s immigration system

Marilyn Shepherd writes: 

The cost has been about $3 billion over the past 10 years.

14 people have died in detention without ever being charged with any crime.

On SIEVX alone 146 children, 142 women and 65 men died while at least 7 died after we turned them back to Indonesia, I believe over a dozen others have been killed after their forced return to their countries.

At least 247 Australian's were illegally detained including 10 children whom the department claimed "were visiting" their parents, some for as long as 9 months.

Over 300 permanent residents were deported while several citizens were illegally deported and have had to be brought back and compensated.

At long last the ALP have decided to rectify the horror they began in response to a mere 194 Cambodians who arrived in 1992 while Gareth Evans was dealing with the Cambodians for peace.

We all need to applaud Kevin Rudd and Chris Evans and his team for this great step forward.

 

New Directions in Detention: Restoring Integrity to Australia’s Immigration System
Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

(Speech delivered on Tuesday 29 July 2008 at the Centre for International and Public Law, Australian National University)

At my first meeting with Department officials as Minister for Immigration, I asked who was detained at the immigration detention centre on Nauru and at what stage were their claims for asylum.

I was told there were eight Burmese and 81 Sri Lankans there. Virtually all of this group had already been assessed as refugees but had been left languishing on Nauru.

When I asked why the eight Burmese had not been settled in Australia in accordance with international law there was an embarrassed silence.

Eventually the answer emerged. The Howard Government had ordered they stay put. They had been left rotting on Nauru because the Howard Government wanted to maintain the myth that third country settlement was possible.

Sadly, Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers had sunk this low.

The treatment of asylum seekers has been controversial in Australian political debate for many years. The length and conditions of their detention has been a particular focus of criticism.

The Rudd Labor Government was elected on a platform that included a commitment to reform and a more humane treatment of those seeking our protection.

We quickly ended the Pacific Solution – closing the offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island. We abolished temporary protection visas – the symbol of the former Government’s continued punishment of those found to be owed our protection.

We acted quickly to resolve the legacy cases. Cornelia Rau has finally been compensated for her treatment and Robert Jocovic – the man found destitute in Belgrade after being deported on character grounds – has been given a permanent visa to get on with his life in Australia.

The challenge for Labor, having tackled the worst excesses of the Howard immigration legacy, is to introduce a new set of values to immigration detention – values that seek to emphasise a risk-based approach to detention and prompt resolution of cases rather than punishment. The best deterrent is to ensure that people who have no right to remain in Australia are removed expeditiously.

The Labor Party went to the last election with a commitment to maintain a system of mandatory detention and the excision of certain places from the Migration zone, and both commitments will be honoured.

Control and management of our borders is integral to the nation’s security. The extensive patrolling of our borders by Defence, Customs and other law enforcement agencies has been maintained at existing levels.

The Labor Government has reinvigorated efforts to work closely with countries to our north to combat people smuggling and prevent attempts at dangerous sea journeys by people seeking to enter Australia unlawfully.

We look to extend assistance to those countries to develop their capacity and enhance projects in home and transit countries to assist people displaced by conflict who may be vulnerable targets of people smugglers and traffickers.

An architecture of excision of offshore islands and non-statutory processing of persons who arrive unauthorised at an excised place will remain.

Those unauthorised arrivals will be processed on Christmas Island.

Labor believes that the excision and offshore processing at Christmas Island will signal that the Australian Government maintains a very strong anti-people smuggling stance. It also reinforces in the minds of our neighbours that strong commitment and the value we place on their cooperation.

Although no decision has been taken on the boundaries of the current excision zone, the Rudd Government believes that a strong border security regime is in the national interest and supports the integrity of our immigration system as well as our humanitarian and refugee programs.

Labor rejects the notion that dehumanising and punishing unauthorised arrivals with long-term detention is an effective or civilised response. Desperate people are not deterred by the threat of harsh detention – they are often fleeing much worse circumstances. The Howard Government’s punitive policies did much damage to those individuals detained and brought great shame on Australia.

Strong border security and humane and risk-based detention policies are not incompatible. They are both hallmarks of a mature, confident and independent nation.

There has been strong criticism of the processing of protection claims by those persons whose unauthorised arrival was at an excised offshore place.

These criticisms include that there is a lack of transparency, that there is insufficient provision for independent advice and assistance for people in making their claims, that there is no independent review of departmental decisions and there is a lack of independent oversight of the process.

In instituting a new processing regime for those who arrived in an excised place and claim protection, we seek to remedy those deficiencies.

Henceforward, asylum seekers will receive publicly funded advice and assistance, access to independent review of unfavourable decisions and external scrutiny by the Immigration Ombudsman.

These measures will build on strengthened procedural guidance for departmental decision makers.

In totality, these robust processes will deliver outcomes in which we can be confident and will reassure the world that we are meeting our international commitments.

The integrity of these processes will reinforce our capacity to expedite the return to their home country of people found not to be in need of protection.

The previous Government was forced into major changes to its detention practices in 2005 following the Palmer and Comrie reports and heightened political and public pressure.

The changes certainly improved key aspects of the immigration detention system, reducing overall numbers detained by encouraging the Department to issue Bridging Visas to avoid placing people in detention. However, the changes were largely superficial and never fundamentally reformed the system; many of the concerns expressed over the past decade remain.

The basic premise that people who were in the country unlawfully – whether they be unauthorised arrivals or people who have breached their visa conditions – were subject to mandatory immigration detention remained central to the government’s policy.

