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When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detention

G'day. Webdiarist extraordinaire Jack Smit's last post on Webdiary was Please swipe your card and press delete. His website, safecom.org, is a resource for activists, journalists and researchers about refugee issues in Australia.


 

Life after Petro Georgiou seems to have changed considerably with detention centres running near-empty for asylum seekers. But, has it improved?

The recent "adjustments" to the fate of long-term detainees and to children and their families in detention centres have been quite stunning. A recent version of the advocates' network records database, issued in the first week of August shows that there are just thirty asylum claimants in the Baxter detention centre and eight in both Maribyrnong and Villawood. Meanwhile, the Christmas Island centre lies deserted since all the Vietnamese passengers of the Hao Kiet who 'almost' reached the shore in the Port Hedland harbour in 2003 have finally left their Orwellian isolation and almost all of them have been declared to be refugees on a second review. That means that in this caseload the Department of Immigration has a record primary decision error rate of just shy of one hundred per cent.

It seems that the massive pressure exerted on the prime minister by the Petro Georgiou group was successful in every way they had placed their demands on the Howard government's policy implementation and practice.

Recently my local member the Hon Judi Moylan told me she was assured that all aspects of the demands for change were on track and she expressed confidence and respect for the efforts of Dr Peter Shergold, the chief advisor in the PM's department who carried responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the changes and to arrange fortnightly progress meetings with representatives of the Georgiou group.

And from senior human rights lawyers comes a hopeful optimism that the changes to the DIMIA management team and its top echelon are a genuine start to 'coming good' after the exposure of the grave debacles around Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez in the Immigration Department in the Palmer report.

The changes in the praxis of mandatory detention did not consider a central aspect now crystallising into focus after the dust of the pressure of the Georgiou group has settled: it did not address the transitional management of many long-term detainees in the community. This creates for what even right-wing Sydney Morning Herald commentator Miranda Devine admitted to be Australia's 'most potent lobby group' new tasks, new priorities, and new demands, and they may well be overlooked by most observers.

Overlooked, because already the army of refugee supporters who have all 'their friends' leaving detention, is going quiet. Those who solely concentrated on being visitors to detention centres may well feel as if they're out-of-work on the weekends, and if they did not also work to establish their roles as fierce advocates for political change, they're simply left with the choice to not support the Howard government when voting at the next federal election. And the general public may now well say that the horrors of long-term detention vanished: the almost daily reports of the agony of detention centres are rapidly thinning from their usual corners on the pages in Australian newspapers.

What is unlikely to be overlooked by refugee welfare and care centres though, is the fact that they're suddenly not just looking after people in the usual way, busy-bodying themselves with arranging resettlement services and inroads to education and integration into Australian society, but that the number of clients on their listings who are in a deep state of shock and who show severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder has increased considerably.

What is emerging in these circumstances is the complete absence of policies of statutory after-care now that long-term inmates of the refugee prisons have gained their freedom and visa. Several cases of refugees who have ignored or refused to connect to refugee support centres are surfacing; this while their life-style shows all the signs of an inability to settle. Some have suddenly, at times without warning or announcement, abandoned the generous and free host-accommodation homes, often in top-ranking mansions with ample room, offered by well-to-do retired people, and they are known to criss-cross the city in which they landed after detention, sleeping here, sleeping there, restless, refusing job offers for reasons trivial to us, and more seriously, refusing any forms of support, guidance by agencies and counselling.

Two liberated Baxter inmates plead with their support worker to be taken back to Baxter - because it's the trusted and familiar routine, and a lot less scary than living in a city. Another refugee tells a selected number of friends that 'all Australians are stupid', and a third one plans to abandon all the services, education and tutoring he has received in a major city and phones a letter-writing family he's met just once, living three-thousand kilometres away, that he wants to come over to live with them.

Australia's harsh measures of keeping people locked up 'forever' have permanently damaged hundreds of people and broken their trust in what Australia has to offer and the confidence in a belief in their own ability to engage with and in society on the deepest level of their being. Demand for life-long psychiatric and psycho-social support services for the long-term detainees was not a part of the Georgiou deals. Just like Australia ignores life-long support for those in the Aboriginal community whose broken personal cultures and lifestyles - damage entirely due to the encroachment of white culture in their regional areas and its violent superimposition on Aboriginal culture - have driven them into alcoholism, Australia ignores that the policies themselves are to blame for the fact that we owe it to the political prisoners of Howard's attempt to win the 2001 election to have a full program of restorative justice, no matter what it costs to the budget.

