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Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

G'day. Webdiarist Jack H Smit writes:

It doesn't happen every day that a journo phones me to let off steam, but yesterday, following a press conference by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone on the Baxter Detention Centre, it did. The journo just needed to let off the frustration of being subjected to an inordinate amount of government spin emanating from the mouth of the Immigration Minister. I suggested that my lines for a press release would include the notion of putting a silver seed feeder in a canary cage in the hope that the caged bird would be happier and sing louder.

So I went hunting for a transcript, and that quest shows that Webdiarists would do well keeping and building a database of reporters and journalists. It took about five phone calls before another good reporter with one of Australia's better dailies sent the transcript. Here it is, but not without my reaction in the form of my press release from yesterday. I'll also send to Webdiary as a comment the notes made during the press conference by another reporter.

Vanstone and other Ministers spend huge amounts of public money gettting their press conferences transcribed. Vanstone uses Media Monitors - perhaps that company has the whole-of-govenrment contract. Now we the people are paying for these transcripts, so why don't the ministers who get them put them up on their websites so we can have a look? Amanda's ministerial website provides her media releases and her very own 'photo gallery'. Where are the transcripts we paid for, Amanda? Afraid they'll show up your disgraceful record of evasion, lies and blame-shifting? Let's have a bit of "user pays" here, eh, not user gets us to pay and doesn't let us see what we've paid for! Anyone got detail on the cost to the people of Australia of transcription services for ministers? Anyone know what Media Monitors charges?


Event: Press Conference
Date: 19/09/2005
Time: 11:00 AM
Item: Senator Amanda Vanstone discusses renovations at the Baxter Detention Centre and various other immigration issues.

Amanda Vanstone: We've come here today because, as you know, my room's a bit squashed for the number of cameras and we wanted to give you the opportunity to be able to see what we've got behind. 

We're making clear today, as we have on other occasions, that the Government's response to the Palmer Report will properly be described as Palmer-Plus.  Mr Palmer wanted, quite rightly, improvement to the amenity at Baxter and we're doing much more than that. 

By Christmas we'll have a new but temporary Visitor Centre and a new entrance, much less forbidding, much less foreboding, and a much friendlier, much user-friendly appearance to the entrance to Baxter. 

In addition we will, over the course of the next year, build a completely new Visitor Centre inside, which will have far more amenity than is available at the moment: plenty of seating space, covered seating space, air-conditioned areas, plenty of opportunity for internal bathrooms, proper screening, a much, much improved facility. 

So the first thing we're announcing as a part of Palmer-Plus is a new short-term entry, which is much more friendly, much less forbidding for visitors, and a long-term fix of that issue.

We're also putting in an oval, which will be suitable for hockey or football, which will be floodlit and available for night, and courts for basketball and for volleyball.  In addition to that, we are putting in a new cafeteria that will seat up to about 200.  That's being relocated from the now mothballed Woomera site, which will add to the enhancements to food that have already been made.

So a short form is: much more friendly Visitor Centre, much nicer Visitor Centre, much better internal facilities for detainees to exercise, and improvement to the catering facilities. 

In addition to that we will also be opening up, as Mr Palmer suggested, some of Baxter to give external views, although there's a slightly lesser priority to that in the sense that that was primarily as a consequence of women and children.  But we will be doing that.

Question: Minister, there are many who'd say why are you going to so much trouble for people who come to this country uninvited?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, a lot of the people in Baxter, of course, are people who did come to the country invited; they simply overstayed and loved what they saw and hadn't gone home. 

Look, we had an assessment done by Mr Palmer of the changes we needed to make, and the Government's made the decision that we will make those changes, and since we're doing it we may as well do it properly and that's why we're doing Palmer-Plus.

Question: Do you think this will end the protests and self-harm at Baxter?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, look, in relation to the self-harm it's very important to keep that in context - that's self-harm either actual or threatened.  And the number of incidents reported this morning could have had a bit more detail: for example, it could have been made clear that they're incidents - and in many cases they'll be the same person - repeat incidents of threats that may never be carried out.

That also includes very, very minor self-harm.  And against a detainee population over that period of some 20,000, I think, puts it in a bit more perspective.