Even though the number of unauthorised boat arrivals had slowed dramatically, long-term detention became the reality for large numbers of detainees; mostly people who had breached their visa conditions and utilised our thorough appeal processes to try to win the right to stay in Australia.

Today I want to announce that Cabinet has endorsed a policy containing seven values that will guide and drive new detention policy and practice into the future. These values will result in a risk-based approach to the management of immigration clients.

The Government’s seven key immigration values are:

1. Mandatory detention is an essential component of strong border control.

2. To support the integrity of Australia’s immigration program three groups will be subject to mandatory detention:

  • all unauthorised arrivals, for management of health, identity and security risks to the community;
  • unlawful non-citizens who present unacceptable risks to the community; and
  • unlawful non-citizens who have repeatedly refused to comply with their visa conditions;

3. Children, including juvenile foreign fishers and, where possible, their families, will not be detained in an immigration detention centre (IDC);

4. Detention that is indefinite or otherwise arbitrary is not acceptable and the length and conditions of detention, including the appropriateness of both the accommodation and the services provided, would be subject to regular review;

5. Detention in Immigration Detention Centres is only to be used as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time;

6. People in detention will be treated fairly and reasonably within the law; and

7. Conditions of detention will ensure the inherent dignity of the human person.

Labor’s reforms will fundamentally change the premise underlying detention policy.

Currently persons who are unlawful may be detained even though the departmental assessment is that they pose no risk to the community. That detention may be prolonged. Currently, detention is too often the first option, not the last.

Under Labor’s reforms, persons will be detained only if the need is established. The presumption will be that persons will remain in the community while their immigration status is resolved. If a person is complying with immigration processes and is not a risk to the community then detention in a detention centre cannot be justified. The Department will have to justify a decision to detain – not presume detention.

Labor believes that the retention of mandatory detention on arrival of unauthorised arrivals for the purpose of health, identity and security checks is a sound and responsible public policy. Once checks have been successfully completed, continued detention while immigration status is resolved is unwarranted.

The key determinant of the need to detain a person in an immigration detention centre will be risk to the community – a modern risk management approach.

The detention of those who pose unacceptable risks to the community is self evidently sound public policy. Those with criminal or terrorist links or those whose identity is unknown may be so categorized.

Detention of those who repeatedly refuse to comply with visa conditions can also be justified, particularly immediately prior to their planned involuntary removal.

Detention in these three circumstances is necessary in ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.

The other detention values will ensure that detention policy reflects the values of Australia’s democracy.

They honour our international treaty obligations. They give greater voice to our commitment to the rule of law. They acknowledge the centrality of the humane treatment of the individual.

The detention of children behind razor wire and the obvious damage done to them caused outrage in the Australian community. The Howard Government could not defend that practice but never abandoned the option of again detaining children.

Labor’s detention values explicitly ban the detention of children in immigration detention centres. Children in the company of family members will be accommodated in Immigration Residential Housing (IRH) or community settings.

The expansion of community housing options and the resolution of definitional issues around what constitutes detention under the Migration Act will be pursued as priorities.

The set of values adopted are designed to drive the development of a very different detention model.

The values commit us to detention as a last resort; to detention for the shortest practicable period; to the rejection of indefinite or otherwise arbitrary detention. In other words, the current model of immigration detention is fundamentally overturned.

 

The Immigration Department has commenced work on an implementation plan to give effect to these values that will be developed in consultation with community interest groups and agencies such as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) and the Ombudsman.

Under Labor’s reforms, in determining the ongoing detention of a person the onus of proof will be reversed. A departmental decision maker will have to justify why a person should be detained against these values that presume that that person should be in the community.

In our view the critical and harsh aspect of the Howard Government’s mandatory detention policy was not the initial detention phase but the continued and indefinite detention that occurred while lengthy immigration processes and appeals were completed.

Recently, I personally reviewed – in conjunction with the Commonwealth Ombudsman – all of the long-term detention caseload, those who have been in detention for more than two years. In doing the review I sought to apply the values endorsed by Cabinet to the consideration of these protracted and difficult cases.

Of the 72 cases reviewed, 31 were placed on a pathway to visas, 24 will be removed from the country and 17 people were subject to ongoing legal proceedings at the time of the review.

The lessons from this process were instructive.

Firstly, in my judgment, at least 31 of the 72 should not have been in detention.

Secondly, in two years and sometimes much longer, we had failed to successfully remove from the country 24 people who should be removed. The integrity of the system demands prompt removal of people who have no legal right to remain.

Thirdly, extensive and slow legal processes were resulting in people remaining in long-term detention.

Fourthly and most importantly, it was clear that if you asked the question ‘is there a need for this person to be in detention?’ you got a very different outcome to that provided by the current system.

In future the Department will have to justify why a person should be detained. Once in detention a detainee’s case will be reviewed by a senior departmental official every three months to certify that the further detention of the individual is justified.

 

I will also be seeking to engage the Ombudsman in the review of cases much earlier than his current review after two years of detention. Subject to consultation, a review by his office after a period such as six months would seem more preferable.

In the meantime I have asked the Department to review all current detainees and apply the same principles used during my review of the 72 people held in long-term immigration detention.

Our new model will not solve all of the complex and protracted issues that delay resolution of immigration status. There will still be people in detention, but we should see fewer people in detention for less time. The section 501 character cancellation caseload represents a particularly difficult ongoing cohort. However our new processes should ensure much better outcomes overall.

The cost of long-term detention and the case against the current system are compelling.

The impacts on both the physical and mental health of the detainees are severe. Recent research undertaken by the Centre for Health Service Development at Wollongong University dramatically highlights the deleterious health impacts of long-term detention.