Compare this with someone leaving jail after a five-year sentence: an all-compassing, close-knit network of support and transition services comes into operation when the jailhouse door closes behind someone completing a prison term, and a casework plan stages all aspects of life for a former prison inmate, with support services and case workers, counsellors and career guides in place, so the change of failure after the term of incarceration is all but eliminated. In this it is acknowledged that institutionalisation is one of life's most damaging forms of psychological abuse, and that incarceration behind bars has a seriously damaging effect on one's social persona - and that is for those who according to western society's 'code', deserve it because of what they have done. Yet, we lock up refugees for five or six years, all the while denying they're refugees, until they are out, suddenly declared refugees (as is the case with most of the about 120 Baxter inmates released since January this year) or set free without any dignity or celebrations, yet we do not mandatorily offer them a formalised network of support services helping them along.

And, there's another thing, easily overlooked. Think of the little girl who lived in Woomera, who asked whether flowers grew at all in Australia. Those recently released from Baxter may have been "amongst us" for five, six or seven years, but they have never been in Australia when it comes to it - and suddenly we throw them out on the street. It seems that only Australia's border protection policies were drawn up on a no-matter-what-it-costs designers' drawing table, while John Howard remains mean and tricky when it comes to assisting those he tortured to recover. The costs of permanent detention are still borne by its victims - they are just less visible to the media now that they're likely to loose a central interest in the fate of those who bore the brunt of our Orwellian policies - reducing the issue to the odd refugee case study.

Meanwhile, on July 21 Australia's Governor-General signed off on changes to the excision regulations and two detention centres are being built in the Northern Territory at Gove, and on Horn Island - outside the migration zone - and it shows that Howard has no intention of changing any of his policies. As I write this, a motion by Democrats' Senator Andrew Bartlett to disallow the excision of thousands of islands from Australia's migration zone has just been defeated along party lines. Perhaps that's a good thing. If you're close to retiring you can now have your sea change and move to Groote Island, Melville Island or Magnetic Island and feel pretty safe. At least, you'll never meet an Immigration officer or a staffer from the Department of Immigration, who may lock you up or deport you to an unknown destination because you have an Un-Australian accent.

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re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

The really disappointing thing is that when Howard declared a few weeks ago that the border protection policies were the reason for the Government's electoral success - he was right. This is the part that makes me really ashamed.

But it gets worse, we relected this crowd last year. It's our fault people, us. The Australian voters. Howard is a purely political animal and he will not change his policies until enough of us change our minds about refugees.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

I'm glad you've brought the issue into focus Jack. There is a risk that once the razorwire days are behind us, we could still sadly neglect people who desperately need a hand from us to get back up on their feet and, feeling the dignity they deserve to feel, to live amongst us in peace. You've provided a timely reminder that if people want to talk about values, they should be prepared to act and show what kind of community we can be - a welcoming and compassionate one.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Thanks Jack, there are other major problems emerging here as well. Part of this is understandable but other parts are not.

For example, the problem part is that many of the people who visited and helped people survive detention have a sort of "ownership" of the refugees once they are released. This has been a major problem for years.

I have had adults trying to take total control of refugee lives just because they helped them and then become enraged when suitable standards of subservience do not happen. When refugees have moved interstate varying degrees of anger and talk of "lack of gratitude" have been expressed. It makes life difficult for those refugees who just want silence, to get on with their lives and not be beholden. After all they didn't have a choice about being locked up or visited did they?

In many cases, and I have been saying this for years, the visits and cups of tea have prevented the release of some in long term detention because they appear to maintain their sanity. Which of course they don't but with DIMIA and ACM (GSL) appearance was all.

Then the refugees feel guilty for not being suitably grateful and it all ends up in tears. What was forgotten is that while many of the friendships will endure most won't.