I think people who want to stay in Australia will always resort-- some will always try and resort to a very unattractive type of protest in order to draw attention to themselves and hopefully to pressure a government, through the media, to give them the outcome they want.  But Australia has a very good record of not giving into such protests.

Question: Those changes to the services: it's often been described as too prison-like; are there anticipated changes?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, Mr Palmer made some very prescient comments in relation to Baxter: he pointed out that people referring to it as prison-like perhaps don't understand that there aren't bars, there are just windows and doors, and perhaps they haven't been inside Baxter.  But in any event he recommended the amenity of the whole place be improved and we're certainly doing that.

Question: Is the razor wire being taken down, as at Villawood, Minister?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I thank you very much for that question, because there is no razor wire at Baxter.

Question: So will it still be an imposing fence line?  I see the fence is being changed.

Amanda Vanstone: Well, there is going to be-- obviously going to be a perimeter fence.  But the impression that people will be given when they arrive because of the Visitor Centre, as opposed to the pretty heavy gating that's there are the moment, will be a much more user-friendly approach.

Question: Senator, is this an admission the actual-- when Baxter was developed that it was substandard?

Amanda Vanstone: No, I don't think so.  I've, obviously, been to Baxter and I've been to other places and I think the conditions there compared to other places that I've seen in Australia and around the world, frankly, are pretty good.  But nobody likes to be in detention and especially if what they're wanting is to be given a visa to stay in Australia.

Question: What sort of cost are we talking about here Minister, all up?

Amanda Vanstone: Look, this will run into millions of dollars, just what you're looking at here today.

Question: Minister, on another topic: have you raced out and bought The Latham Diaries yet?

Amanda Vanstone: No.  Are they available today?

Question: I believe so.  Do you think you will be buying a copy?  It'd be an interesting reading, wouldn't it?

Amanda Vanstone: Look, I don't think I will because, I think, what I've already seen through the media tells Australia everything they need to know, and that is the current Labor Party wanted that man to be Prime Minister. 

Question: Do you think that it's given you more ammunition, given the Coalition more ammunition, against Labor?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I think Government's job is to get on with its program and be judged by that as opposed to, you know, trying to demolish the Opposition.  It's the Opposition's job to do what's in the nation's interest, but they often forget that and try and demolish the Government.  But I don't subscribe to either of those theories; I think the Government should just get on doing its job, as we always have done, and not be diverted by these distractions.

The only thing I'd say about The Latham Diaries is it lets Australia see who the current Labor Party members would have had as Prime Minister if they could've.

Question: Does it worry you that the Liberals might get a bit cocky - Labor's hit a low point in the last week or so - that there might be a bit of cockiness creeping into your side?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I hope that certainly doesn't happen.  The Prime Minister is a continual reminder to all of us of the need to just keep your head down, get on with your job, and don't take too much notice of, you know, what's happening on the Opposition side.  In the end Australians will judge us by the job that we do, not how poorly they think of the Labor Party.

Question: Minister, back to Baxter.

Amanda Vanstone: Mmhm.

Question: Is this going to be a benchmark for other detention centres 'round Australia?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I think the changes we're making here are very, very positive changes: you know fabulous oval, floodlit, so people can play during the day or at night, available for football and hockey, you know basketball and volleyball courts, increased outside visits over and above the visits that are already held, a new and much more user-friendly entrance, and a much, much improved-- [mobile phone rings] oh sorry about that.  It's my phone.  Hold on, I'll turn it off for you.

Would you like to have that, Kevin?  Thanks.

KEVIN: Yes, I would. Thank you.

Amanda Vanstone: I'll start that again, hey?  Yeah.  [Laughs]

Look, the conditions at Baxter do need to be improved and when we've finished the job I think everybody will be very proud of it.  It will never be a fun place to be, but it will be very good.

Question: Minister, why do you feel you need to go to such an extent though: I mean floodlit at night for a hockey game?  At the end of the day these people are in detention, why are you going to such an extent?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, as I said, the Government has heard the message through the Palmer Report, you don't get too many opportunities to change a department in a big way, and so my own view is that you put - I think it's - your spinnaker up, catch the wind and make as much change as you can.

Question: Senator, do you know how many detainees have self-harmed?