The cost to the taxpayer of detention is massive and the debt recovery virtually non-existent. In 2006/07 it cost some $220million to operate Australia’s immigration detention system.

Enormous damage has been done to our international reputation. On 14 occasions over the last decade, the United Nations Human Rights Committee made adverse findings against Australia in immigration detention cases, finding that the detention in those cases violated the prohibition on arbitrary detention in article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Immigration department staff have been left bruised by the policies they have been asked to implement and the public has lost confidence in the fairness and integrity of our immigration system.

A great deal more work needs to occur to develop a modern and robust system for management of people in immigration detention.

Immigration detention not only needs to be for the shortest duration possible but also in the least restrictive form appropriate to an individual's circumstances. The current detention options, beyond immigration detention centres, are limited and inadequate and the infrastructure is ageing and inappropriate.

The Government is interested in broadening alternative detention strategies, most particularly community-based options. The work of the federal parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Migration will be critical in examining alternative pathways and taking forward a reform agenda.

The detention infrastructure available to Government is seriously inadequate. The closure of the infamous Baxter and Woomera centres, while welcome, has meant the major capacity to house detainees beyond Villawood is the new centre on Christmas Island. Its ability to accommodate 400 people with a surge capacity of 800 makes the Christmas Island facility essential to responding to any major increase in unauthorised arrivals. Designed in 2001, it represents a maximum security environment.

Labor has moved quickly to convert the old Phosphate Hill facilities on Christmas Island to provide for children and families in a community environment and fencing around these facilities has been pulled down.

Small groups of unauthorised arrivals will be accommodated in the Phosphate Hill facilities with the new centre to be brought on line when numbers demand.

Urgent works are commencing at Villawood out of current budget resources prior to a major redevelopment. The HREOC criticisms of existing facilities at Villawood are totally justified. Priority is being given to the Stage 1 section and the management support unit. These facilities make management of the detainees extremely difficult and contribute to their alienation.

The management of detention centres has been at the centre of the concern about treatment of detainees. Labor determined in opposition to return management of detention services to the public sector.

On coming to office in December last year, the tender process for the management of detention centres was well advanced. The Immigration Department has invested $13 million in the tender process to date and tenderers have also expended considerable costs in preparing their bids.

The post Roche Report (2005) regime has greatly improved oversight of facility management. The new service delivery model for which tenders are sought has a strong focus on human rights, effective programs and activities for people in detention, high delivery service standards and best practice governance arrangements. The Department has also engaged in extensive consultations in developing the new model.

The absence of alternative public service providers would require the extension of the current contract arrangements for a minimum of two years. The cancellation of the tender process would expose the Commonwealth to potential compensation claims from the tenderers.

After weighing up all the issues and costs, and giving detailed and serious consideration to the options available, the Government has determined to finalise the current tender process. The Department has extended the existing contracts while the current tender process is completed.

The broader policy issues of public versus private sector management of detention services will be addressed following an evaluation at the end of the term of the contracts concluded as part of the tender process.

Our focus moving forward will be on the implementation of the new detention values and new models for detention. The work of the Joint Standing Committee will help lead that conversation.

In the broader community, interest in these matters has waned as the number of unauthorised boat arrivals has significantly reduced. It is worth noting that of the current detention population of 357 – the lowest numbers since March 1997 – only six are unauthorised boat arrivals. The vast majority of our detention population are people who overstayed or breached their visa conditions.

We will continue to expect that people who come to our country enter and leave in accordance with their visa conditions; we will continue to pursue the prompt return of those found not to be owed protection. As a result we will continue to have a detention population featuring non citizens who are a risk to the community or who are refusing to comply with immigration processes.

And with massive displacement of persons in the Middle East and Asia, caused by conflict and natural disasters along with well established people smuggling operations, the potential for large numbers of unauthorised arrivals remains real.

Australia’s national interest demands we continue our efforts to prevent people smuggling to our shores. The key determinate of our success in combating people smuggling remains the cooperation and capacity of our northern neighbouring countries.

The Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Bob Debus and I will lead a senior Australian Government delegation to four South East Asian countries next week to build on the work already serving us well.

The policy initiatives I have detailed today are the beginning of a new approach, introducing new and more compassionate values to our detention policies.

Labor believes that this framework will both meet our border security needs and deliver appropriate treatment for those who arrive unauthorised or breach their visa conditions. Those who need protection will get it, those who do not will be expected to promptly leave Australia.

The Rudd Labor Government will reform our immigration detention policies and the treatment of asylum seekers in a way that reflects the compassion and tolerance of the Australian community.

In the future the immigration system will be characterised by strong border security, firm deterrence of unauthorised arrivals, effective and robust immigration processes and respect for the rule of law and the humanity of those seeking migration outcomes.

Thank you.

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Partly correct Geoff Pahoff

It's complicated when you begin to talk of "terrorists" and Israelis as though they are separate entities.

After all, many of Israel’s past PMs, minsters and prominent MPs were all considered "terrorists" by the British including the odious Ariel Sharon who seems to have deliberately set out to inflame passions and who many say was behind the fervour that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing fanatic – Rabin being the one PM who had made real steps for conciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.

Revenge is a trait common to the former desert tribes of that land including Israelis and Palestinians. The true problem is the heavily weighted advantage given to Israel by the USA which pumps billions of dollars yearly into Israel's economy which, in turn, is spent on weapons to keep it the most heavily armed Middle East state.