After all, how many of us want to be remembered only as "that person I visit in Baxter or Woomera or Port Hedland". All the refugees I know have remained friends because I never saw them as "detainees" or "former detainees", they are just people.

Another problem ongoing is the rejection of Afghans because of false documents coming around and because some RRT members claim Afghanistan is safe. The Bakhtiyaris are reasonably safe I believe because they have money going to help them stay that way.

Many Iraqis who have been here for up to 6 years still don't have permanent and in their cases the 7 day rule will apply.

It didn't with the Afghans because demonstrably there was nowhere else to stay, but with the Iraqis it is deemed that there were other places to stay.

Some with permanent are being driven to despair still because it then takes months and months to get their families here while with others it takes weeks.

How many in Australia know that 900 family members of Afghan refugees were accepted here last year alone?

We are seeing major health problems now coming on, major depressive illnesses, the need to keep moving day in and day out, the need to work 18/7 to maintain dignity.

Major, major problems are arising.

And then we have the cases like Abdul Turky. Abdul had 7 kids and a wife in the community. Problem for Abdul is that he was with the Afghan secret police and is considered, even by the High Court, to be a serious risk to security.

Maybe he once was but I reckon he has never committed a crime in Australia after 4 years in detention - what are they going to do with him while his poor wife and kids struggle on?

Of course the husband of the 14 year old recently sold by Adbul is now a permanent resident so that will make their lives easier - but how on earth does a 22 year old boy, locked up himself virtually since early 2001 cope with someone else's wife and 7 kids?

And then there are the problems like visas being cancelled on character grounds where people have no grounds to appeal or be released unless the minister says so.

Most of them are refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia who were brought here and dumped with little support, nothing like history repeating.

And we have seen Shayan lately, how many of the other 4,000 kids are in that state?

I know the Bakhtiyari kids cannot hold down jobs because the regimentation drives them into despair, it is like Woomera.

How does Naomi Leong get by after her whole life in jail for nothing or Bonni Lu or any of the others?

Problems a plenty I reckon.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Marilyn Shepherd, your first couple of paragraphs read fairly reasonable to me. I guess there is always a first time for everything. Why oh why did you have to go spoil it?

"Of course the husband of the 14 year old recently sold by Adbul is now a permanent resident so that will make their lives easier".

This may not have been written correctly, I hope that is the case. If not this man you are advocating for should be kicked straight out of the country before passing go. His eviction should take place after serving a lengthy gaol sentence. A clearer case of slave trading in todays age I cannot think of for crying out loud!

I know the Bakhtiyari kids cannot hold down jobs because the regimentation drives them into despair, it is like Woomera.

Yeah Yeah Yeah, Afganistan paying the dole these days? They should tell their story to a Australian solicitor. Since the changes to public liability there is plenty of law firms looking for the work.

Word of advice though, whilst they wait they should learn a trade or something similar. After the friendly legal team gets their hooks into any lottery win through fees and the like, a life of kicking ones heels up may still be a little way off.

Perhaps learning the "regimentation" of 9 to 5 would not be the worst advice they will ever hear?

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Dear All,

Would you please sign this petition?

No work, no welfare, no Medicare ... community-based asylum seekers can't live on oxygen alone.

It's time for the Howard Government to give all community-based asylum seekers work rights and health benefits.

Click here to sign Anna Burke MP's petition.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

I've been recently reading accounts of people locked up by the Nazis before and during WW2 - not Jewish folk but others we often don't hear about. Gays, Gypsies, trade unionists, German political prisoners and such and the inhumane treatment they all suffered and for the few who survived, how difficult it was to even talk about their time in concentration camps for often decades later. Many were only able to record acounts of their mistreatment during the final few years of their lives, so that a historical record would be left.

In the vast majority, it was the fact that they just didn't know how long they were there for that produced horrific memories for them. Some, who had previously served prison sentences described this incarceration without end as the ultimate cruelty depriving them of all hope so that usually only the very toughest survived. When released almost all others apart from Jewish refugees received no government support and often outright hostility from their US and UK rescuers.

I am so ashamed of Australia that in a few short years we have adopted a type of endless incarceration for refugees and accepted that one accused, in Guantanamo Bay, should be simply locked up with no end in sight.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay White, I hope for your sake you are never imprisoned without cause for four years but if you are I can guarantee those lawyers you are taking cheap shots at would be the first to help you be released.