Amanda Vanstone: It depends what you mean by self-harmed.  I mean the figures--

Question: The figure that's out today is 878, so--

Amanda Vanstone: Well, the figures in the paper reflect just what they say they do: and that's harm or threats of self-harm.  That's how we collect the figures; that's important because some people who threaten do, in fact, carry it out.

And in any event once they've threatened you need to watch to make sure their own safety's looked after because of a duty of care; so that's why we collect the figures that way, it just means that they're not terribly informative for people.

Question: If they're not informative, why collect them then?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, because they're not informative for people about how much actual self-harm actually happens; they're collected for our purposes in terms of when we have a duty of care and we have one as soon as a threat is made.

Question: Either way you look at it though self-harm's not a healthy thing to be doing and 878 people over three years is a very high number.

Amanda Vanstone: Well, against what benchmark do you say that?

Question: Well, do you think in the general community--

Amanda Vanstone: No, I'm just asking.  You've asserted it's a high number: against what benchmark do you say it's a high number?

Question: Well, in the general community.

Amanda Vanstone: I mean have you compared to a prison population, for example?  And Baxter's not a prison, I make that point, but--

Question: Do you think it's a high number?

Amanda Vanstone: Well I think, as I said, over a detention population over that period of, well, I think I'm advised about 20,000; and when you understand that within the 800 or so there'd be a smaller number of people because some people make repeated threats or repeatedly self-harm, and some of those people who self-harm self-harm in a very, very minor way.

Question: Are those rates, though, part of the reason for this philosophical shift by the Government …

Amanda Vanstone: No.  No.

Question: … to change the facilities at Baxter?

Amanda Vanstone: No.  Look, this front-page article in The Age today has got absolutely nothing to do with it.

Question: Senator, can I just clarify: the 878, they are instances of threats--

Amanda Vanstone: They're incidents, incidents of threats or actual carrying out, and there's not an indicator within there of the degree of severity when something's carried out.

Question: Are you reasonably relaxed about those figures?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I don't think anyone who has responsibility for the immigration program and detention centres can be reasonably relaxed about any of it, frankly.  You know I get paid to do a job, not to be relaxed.

Question: Would you agree with Dr Jureidini's comments that this environment is conducive to self-harm, an environment that drives people mad?

Amanda Vanstone: Look, I'm not going to comment on what Dr Jureidini says.  I've seen some other comments he's made, which have appeared to the public to be comments about Baxter when in fact they relate to the Woomera Centre, which has been mothballed for some years, so I'm just not going into that debate.

Question: By saying that you're making this place friendlier though, …

Amanda Vanstone: Mm?

Question: … is that an admission that it has been fundamentally unfriendly, that it has caused problems?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, people have found it forbidding, and we're making it friendlier.  I mean I don't think there's any particular issue in that.

Question: Would it ever have changed though if it wasn't for the Palmer Inquiry?  Would it be the same in years' time?

Amanda Vanstone: Would what be the same?

Question: Baxter.  Would it ever have changed, would you have made it friendly, if it wasn't for the Palmer Inquiry?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I believe in fact we would have.  I thank you for that question.  I should have set someone up to ask me that. 

When I first took on this portfolio the issue of user-friendliness of visitor centres was raised with me and one of the first jobs I did was instruct the department to improve the Visitor Centre at Villawood.  That has the highest number of people, the highest turnover and the highest rate of visitors, and it had a very, very small visitor area for people to go through for processing, about a third the size of the room we're in now.

And I was pleased to be able to open that centre not long after moving into the portfolio and it's now vastly improved: a space two or three times this size, similar to what we're looking at at Baxter, with appropriate seating, appropriate bathroom facilities, air-conditioning, lockers, you know ease of screening for luggage or gifts that are coming through.

So this is in fact the second one that we've done.  Well, the third actually, 'cause we improved-- I might say we also improved the centre at Maribyrnong.  So--

Question: Back to my previous question …

Amanda Vanstone: Mm?

Question: … about the facilities and will they become a benchmark for other detention centres.  Will these improvements be made elsewhere?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I think the question I've just answered indicates that we've already made some of these improvements elsewhere.  We improved, very early on in my term in the portfolio, the visitor facilities at Villawood and they have been dramatically improved, we've improved the facilities at Maribyrnong, and we're now about to do the same at Baxter.

Question: Minister, you're making these physical changes …

Amanda Vanstone: Mmhm.