That, and the equally well funded lobbies in the USA, UK and most certainly in Australia, that hector, berate and accuse any person or politician who dares promote the Palestinian cause, as an anti-Semite. They are mean, nasty, highly vocal and brutal – and effective in silencing those in power.

And importantly – they lie, as they do not speak for the majority of Jews.

Eliot, go away

Hamas did not kill Akram, they actively tried to stop the killing.   Will you for christ's sake leave this alone?   I simply cannot abide what you're saying one more minute.

I knew Akram, he was lovely and he is dead.  Full stop,  

Richard:  Okay, I've toned this down a bit, but Eliot, perhaps you could respect the sensitivities here and tone down a bit too?  Thanks in advance.

Grinding zeroes

Jacob, thanks for the advice. You forgot  "If I don't endorse everything Israel says and does, I must be a carpet-biting anti-Semite worse than Hitler."

Now, was that bottom line Get with the program, or Get re-programmed?

Geoff, I ought to know whether I'm a disinterested observer or not; and whether or not I have an axe to grind. If you disagree with my self-assessment, it must surely be up to you to provide some basis for your disagreement.

Which brings us back to the unanswered question: where, how and when have I ever "bashed Israel"? Just saying over and over that I have won't convince anyone. Multiply zero by a hundred, and you still have zero.

They always say that

Bill, they always say that.

Anything short of unquestioning endorsement for even the filthiest, lowest act committed by the Israelis is an automatic indication of your incorrigible and irredeemable rabid anti semitism.

If someone moved in and bulldozed my house, with or without my family and me still in it, to give to it to some knuckle-walking jerk just off the plane from Russia or America to boost the breeding program, I'd be picking up a weapon, too.

Congratulations WD

A week or so ago on another thread I had this to say, among other things, when WD published a post from this fellow that included a particularly ugly antisemitic lie about the Warsaw Ghetto :

WD. You now have the choice of publishing this post or DNP it. I have indemnified you. You have published a disgusting antisemitic slur of the worst kind. Are you going to let this worst type of racist lie stand while refusing to publish my response?

And this :

You will know that my oldest beef with WD concerns what I see as an anomaly in its publication guidelines. You will publish the most offensive, appalling stuff, rightly in my opinion, because it is not specifically aimed at another poster, but will not publish a response, because it is offensive or whatever. In this case you have and I am pleased to acknowledge that. But you must agree this is an exception. By pointing to this anomaly, and how adversely it operates, I am in no way alleging antisemitism or anything else against anyone.

Have another look at the sneering comment above. If that is not naked, blatant, threatening antisemitism I don't know what is. And yet you have published it. Fine. That's your decision and I have no issue with that. After all the net is full of this poisonous muck.

But you have refused to publish my response pointing out this threatening antisemitic filth for what it is. Why? Because I was being offensive? Give me a break. You don't know the meaning of the word.

It's good to see you back with the old policies. Just don't expect to be taken very seriously is all.

Richard: What you and I call threatening might be two different things, Geoff, but that last post was, by the interpretation of the guidelines of more than one moderator, unfit for publication.

... when have I ever "bashed Israel"?

Leave the carpet alone Bill. It can't be good for your health. Look at Jacob.

Twighlight Zone

Wages may have risen, Eliot Ramsey, under Howard (and when did they ever fall under any government?) but it's value for money that counts. Wages also rose under the Hawke /Keating governments – and every government before them except for the Great Depression.

One thing I do know that counteracts the repeated furphy that the Howard /Costello pushed – high interest rates under Labor – was that the percentage of my income paid on my mortgage was always lower despite the interest rate. And I suspect that was the norm.

The other thing that rose dramatically under Howard / Costello – which reflects similar thinking in the UK & USA of the like-minded – is the extraordinary personal debt that Australians are now saddled with – the third highest in the Western world.

Brendan Nelson preaches irresponsibly about "not talking down the economy" – and Howard's repeated claim that everything was rosy due to him (and not private business or our mineral wealth) convinced a huge swathe of Aussies to plunge themselves into debt as if the good times would roll on forever – it will come back to bite.

Mr al-Masri deserved a fair trial for alleged murders

Marilyn Shepherd: "That IDF officer will not be charged, he will not go to prison. None ever do."

Will the Hamas officers who tortured and murdered those Palestinian prisioners go to prison, Marilyn?

Will Hamas be investigating the death of your Mr al-Masri?

Would he have been tried properly for his alleged involvement in the deaths of two members of a rival clan?

Was he merely executed without trial for his role as an alleged Israeli spy?

What exactly was Mr al-Masri a refugee from? Hamas controlled Palestine?

Eliot...

Do you get tired, Eliot, trying to force us all to think that all Arabs are animals?  That IDF officer will not be charged, he will not go to prison. None ever do. 

I fail to see, though, what your whinging has to do with our Migration Act.

Time travel and economic theory

Michael de Angelos: "Whitlam's legacy lives on and always will - Howard's never will and if you can name a policy that he should be remembered for I'd be very surprised. ( coasting along on a good times economy over which he had no control doesn't count "

Well, there's East Timor.

Oddly, while Howard was not responsible for Australia's good economic performance while he was in office, he is responsible for the poor economic performance of his successors. That's the new slogan.

For example, while:

"THE incomes of the nation's poorest households rose more dramatically than those of the richest Australians in the final years of the Howard government, buoyed by rising wages and bulging welfare payments."

this had nothing to do with Howard, because as Rudd explains, such things are beyond any government's control. Take the credit crunch.

"And if you look at the registration of business and consumer confidence across most Western economies at present, you can see the wash-on effect of these global economic factors"

says Rudd.