I sincerely hope the Iraqi and Afghan people begin to take the same view of Australians being illegally on their territory with tanks, bombs and guns and either shoot them or expel them into the sea.

What's that Jay, don't like that? Well that is what you advocate.

As for Turkey it is true.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Marilyn Shepherd: "I sincerely hope the Iraqi and Afghan people begin to take the same view of Australians being illegally on their territory with tanks, bombs and guns and either shoot them or expel them into the sea".

"What's that Jay, don't like that? Well that is what you advocate".

I advocate Australians helping the people of Afghanistan. You know, similar to the things are brave soldiers are already doing there.

I thought the people of Afghanistan hated the Taliban and that was the reason for fleeing the nation? Why would they wish to expel people who are protecting and helping them against the Taliban?

That is unless of course they do not take the same positions as Taliban terrorists.

"As for Turkey it is true".

Are you advocating that this man should be allowed to stay in the Australian community? The selling of a 14 year old girl is not only morally reprehensible it is a serious criminal offence.

If this is true I would hope that many of 'lawyers' you so much seem to admire show their belief in the legal system and push for charges to be laid against this man forthwith.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Marilyn Shepherd: "Of course the husband of the 14 year old recently sold by Adbul is now a permanent resident so that will make their lives easier".

Marilyn Shepherd: "You live in La La land mate".

Is that right? Perhaps you would be so kind than as to answer this question? Are you advocating that this man (Turkey) should be allowed to stay in the Australian community?

In the La La La land I live in I call this pimping and slavery of a minor. I also believe it should result in very serious gaol time for any offenders involved with it.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay we have never helped the Afghan people in Afghanistan, we stayed long enough to blow them up and then left.

We spent over $1.5 billion locking up Afghans who escaped the Taliban and spent a lousy $1 per person in aid for the last four years.

We have had one mine clearer and that is it.

You must surely know the Taliban never went anywhere, they are still murdering and killing including over 60 US soldiers this year.

You live in La La land mate.

As for Iraq, that is a catastrophe of mammoth proportions and to pretend otherwise is delusion on a grand scale.

Tell you what Jay, why don't you have a real look at yourself, stop ranting about every thing I say as if I am speaking in tongues or committing high treason and read up on Woomera and such places where we locked up thousands of Afghans you now claim we are helping.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Bob Wall "Did you deliberately misrepresent my previous comments"?

Nope- you called me undemocratic on the previous Webdiary. It appears to be based around my belief George W Bush has been elected President of the USA twice. I guess we can continue the discussion when Jeb Bush is the next President.

At the moment I would like this question answered by Marilyn "Are you advocating that this man (Turkey) should be allowed to stay in the Australian community?

You seem to enjoy wading into a debate perhaps you would like to give an answer? Any other refugee advocate is also welcome to give it a shot.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay White, "Perhaps you would be so kind than as to answer this question?"

Interesting that you want an answer. Perhaps it is an opportune time to pose a question to you.

You might recall that on the current David Hicks ... thread you introduced an irrelevancy in a post to me:

"By the way do you still think I am undemocratic because I think George Bush is President?"

My response was, in part:

'This is a somewhat simplistic appreciation of the points I have previously made. The question is whether you are being deliberately simplistic to misrepresent my previous points or can't help yourself.'

No further response from you although you will note the words 'the question is ...'. Perhaps you thought it was a rhetorical question. I will pose the question more formally:

Did you deliberately misrepresent my previous comments?

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

For god's sake Jay, the man is in bloody Baxter, what the hell do you want done to him. The child problem has of course been dealt with by the appropriate authorities for her own protection.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Bob Wall, okay you have had your say on me so how about answering the question Marilyn refuses to:

"Are you advocating that this man (Turkey) should be allowed to stay in the Australian community?"

A true self-titled democrat such as yourself should understand that it is not very democratic to evade direct questions. Remember it is 'you' standing on the soapbox proclaiming who is and is not anti-democratic and evasive with questions?

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay White, I post below a reminder of past threads. You willl note that the first point is about a misrepresentation of something I wrote.