Question: … to the detention facilities per se; …

Amanda Vanstone: Mmhm.

Question: … are you doing anything to address the criticisms of the departmental blunders and flaws?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, this is really only a part of our response to Palmer; it simply relates to the physical amenity of Baxter.

I'm working with the Secretary - and the Secretary has a team that are focused on the recommendations - to ensure that we have a culture change through the whole department, not just in the compliance and detention areas but in the visa areas as well, to make it a much more user-friendly department.

The department now understands that the Secretary and I will say to them almost every day, "People, our business".  That's what the Immigration Department is about.

Question: Are you concerned that you could be liable to claims against the department because of past practices given that you're now moving to try and tighten things up?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, I'm not sure which particular past practices you're referring to.  I mean in any, in any, department there is always funding provided for defective administration, which regrettably sometimes does happen when you have government departments, especially large ones, that are dealing with such significant numbers.

So that's not uncommon; that's not particular to the Immigration Department.

Question: One of the most fundamental criticisms has been related to interpreters and translators and their lack of independence.  Is that something you're prepared to address?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, that hasn't been raised me about a lack of independence of interpreters and translators, but I'll have a look at it.

Question: On that note, is there any update on the Vivian Solon matter regarding blunders in the department?

Amanda Vanstone: No, there's not.  There was a Senate report and that's now been tabled and publicly available.  I note that some of the Members would have liked to have interviewed some of the Immigration staff involved and I note the media incorrectly wrote that up as that I had blocked the Immigration staff speaking before the committee.  That's just simply not the case.  What I did was refuse to instruct them to attend.

And the full report, the Comrie Ombudsman report, will come out some time in October I would expect and there people will be able to get the full story.

But I think, pretty much, the full story's already available.

Question: So Vivian Solon is still awaiting coming back to Australia?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, that's got nothing to do with the timing of the report whatsoever and questions as to why she remains in the Philippines are best direct to her lawyers.

Question: And are there going to be changes to the Migration Act after revelations that some detainees are working in kitchens and doing tasks that GSL is being paid for?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, there is an arrangement at detention centres, which is a voluntary arrangement, whereby people can partake in activities for a fee if they choose to do so.  It's entirely voluntary; no one has to do it if they don't want to.

Question: But is it appropriate that GSL is being paid for work that detainees are doing?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, you've got to-- The complaint on one hand is there's not enough for people to do; so if people aren't fully trained for a particular activity but they can contribute to that, it may be the most sensible thing you can do, to give them the opportunity to participate.

Question: You wouldn't regard it as profiteering though: using cheap labour in the form of detainees instead of hiring the proper staff?

Amanda Vanstone: Well look, I've said all I've got to say about that.  It's a voluntary opportunity, which no one has to partake in if they don't want to.

Question: And finally, just the 8000 student visas …

Amanda Vanstone: Mm?

Question: … that were being chased by the department, what's happening with that issue?

Amanda Vanstone: Well, the visas, we'll contact as many people as we can and make the court ruling very clear.  That's an example of just how extremely complex this area can be.

A student was sent a notice requiring him to attend - and an address was filled in for the nearest Immigration Office to him - and to attend to speak to a compliance officer.  The court held that the department shouldn't have put a particular address in, that he was entitled to go to any Immigration Office; and he shouldn't have been instructed to speak to a compliance officer, he could speak to any Immigration officer. 

Now, I think many Australians will look at that and think, well, Immigration really was trying to be of assistance to students by putting in the nearest address to their last form of address.

But in any event those notices are held to be invalid and we'll therefore be contacting as many people as we can to let them know.

Question: It's an expensive blunder though.  Does this mean 8000 students will now be queue jumping, to a degree?

Amanda Vanstone: No, no one will be queue jumping.  If a notice is invalid and their visa therefore remains valid they're not jumping any queue.

Question: So they could be brought back to Australia though?

Amanda Vanstone: Oh, brought back to Australia: if they've gone they've gone, but if they're here their visa would then become valid had some other activity not subsequently taken place which would invalidate it.