See? beyond Rudd's control. Or anyone's.

Well, they are now beyond anyone's control - but not eight months ago...

"Here in Australia, what has compounded that is that as of the point which we assumed office, seven or eight months ago, we had and we were given, the highest inflation numbers this country had seen in 16 years."

That was Howard's fault, you see. Not beyond his control.

"The economy had just been through ten interest rate rises in a row and as a consequence that flows through to real economic activity and that is partly reflected on what we are seeing in the retail numbers in recent times."

There you go. Howard caused today's economic slide from the high levels of prosperity under his government.

This in turn has forced Rudd to do nothing much to abate the current problems which are beyond anyone's control.

Does that make sense now?

No, it doesn't, does it?  But just keep on repeating it anyway.

Game's up, Bill

If you're not an "Israel basher", then you're a "useful idiot" of propagandists and fascists, "riding shotgun" for those that do "bash" Israel or worse.

Or you're hopelessly, if not congenitally, unqualified to discuss such matters.

Whatever your problem might be, the absurdity of your suggestion — that there might be any bad stuff happening around a nation founded in conquest, and mired in militarism and occupation — ought to be self-evident to you, were you not so steeped in just-plain-wrong thinking.

Can't you see?

That — whatever regrettable consequences might have obtained from the founding of the Zionist state, upon which there's no point in dwelling — the alternative would be at least ten times worse?

That the Arabs are congenitally incapable of satisfactorily governing themselves or anyone else?

That the ascendancy of Hamas and other groups is not a consequence of a history of bitter conflict and ethnic cleansing, but rather a natural expression of a certain culture, a certain mindset, against which the warm, cuddly Israelis are God's own bulwark?

Get with the program, Bill.

Orientalism

There's a word for the sentiments expressed in the above post, first coined by the Palestinian writer and academic, Edward Said. Orientalism. Look it up.

I want no part of it. I believe Arabs belong to an old and noble nation and Palestinians are a proud part of that nation. I know Arabs are not children. They do not need to be excused for anything. They need no condescending excuse for the thugs and murder gangs that control populations across the Arab world.  It is an astonishing insult to Arab people everywhere to blame others for the problems in the Arab world. It is anti-Arab bigotry to excuse Arab countries from the basic human rights responsibilities for which every other country is accountable. At least every other Western country. Especially Israel it seems.

Mind you, bigotry can only be expected from someone who refers to Israel as "the  Zionist state".

More Zionist propaganda from Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

"Either they will torture me, or they will kill me," he said.

"They torture us with beatings, with electricity, they pour hot drinks down our throats. No-one can see you - you just disappear."

That assessment is backed up by a recent report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights which claims that the use of torture is now widespread in prison both in Gaza and the West Bank.

There. That's why we support Hamas. You'd be crazy not to.

Here's a contrast...

Here's a contrast...

"Israel has put a police border guard under house arrest after an investigation into the fatal shooting of a 10-year-old Palestinian boy at a protest held in the occupied West Bank, a spokesman said on Sunday (local time)."

I'm sure the guys who shot al-Masri will be put under house arrest any moment.

Partly true, Alan Curran

"A lot like that silly old fogey Whitlam who was also surrounded by ministers who were inept"

The saintly Gough did transform Australia although the times were right for him as they were a'changing. Probably half the current crop of MPs from all parties in parliament today owe their careers to Gough's university education policy.

Inexperienced is the correct word - not inept. But Rudd's ministers are no such thing compared to the lightweights who have occupied the ministerial benches under Howard. His best talent languished on the backbench.

We are witnesseing that today as they still can't decide who should lead them - something they brought upon themselves by handing over complete power to a suburban solicitor from Gladesville.

And the sad fact lost in the Rex Connor / Khemlani affair, that was the beginning of Whitlam's decline, was that it was a genuine attempt to "buy back the farm" - something that all Australians would have benefited from but chose to allow ownership of the joint to remain where it still does - in the hands of former colonial rulers or Dutch & US corporations.

Whitlam's legacy lives on and always will - Howard's never will and if you can name a policy that he should be remembered for I'd be very surprised. (Coasting along on a good times economy over which he had no control doesn't count !)

Let the dog whistles roar

Bill Avent: "Criticising is not bashing"

What about rampant bashing thinly veiled as criticism? By those who support Hamas? Whom once they rejected as unrepresentative extremists?

Or perhaps those in the UN who "criticise" Israel? While openly supporting Sudan's right to commit genocide? Or China's for that matter?

I mean, just how blatant must it become?

We must support the elected government in Gaza.

Marilyn Shepherd: "Hamas had nothing to do with murdering Akram, it was a faction of bloody Fatah."

Thanks Marilyn. That might make sense of this part of the report:

"But sources in Gaza suggested the 31-year-old was killed to avenge his alleged involvement in the deaths of two members of a rival clan 18 months ago, part of a long feud."

Did Mr al-Masri mention anything about that to you?

Still, Jamal Daoud, in the same report says:

"This guy had problems with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He claimed to have been tortured and the previous government knew all that and still forced him out. It is a tragedy because we have lost another young person who could have been a good Australian citizen."

So, was he tortured by Hamas? You know, the Palestinian Authority?

Or is Jamal making that up?

Still, I'm sure Mr al-Masri  "could have been a good Australian citizen", though. Don't you agree?

Bill Avent: "Five more Palestinians killed today in Gaza, Eliot? Or just five more lies told today?"

Oh, of course. We can trust Hamas implicitly. After all, they're the good guys.