"Jay White: "Perhaps you can enlighten me on what you are referring to happening last Sunday? I seem to remember you saying Vietnam offers a better life for poor people than the USA."

You remember what was not said but don't remember what was said. You ask for enlightenment, not before time.

My reference re Vietnam was about a proposed election that was not held in 1956. Nothing about comparing the relative well-being of a particular section of the Vietnamese. Your response to my questions on this matter was evasive.

This is my summation of our discussion as posted last Sunday:

"Now let me summarise what you have revealed in our debates across two threads:

You do not believe people have the universal right to choose the system of governance they prefer but rather only one you approve of.

You are not interested in the possible corruption of the electoral system or judicial system in the state that says it is spreading democracy.

You are not interested in seeking the truth behind events. Yet you feel free to promulgate unsubstantiated, uninformed opinion.

You believe your particular ideology should take precedence over all the above concerns.

You have in other posts supported military action to impose your favoured ideology.

One more question Jay, what would you call the approach summarised above?"

Remember now?

Posted by: Bob Wall at July 24, 2005 01:53 PM"

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay White: "Bob Wall, okay you have had your say on me so how about answering the question Marilyn refuses to:"

Perhaps the first thing to do is to acknowledge your misrepresentaions and apologise instead of blithely ignoring the issue.

Then I might remind you of all the questions you have lewft unanswered. Off the top of my head I recall reminding you of some awaiting your attention on the Two Brothers thread which you never got around to answering. I'm sure I could find heaps more in the archives.

So, what were you saying about a true democrat not answering questions?

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Ta Marilyn. The National Capital Authority is a Federal, rather than ACT, Government agency established in 1989 - go figure, the same year the ACT became self-governing.

Andrew Smith, mentioned in the news item cited, heads the Projects Unit, "a multidisciplinary team comprising of Architects, Landscape Architects, Graphic Designs, draftspeople and a cartographer". (Can't find any info regarding composition of an approval committee.) Current projects include:

* Reconstruction of the Old Parliament House Gardens
* Reconciliation Place - Stage 2 works
* National Emergency Services Memorial
* Centenary of Women's Suffrage commemorative fountain
* Design and production of ‘The Griffin Legacy'
* National Police Memorial

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jacob, Howard is on the approval committee apparently, which is why there will be no reminder of SIEVX if he can help it.

And Andrew Metcalfe is calling for $336 million to be spent on the man on the stairs on Christmas Island.

What a waste with 35,000 children dying every day.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

See ABC News Online, Development body rejects SIEV-X monument.

The body which controls development in Canberra has rejected a proposal to build a memorial for the asylum seekers who drowned when their boat, the SIEV-X, sank four years ago.

The National Capital Authority (NCA) says the proposal to establish a memorial on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin fails to meet its guidelines.

A group of artists and writers is pushing for a site to remember more than 350 asylum seekers who drowned when their Indonesian fishing vessel sank.

The NCA's Andrew Smith says proposals will not be considered until 10 years after the original event, and other issues will also need to be considered.

"Whether it sort of closely reflects the values and ideas of the Australian community," he said.

"I guess one other might be whether the work contributes to the education of all Australians and whether it talks about our unique cultural heritage, things that are sort of about nation building and help us identify ourselves as a nation."

Fair enough! Commemoration of the SIEV-X tragedy would clearly propagate the wrong kind of "education" regarding "our unique cultural heritage". Suppressing awareness of Australia's worst maritime disaster, not to mention ignoring the attendant questions of what the Government knew, etc., should accurately reflect "the values and ideas of the Australian community". Hats off to the NCA.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Oh dear Jay, you just don't understand, do you?

My analysis, as I explained at the time, was based on your answers or failure to answer questions and propostions put to you at the time. This can be confirmed by reviewing the posts in the archives.

This is totally different to your imputing unrelated views to me. The example at the time was your statement:

"I seem to remember you saying Vietnam offers a better life for poor people than the USA."

I said no such thing as I wexplained previously.

Your latest is to write:

"By the way do you still think I am undemocratic because I think George Bush is President?"

Which is at best a simplistic account caused by poor cognitve powers or at worst a case of deliberate misrepresentation.