DIMIA wrong "95% of the time", Vanstone's Baxter Cage spruce-up disgusting

Media Release
Monday September 19 2005 16:45pm WST

"Lawyers working on submissions of Temporary Protection Visa holders of refugees from Afghanistan in the last year have confirmed to Project SafeCom that of all the Afghan TPV renewal applications - about 800 in total in Western Australia - the Department of Immigration's primary decision makers decisions were set aside by the Refugee Review Tribunal for 95% of the cases in the last year," said the WA Rights group today.

"That means that the Department got it wrong 95% of the time, even right up till this year, when they told already approved refugees, that after three to four years they are now "suddenly" not refugees at all, and on review by the RRT these DIMIA primary assessors have been assessed to be wrong."

"These figures correlate with submissions made by Project SafeCom to the Senate Inquiry into the Migration Act that's currently underway, in which Project SafeCom argued that three years ago the DIMIA was wrong on average 75% of the time, and that in relation to the most recent boat arrivals of Vietnamese refugees they were wrong nearly 100% of the time, as found on appeal."

"The revelations come at a day that the Minister for Immigration Senator Amanda Vanstone has introduced a "Golden Cage" concept to the Baxter detention centre - announcing better food, basketball courts and other Western sports facilities, and Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit commented on these changes, that the Minister is acting like a child who goes out and buys a miniature diver to keep the goldfish in the aquarium company, or like someone who puts a silver bowl in the canary cage so the bird may sing louder."

The Minister displays a disgusting level of arrogance in wanting to create a user-friendly, but life-long mandatory detention method, but all it is, is a measure of more spin and smoke and mirrors. Mandatory detention, and we know it now after the last five years with greater than ever confidence, is a broke and corrupt concept of control and government-sponsored torture. No silver lining, miniature divers, golden treadmills for caged rats will be able to undo the horrors and the desolation of the Howard government policies and treatment of refugees."

"Baxter should close, it, and the policies that created it, should be dismantled and never again should Australia engage in these horrendous practices that were introduced because Mr Howard wanted to win an election."

For more information: Jack H Smit, Project SafeCom Inc. phone 0417 090 130


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re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

I think Marilyn Shepherd's right in saying Amanda is divorced from reality. I met her a few years ago at the launch of a 'Country Embassy' in Sydney-an attempt to sort of bring country business to the attention of the city. It wasn't such a great idea but the organisers were sincere and Amanda Vanstone's launch speech was completely inappropriate. Afterwards she proceeded to bag the place to everyone within earshot, calling it a waste of money.

I think she has been able to completely switch of any humanitarian feelings she may have , much the same as Phillip Ruddock has, in order to do the job and appear to be tough. In each ministerial role she's appeared to lack empathy with ordinary people.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

I'd like to suggest that Amanda Vanstone has it tougher than most federal ministers. Her portfolio puts her in a position of direct responsibility for the well-being of real live people. This is a big ask for a federal minister when others such as Brendan Nelson and Tony Abbott have the state governments to blame when things go wrong. Not being used to running a program which deals directly with caring for people, the answer the federal government comes up with is... outsourcing (surprise surprise).

Now outsourcing to the private sector is not automatically a bad thing and in many cases it makes good sense. I have seen some excellent examples of outsourcing working really well in areas such as IT and catering. So where do you draw the line? When is it not ok to outsource?

You draw the line when it comes to caring for people, regardless of whether or not they are "one of us". You cannot outsource the care of people, regardless of whether or not you are willing to accept them as new citizens. If you are exercising power over another person then it follows that they are in your care, they are your responsibility. You can't give that to someone else to manage or oversee.

Palmer's report identified "culture" within the department of immigration as part of the problem. Building basketball courts doesn't "fix" a culture. Cultures shift when patterns of relating and conversing shift, when power relations are reorganised and new voices are heard.

Such a shift clearly hasn't happened for the minister. There is no new voice here, just another politician desperate to reinforce the safety of their own position. More concerned with political messages than the care of those under her power.

Palmer plus? What does she take us for?

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

What the hell is minor self harm? People in despair being treated far worse than my dog and thankfully they only cut themselves up a little bit? For Christ sake , this woman is demented (but at the end of the day she only does the bidding of Howard the Hateful) and she is obviously too gutless to do the right thing and thinks we should all be sooo impressed by a few cosmetic changes to her Gulag.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Jack, is there ANY database that you know of for Vanstones transcripts of speeches, interviews, etc? Her dotgov site only has press releases. Is that it?