They are the elected government in Gaza, after all. Thank God it's not some extremist faction running the place. Like that mob we gave the Sydney Peace Prize, too. That was Fatah, wasn't it?

Anyway, I hope we don't make the mistake of turning away more "good Australian citizens" in such a selfish, counter-productive manner.

Simon says

I don't know who we can trust implicitly, Eliot. Not propagandists on either side of any conflict, I should think.

I don't know who the good extremists and bad extremists are. I just don't think we can take as reliable something coming to us through the Herald Sun, reporting that Israel said something or other. It seems to me that someone quoting such a thing to persuade us to their point of view is doing no more than exposing their own bias.

Alan you are a nasty piece of work

The OZ have scored a scoop with Akram's family.  http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24123222-5013404,00.html 

For a bit more background so Alan doesn't pick up the notion that Al Masri was lying to anyone, he was not.  He was wounded when he arrived here after seeing his mother murdered in Gaza and having no protection from Fatah.

Akram had accepted the decision not to grant him refugee on 5 December 2001 and put it in writing, he had a passport by 10 December 2001.

On 18 February 2002 he was still in Woomera, bags packed and told he would be leaving that day.   Israel though refused to let him enter so he put his fist through a window in frustration and spent the next 2 months in hospital after a botched operation.

In August 2002 he was still in Woomera, 8 months AFTER asking to leave the country so he applied to the courts for release or to force the government to let him go home.

 He was released, then re-arrested illegally, then DIMA tried to send him to Perth but had to release him again before he finally got to go home on 5 September 2002, 9 months after he begged to go home.

Even then his leaving was illegal because Ruddock appealed his case which he won in the Full Federal court and Ruddock appealed to the High Court. If he had still been here he would have been accepted and granted a visa in August 2004 as every other person in his position was.

I hope the government do show his widow and children some mercy.

Nasty?

Sitting in an empty ground-floor room, Mr al-Masri's relatives offered none of the hospitality usually associated with funeral wakes in the Arab world.

"This is because his death is yet to be avenged," said one of the dead man's many uncles. "This is a tribal culture and revenge is a very real option."

Despite being notionally ruled by Hamas, Gaza is still in the clutches of clan life and tribal law.

Retribution is inevitable for the al-Masri family, and many similar feuds continue across generations with seemingly no societal means to break them.

Is there anyone, anyone at all out there, who loves bashing Israel and singing the praises of the terrorists, who is prepared to admit that this mindset, this culture, just perhaps might be a contributing factor to the on-going conflict with Israel? Is there anyone prepared to admit that pointing this out is not racism or bigotry on my part?

Anyone?

Hello?

Good for the goose is bad for the gander, now?

Geoff, hello.

Can you actually point to anyone here who loves bashing Israel and singing the praises of the terrorists?

Criticising is not bashing. Sympathising with is not singing praises of. And is not revenge what motivates Israel's terrorist activities?

Let me see now ... Ah yes ... There's one ...

 ... is not revenge what motivates Israel's terrorist activities?

Can you actually point to anyone here who loves bashing Israel ...?

Well you know something, Bill?  I reckon I would be on pretty safe ground if I started with you. 

OK, Geoff

Now you'll need to point out where, how and when I "bashed Israel".

 It needs to be out here in the real world, though, not just inside your head. I am a mere disinterested observer. No axe to grind either way. You, I suspect, are not. Your observations seem to be coloured by what you want to see, and blinded to what you do not.

I could be so lucky ...

I am not a disinterested observer, Bill. Nor are you. I have several axes to grind. So do you. But I am not blind. Sometimes I wish I were. Then I would not have to to heed the Israel-bashers. Like you. I could pay them no attention.

Peaceful Palestinians

Marilyn Shepherd, read this article in the SMH. Things just get better and better in Gaza.

So what

Marilyn Shepherd, I have no idea why you think I would be interested in your story about Al Masri, it is just another story of Palestinians killing Palestinians a thing that they are so good at.

And finally some commonsense on Palestine

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/straddling-the-divide-20080802-3oyo.html

 

This is a good return to the former policy of dual support without pandering to Israel.

Thanks

Marilyn, thanks for the link, I had not picked up on it.

 A small but welcome step.

Some sense from Kelly

Paul Kelly's piece is fairly spot-on. It's not that asylum seekers are a problem in any sense – we all know they have a legal right as opposed to the furphys perpetuated by racists and politicians.

Again, one should look at the UK situation which has never condoned concentration camps for these people and has vastly higher numbers arriving compared to us.

Despite the tabloid rubbish printed weekly in the UK, asylum seekers overall end up being productive and welcome members of society there, possibly because of their initial more humane treatment. There are the usual moans about "jobs lost" and "social security rorts" – as we hear here, although not a peep is said about the extraordinary cost of jailing innocent people by private corporations who have a profit motive. The Christmas Island centre is one such example. Imagine the money wasted there spent on some good schools for indigenous kids.

Will the Coalition shamefully use this as a political weapon? Probably, but I reckon it's outrun its usefulness and the general public just won't bite. Their own problems are just getting worse, with the shiny Glen Milne today claiming Peter Costello is returning to triumphantly claim the Liberal (poisoned chalice) crown just as that old fogey John Howard pledges his full support behind Brendan Nelson in a speech to the party faithful.

Talk about mixed messages and Back To The Future!

I recall going to a charity event about 5 years ago put on at the NSW parliament to aid asylum seekers. The mixed guest list was most illuminating – priests, rabbis, Anglican ministers, representatives of all political parties (Liberals, Nationals and Labor), actors like Bryan Brown, naturally many from the legal fraternity like Julian Burnside QC and –  surprisingly to me – a swag of businessmen I didn't expect – like John Singleton who has donated terns of thousands of dollars.