I have given you some of the reasons for my assessment of your stance, the archives hold more. Certainly not the simplistic view you posted.

Now, back to the apology.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Bob Wall, misrepresent you! Lets go through the facts.

This is my summation of our discussion as posted last Sunday:

"Now let me summarise what you have revealed in our debates across two threads:

You do not believe people have the universal right to choose the system of governance they prefer but rather only one you approve of.

You are not interested in the possible corruption of the electoral system or judicial system in the state that says it is spreading democracy.

You are not interested in seeking the truth behind events. Yet you feel free to promulgate unsubstantiated, uninformed opinion.

You believe your particular ideology should take precedence over all the above concerns.

You have in other posts supported military action to impose your favoured ideology.

I never made any of those statements. You made those statements up based upon what you think. All except one which is half right.

"You have in other posts supported military action to impose your favoured ideology".

I have also stated support for the USSR during WWII. Communism is not my favoured ideology and this was imposed on a large slab of Eastern Europe.

One more question Jay, what would you call the approach summarised above?"

I have never made any statements such as the ones shown in your so called summary points. Your summary points are based on your views of me. You provide no evidence or even context in which your summary points are based on.

Simply reading your points without any context I would call that person undemocratic. That of course is exactly that which you latter went on to call me.

The only misrepresentation of you is being undertaken by yourself.

Now what do think about the slavery of a fourteen year old girl?

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay White, my posts to you on this thread were by way of reminding you of your inconsistency, ie, in demanding answers of people when you yourself have a somewhat patchy record in that regard.

I also raised the issue of you misrepresenting me. This is now the priority issue for you to address. If you cannot provide evidence to refute my claim then you should apologise and not raise irrelevancies to try to divert attention from your indiscretions.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Bob Wall, Gee I thought you would be one of the first out of the blocks raging against the selling of a fourteen year girl? Being such a democratic type and all? I know how much you depise the so called Government lies and evil policy. Than again to my knowledge slave trading was not a part of that.

Anyhow Bob if you would like me to answer any questions fire away I shall do my best. Best make it snappy as of Thursday I shall be away for a couple of days. I would not like you to think I am evading your hard hitting questions.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Downer has become more and more a simpering, giggling Billy Bunter and is an embarrassment to us all. From Lateline.

TONY JONES: Let's move on to another matter if I can another matter if I can. You assured us in May that your department knew nothing about Vivian Solon's wrongful deportation until April of this year. Now, that wasn't true, was it?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, because subsequent to that and I've made that clear in the Parliament, subsequent to that - it was true in so as far as I knew it to be true at the time. But subsequent to that, you're right we found out that there had been an e-mail. I think look I don't have the details with me but I think sent from the Queensland Police to the embassy in Manila or something.

TONY JONES: Well, I do. I can tell you, the details are pretty clear. It's more it's clearer than that, let's put it this way. Derek Brill from the consular section of your department in Canberra sent an e-mail to Richard Jamison a senior officer at the Australian Embassy in Manila way back in September 2003 explaining that an Australian citizen named as Vivian Alvarez Solon giving her other names and date of birth and I'll quote here "was removed as opposed to deported from Australia by DIMIR officials who did not realise at the time she was actually an Australian citizen." Now, why did that not set off alarm bells through your entire department?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well I guess the simple point here, let me make this point very clear - There is no policy in my department to hide Australians who are mistakenly deported, obviously. There was no instruction either from me or senior officers in the department in relation to this matter about which we knew nothing. What has happened here is a particular officer in the department, who I'm not familiar with, but a particular officer in the department has had some exchange of correspondence. We weren't aware of that at the senior levels of the department. Let me just make this point. We weren't even aware of that at the senior levels of the department back in April - May was it? - when I did the interview with you. But these things have been turned up through the department's search process and we've handed them over to the Palmer –

TONY JONES: This is the astonishing thing, the astonishing thing, is that the very senior representative in the Manila embassy, in fact, the consul –

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Very senior he's become now? (Laughs)

TONY JONES: Mr Jamieson is the senior administrative officer and the consul- or was - in the Australian embassy in Manila. He was given information that an Australian woman had been wrongfully deported to the country for which he was responsible. Did he tell the ambassador?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: To the best of my knowledge, the answer to that is no. But let me just say this: I don't work at the embassy in Manila, nor does the secretary of the department or senior officers of the department. Remember this. We are dealing with tens of thousands of cases every year. In a circumstance like this where some controversy has erupted and an inquiry has been established. We've said we will give all the information we have to what was the Palmer Inquiry, or the Comrie Inquiry as it is now, given them the information, allow them to go through all of the information. And I mean, I want to hear what conclusions they draw and if there's any policy change or administrative change we need to make in relation to that, we'll do it. Don't get me wrong, nobody in my department, to the best of my knowledge, has ever expressed a view that they're in favour of Australian citizens being deported. Of course they're not. And they are enormously professional department...

TONY JONES: You just made the point you deal with tens of thousands of cases. I would say that you don't deal with more than one case in your entire time as minister of an Australian wrongfully deported. That must be the only case. There can't be many cases like that?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Indeed, I haven't dealt with it myself. I wasn't aware of it at all.

TONY JONES: Or any of your staff?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: None of them were aware of it until during the course of this year.

TONY JONES: Some of them were aware of it.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: My staff, you mean?

TONY JONES: Not your immediate staff, but some DFAT officials at quite senior levels.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Not the senior officers of the department, but obviously a departmental officer was involved, we know that. There is an inquiry looking into this. Can I say to you, the inquiry will produce its report. Don't believe for a minute that in a department, which I think is one of the most professional departments in Australia - it is an extraordinarily professional department - that they have some sort of hidden policy to cover-up Australians who are deported by mistake. Of course they don't. And the department does not hold that view, I can absolutely assure you.

TONY JONES: Mr Downer, let's assume they don't.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Of course they don't.

TONY JONES: Then the issue is one of confidence, because having that information cross your desk, that an Australian citizen had been wrongfully deported and doing nothing about it, including, for example, setting up a search in the Philippines to find that person two years before she was actually found, you'd have to say something went seriously wrong, wouldn't you?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, we'll have to wait and see what the Comrie report says. It might or might not be right. Remember, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade isn't the department that has primary carriage of these issue, obviously the Department of Immigration does. There, I suppose attention isn't as great to these details as the Immigration Department's would be. But look, I don't know all the details of the circumstances surrounding these e-mails, and the fact is that the Comrie report is looking into all of this. We'll all get a report. We'll be able to have a look at it and see whether somebody has done something wrong, or whether it's an oversight, or why people didn't know. We'll have a look at that. But rest assured, as the minister, I'm 100% in favour of dealing with any case like this as quickly and effectively as possible. I don't want to see Australians deported, obviously.

TONY JONES: If it was dealt with quickly, it would have been dealt with in 2003 when people in your department and people in the embassy in Manila actually knew about it.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Can I just say to you?

TONY JONES: Can I finish the question? If it turns out, for example, as one might expect, that that information as one would expect went like wildfire through the embassy in Manila, including to the ambassador, what would be the implications of that?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I'm absolutely certain that did not happen. I think the Comrie report will demonstrate that. Can I just say this to you, though: I'm not saying this to you personally, but to people who comment on this - I do resent the way people they reduce the reputation of people in my department. They're incredibly good people. They work hard, they work very long hours, and they do their best. If a mistake has been made, so be it. People should not suggest that any mistake has been made here is a result of you know, a policy position where they'd want to wash their hands of somebody in this situation or they're trying to cover something up. That is not true. That is very definitely not true. They are good people and it's a great department and I'm proud to be it's minister.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay White, apology accepted on that point.

Now before I allow you to divert the issue, you will recall that the other misrepresentation I accused you of was this:
"By the way do you still think I am undemocratic because I think George Bush is President?"

I have reminded you of a number of points as why I came to the conclusion I did. You have repeated these, and more, in your response on the other thread. There are yet more that I have mentioned elsewhere such as you referring to elections every three years etc.

Obviously this multitude of reasons completely refutes your above simplification and is evidence of you misrepresenting me. That is the point in question and your later attempt to divert attention is irrelevant to the issue.

As you have confirmed my allegation by your own posts, apology please.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Vanstone announces 'user-friendly' changes to detention.
I am finding it difficult to believe that Minister Vanstone is serious about giving detainees hockey sticks to play on a field to be constructed inside Baxter to remedy mental health issues of detainees.