It's a real risk for the Coalition to attempt to make mileage out of Rudd's decision – and again we are seeing the true Kevin Rudd, whose mild manner is deceptive. Rudd is going to be a politician of conviction no matter what the pundits say – he's going to transform Australia and do it by stealth.

Sense

Michael de Angelos: "The Christmas Island centre is one such example. Imagine the money wasted there spent on some good schools for indigenous kids."

In a recent documentary we saw where there were schools but the kids did not attend, and the authorities could do nothing about it.

"Rudd is going to be a politician of conviction no matter what the pundits say-he's going to transform Australia and do it by stealth."

A lot like that silly old fogey Whitlam who was also surrounded by ministers who were inept.

Theft and ineptitude

Michael de Angelos: "The Christmas Island centre is one such example. Imagine the money wasted there spent on some good schools for indigenous kids."

Alan Curran: "In a recent documentary we saw where there were schools but the kids did not attend, and the authorities could do nothing about it."

Ah. We saw a documentary. Now we are all authorities on things we never took the trouble to think about. And for all our authority we still can't get the indigenous kids to attend the schools we design for them. After all the wealth we stole from them and then spent on trying to steal their identities from them, they still don't want to learn to think like us. They have failed us yet again!

What do we want? More authority! More inept old fogies! More money to spend on Christmas Island centres! And above all, more documentaries to save us the trouble of ever having to learn to think!

No offences

Thursday, 10 February 2000 SENATE—Legislation L&C 205
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL

Ms Bedlington—That is the average of what we have had over the last few months.

Senator McKIERNAN—What is the processing time for the application – between the lodgment of the PV and the decision?

Ms Bedlington—It is about the same time.

Senator McKIERNAN—So a four-month period?

Ms Bedlington—Yes.

Senator McKIERNAN—How many people in detention would have gone, say, three months without being able to lodge PV applications? Would there be any?

Ms Bedlington—It is possible that they have not lodged an application, but I think we would have to take that on notice, Senator.

Mr Illingworth—It is a moot question whether they intend to do so. It is rather hard to calculate how long somebody may have had it in their mind to lodge something which they have not lodged and may not lodge.

Senator McKIERNAN—I am talking particularly about the boat people. They are the people who arrive on our shores – mainly on Ashmore Islands – and who put their hands up and say, ‘Find me, find me! Take me in.’ They do not use these exact words, but they want to be found. These are not people who are escaping the scrutiny of our Coast Watch people.

Senator Vanstone—Senator, I cannot resist! Perhaps you could tell Mr Beazley that so he does not keep raving on about this silly idea that we need a Coast Guard to locate the people.

You at least realise that they want to be found; it would be helpful if your party realised that as well.

Senator McKIERNAN

 

Senator McKIERNAN—I am now asking you, as deputy secretary of the department, for your definition of criminal activity. Are these people criminals because they come in and do not have the correct documentation? Is that a criminal offence within the Australian law?

Mr Metcalfe—As I said, for an individual to come into Australia there is no offence in the sense that there is the capacity to prosecute, detain or imprison, or fine the person for that act, unless they are involved somehow in organising the unlawful entry to Australia of others. As you know, there are very significant penalties associated with organised illegal entry, but for an individual who arrives without authority it is a breach of the Migration Act in that there is a requirement that they hold a visa.

Eliot, frolick off

Hamas had nothing to do with murdering Akram, it was a faction of bloody Fatah.

Kapeesh?

Hamas is the elected authority in Gaza

Marilyn Shepherd "I can read and hear for myself what is happening in Gaza."

Well, as you yourself have pointed out so often, Hamas is the elected authority in Gaza, and we should all respect that.

Five more Palestinians killed today in Gaza - when their weapons smuggling tunnel collapsed on them.

Source for the geese


Five more Palestinians killed today in Gaza, Eliot? Or just five more lies told today?

Pretty doubtful item of ain't necessarily news, actually. As it says at the end of the article you cite, according to Israel. Even that rag the Herald Sun is not prepared to present it as fact.

In a nut shell....

 Mike Carlton SMH today:

"Of all the wretched excesses of the Howard regime, none was so despicable as its treatment of boat people, asylum seekers, refugees. Its policies were grounded in racism and xenophobia. This was deliberate and cynical. It had two big political plusses for Howard: appeasing and attracting the Pauline Hanson rump, and wedging the Labor Party."

Rather refreshing to have all that grubby stuff behind us.

Yet refused help this year

Are any of them really that different Justin? I see the current Rudd government refused to help this man just this year. Rudd will park them on Christmas Island well out of sight. Convenient I suppose. I doubt many Australians could even tell you where the place is. 

Good news and bad news.

It is certainly very welcome news that the Rudd government has decided to basically scrap the cruel and inhumane mandatory detention. Well, in its original form anyway.

As you say, Jenny, the government could "park them on Christmas Island" for instance. As Paul Kelly says, any future boat arrivals at the islands (and that's where the majority end up) do not come under Australia's refugee jurisdiction, so therefore could be subject to mandatory detention.

Jenny: "Are any of them really that different."

I am a bit cynical like you Jen, I must admit.

But, let's hope THIS government does the right thing this time.

Policy overboard Paul Kelly

KEVIN Rudd's reforms to refugee policy have exceeded election expectations and pledges, with the latest being this week's softening of mandatory detention as devised and implemented by the Keating and Howard governments.