The 'Palmer Plus' change in mental health service delivery style from the 'bex (or something much stronger) and a good lie down' approach to the 'run off your restlessness' regime is laughable.

GSL wouldn't give the Viet's chopsticks to eat their meals with on Christmas Island....so I can't envisage GSL giving the guys left at Baxter Hockey sticks and shin pads.

Perhaps the Minister should canvass GSL about their thoughts on how they plan to umpire these games played in detention?

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Tracking today's media output on detention in Australia shows that it only took about three hours from the time the stories on the number of people self-harming in detention centres was countered with Ministerial promises to spend yet more millions on detention facility infrastructure... that simply will not address the real problems identified by the Palmer Report.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

And this is as close to an admission of guilt we're ever going to see from Senator Amanda Vanstone.

"THE Federal Government will spend several million dollars on improving the Baxter detention centre in South Australia, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said today."

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Very disturbing news today in The Age that hundreds of detainees felt so desperate that they attempted self-harm:

"ALMOST 900 asylum seekers have tried to deliberately harm themselves while in Australian immigration detention centres over the past three years, according to documents obtained under freedom of information."

"About one in 20 detainees incarcerated during this period had tried to harm themselves in acts including attempted suicide, self-mutilation and voluntary starvation, the documents, provided by the Immigration Department, reveal."

"The statistics show that 474 detainees were involved in self-harm attempts at the Baxter detention centre in South Australia, 149 at Villawood in Sydney and 24 at Maribyrnong in Melbourne.

"Between June 2003 and June 2004 alone, 305 detainees tried to harm themselves at Baxter."

I do not feel particularly proud to be an Australian that has in years past voted for a Howard government. A government that must have known of similar figures for the period prior to 2001 and decided to hide them away. A government with its own culture of denial problems.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Bob Wall I have already it explained this to you on a number of occasions. I will not be making another apology. My reasons are simple.

Your summary points which were made during a debate on whether or not George Bush is the legitimate President were based on nothing more than your interpretations of what was said and not said. These points were used to in a rather devious way and make clear imputations that I am an undemocratic person. The debate was centered around George Bush and I must assume it is because of my believe in his election the imputations were made.

I asked you to provide evidence for each point you have made against me, this you failed to do. Rather you again only gave a reason for your interpretation. This simply is not good enough and would not stand up in any court anywhere.

I have and I assume you have read responded to every summary point you made. For me this is now the end of the matter.

By the way "elections every three years" is a form of democracy. I suggest you read a dictionary definition of democracy. My belief in elections only validates further that I am a democratic person.

For the sake of the editor and everybody else I will not be responding any further on this matter. I suggest if you have a problem with that you take it up with said editor. They make the rules on these matters on this forum not you or I.

ed Kerri. Hi Jay and Bob too if you are reading. The contributions you both make to Webdiary are valued and no one 'rules' on who responds to which poster on this forum but the posters themselves. The choice not to respond is always yours.

I appreciated the respect you both showed the other day when I requested some hours of cease and desist. I suggest some respectful ignoring of each other for awhile may provide yourselves with the same respite. Cheers.

re: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detentio

Jay White, on Monday on the New Orleans thread in response to your request for evidence I posted "return to the other thread and ask me" in an attempt to move our debate to a more appropriate thread.

You continued posting on oblivious to my suggestion.

On Tuesday morning I linked you to this thread.

Again you continued posting on the New Orleans thread. Even to the extent of attacking me for not responding.

"I seems you are quiet the expert in avoiding direct questions and making interpretations without supplied evidence. Must be another leftie with mind reading powers eh?"

As you will see from the prior post below I answered some hours before that attack. Mind reading aside, the most generous interpretation I can give to your failure to heed my attempts to move our debate is that you have problems with reading and comprehension.

You owe me yet another apology.

Have you noticed that the more you flail around trying to avoid your responsibilities, the deeper the hole you dig for yourself?

Oh, btw, in the defence you posted on the other thread, you should correct the errors and omissions.

Kerri Thanks for your forbearance. I am happy for this to be my last comment on this matter.

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