This break from the past is a significant reassessment of Labor values. It constitutes not just a rejection of the Howard cabinet's punitive approach but shows the Rudd cabinet has rejected the Keating government's outlook. There is one burning question: Is this new outlook sustainable? The answer is that nobody knows.

The reform of detention testifies to the transformed political climate since 2001, with few boat arrivals in recent years. But Immigration Minister Chris Evans knows that more boats will come and this is Australia's permanent challenge. In an interview with The Australian, he argued the new detention policy is geared to this reality.

Acting on a submission from Evans a couple of months ago, cabinet struck a new balance for Australia on morality and deterrence. Evans feels confident enough to attack John Howard on the policy that won him the 2001 election, a remarkable change.

"This is part of ending one of the legacies of the Howard era," he said. "This change is important in terms of morality, policy and our international reputation. The lesson of the past 15 to 20 years is that we haven't treated asylum-seekers with the humanity that we should have, and this is about strong border control management while maintaining our humanity."

His reference to the past 15 to 20 years is no mistake. Evans is talking about the Paul Keating and Howard eras. The policy initiated by the Keating government in 1992 that unauthorised arrivals in Australia without a valid visa should be detained until their status has been clarified, has been abolished. It is a core reversal.

This is the third reform in asylum-seeker policy since the 2007 election. The Rudd Government had previously abolished the final remnants of the Pacific solution by closing detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. It abolished temporary protection visas, a Howard government initiative under which boat arrivals found to be refugees were given temporary as opposed to permanent residence.

Now it has kept mandatory detention but transformed its meaning.

It is wrong to think the previous edifice has been swept away. One great pillar from Howard's policy remains: excision of islands from the migration zone, which means that any future boat arrivals at these islands (where most of them land) will fall outside Australia's established refugee jurisdiction and its court system. In addition, as Evans admits, detention is still mandatory.

Under Rudd's values, mandatory detention will become risk-based. It is a new approach that formalises the direction in which policy was evolving. People will be detained not because of their status but only if they pose a risk. The new principle, Evans says, is the presumption "that people will remain in the community while their immigration status is resolved". This breaks the Keating-Howard policy. What will be the immediate effect? The answer is not much. This is because there are few people in detention and no boat arrivals. In short, it is the perfect time to change policy.

Read the entire article here:

 http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24114136-7583,00.html

fed to the lions?

I notice Marilyn Shepherd herself is featured as a source in the SMH story on the hapless al Masri. Impressive.

Eliot, I'd love to give your version above more credence, but how can I when Ruddock himself won't even comment?

No, it is more and more obvious that the previous government  was way too fast and loose with the problem, for reasons that had as little to do with duty of care, as justice.

I know Eliot

I can read and hear for myself what is happening in Gaza. Akram, though, was known to many of us here in Adelaide after we sprang him from Ruddock's vile prison.

Killings and torture in Gaza...

Marilyn, hi!

This might explain what's going on in Gaza right now...

BEN KNIGHT: Amir Sherif has been in hiding for a month and he is frightened of what will happen if Hamas catches him.

AMIR SHERIF (translated): They are torturing prisoners. Now they have begun calling the prisoners' families so they can hear their sons' screams.

There. That clear things up a bit?

Akram Al Masri

Of habeas corpus fame was murdered in Gaza last night. The Australian government were begged to help him earlier this year but refused.

Another victim of the hell we have had inflicted on us.

A book coming in October

http://www.unswpress.com.au/itemimages/hiresimages/0868408530.jpg

Margot has followed some of the more evil stories that became personal.   It will be released in October.

Michael, I would feel vindicated if my beautiful family were here and not rotting somewhere in hell.

The immigration department needs a bloody good purge

Terrific that the new Minister has sufficient character to follow through.  However, the Department itself needs a purge, especially at senior levels, of those whose pathetic toadying to the politicisation of their processes was a profound betrayal of public trust and a total betrayal of any sense of non-aligned service. 

One of the key ideas of Zygmunt Baumann's Modernity and the Holocaust  was the crucial and cold blooded role that rational bureaucracy played in simply administering genocide.  Not at all dissimilar to the way that the Immigration Dept administered Howard's cruel and racist policies.

At last

This should be a proud victory for you, Marilyn Shepherd, along with all those who were in the front line fighting these appalling concentration camps – even though so much heartache and destruction has already happened.

Although Paul Keating was the PM who introduced this system, I have no doubt he would not have allowed it to become what it was at the end. Keating is far too humane a person to have allowed the incarceration of innocent people to become so politicised.

Those who think we will be swamped with whatever should look to the UK, where asylum seekers have always been allowed into the community and can work (or obtain benefits) until their case is assessed.

Contrary to the racist voices of Fleet Street tabloids, endless studies show that these people become an active part of society, usually work harder than others, and contribute much. Exactly the sort of immigrant desired and what Australia was built on.

We can hold our heads up high.

Everyone who voted to bring down the Howard government should be feeling very proud of themselves. It is a very different Australia we have brought into being.

We can again hold our heads up high as Australians. 

Another Rudd promise is kept.

Bleak says it all

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/opinion/cartoons/

After Ruddock's performance on Sunday it is hard not to think that the policy was changed as a result of that program as a full review of the detention system is underway and not due to meet again until 27 August.

Interestingly, the day after Tampa day.

new intelligence

We notice saturation coverage in the media of the ASIO warning to the HoWARd government that Dr. Haneef was "no threat", also.

Burning boats

I wonder if they can be persuaded to stop burning the boats of illegal  Island fishermen  as well. The punishment is way out of proportion to the offence.

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