Margo: Yep. I've published several Vanstone transcripts in Webdiary's DIMIA Debacles archive. The classic for mine was her presser announcing the Palmer inquiry.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Almost 4,000 children didn't need such facilities, why not?

Almost 3,000 women didn't need those facilities, why not?

Woomera, Curtin and Port Hedland had the gravel and the dust, the tear gas and the water cannons, why?

I heard someone say this morning that now the people being locked up are mostly overstayers from the UK and US we need decent facilities.

Why do we need them decent for innocent white folk when we didn't need them for innocent babies?

I think Vanstone is utterly divorced from reality if she thinks putting a few courts into Baxter will help it.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Stuart Lord - the point is that these documents are paid from the public purse and therefore the public has a right to DEMAND their production. There is no privacy, national security, or other reason to deny public access to these transcripts. Howard's government uses the taxpayer as some sort of Liberal Party cash cow - how much is the advertising budget for the IR changes ? Liberal Party propaganda paid for by the taxpayer.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Is Palmer Plus the same as 'do you want fries with that'? Rebadging, rebranding a DIMIA process is plain silly when the processes are flawed. The vast majority of asylum seekers are found to be genuine refugees after further investigation - the processes need fixing. Finally, Amanda - could you 'supersize' that?

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Jack H Smit, before you go around demanding transcripts left and right, how about you try asking nicely? Because I know I would respond much better than if someone decided to 'demand' my corporate activities be made public at my own expense.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Jack H Smit, is Media Monitors the company that the Government uses to monitor the ABC? I think that this may be a conflict of interest. If, in fact, they do have an all-of-Government contract how can they be impartial when it comes to the National Broadcaster?

This is a trend that is all too common to this Government. Pay to get the answers you want to hear. I'm sure we would all like to know how much this is costing us.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Damian Lataan writes: "Jack, is there ANY database that you know of for Vanstone's transcripts of speeches, interviews, etc? Her dotgov site only has press releases. Is that it?"

Just to repeat Margo's remarks:

"Vanstone and other Ministers spend huge amounts of public money gettting their press conferences transcribed. Vanstone uses Media Monitors - perhaps that company has the whole-of-government contract. Now we the people are paying for these transcripts, so why don't the ministers who get them put them up on their websites so we can have a look? Amanda's ministerial website provides her media releases and her very own 'photo gallery'. Where are the transcripts we paid for, Amanda? Afraid they'll show up your disgraceful record of evasion, lies and blame-shifting? Let's have a bit of 'user pays' here, eh, not user gets us to pay and doesn't let us see what we've paid for! Anyone got detail on the cost to the people of Australia of transcription services for ministers? Anyone know what Media Monitors charges?"

I think there is cause for Webdiarists to start some work, perhaps a concerted action here - to exert pressure on Ministers and the whole of government to demand publication of ALL Media Monitors press conference transcripts on perhaps the Media Monitors website or on a government website. Any suggestions for strategically placed action here from Webdiarists?

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

For sure Amanda Vanstone doesn't get it. It's not whether you have a hockey field or a tennis court that makes the difference, although it does make your time more pleasant.

What makes the most difference is how you are being treated and dealt with and whether you are being treated fairly and with respect.

This is why so many minority groups are full of despair and now even most majority groups are feeling the same way. WE are being treated as insignificant. Throwing money at the issue is not going to fix the problems as the issues have more to do with attitudes and prejudices.

It is how you are treated by others that is the defining factor and the key to feeling happier as it is the one thing that is out of your control.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Stuart. I have alot of experience with Government Departments and, trust me, asking nicely does not make a difference!

The vast majority of people start by asking very politely and nicely as they do not expect the reaction and treatment that they are about to receive. They expect to be treated fairly and to be afforded procedural fairness.

When you ask about something or request information you get a nice and polite door shut in your face. When you get upset because of the way you are being treated and ask again, you get sent around in circles and when you get frustrated and distraught because of the way you are being dealt with and treated you are branded as being unreasonable, aggressive, pushy and paranoid.

It doesn't matter how you ask, the process is set up and designed to deny, discredit, cover up and turn a blind eye. They know that the public will automatically think its how you asked or believe that if there was something in it they would do something about it. That’s part of their protection, they have all the bases covered - and it works.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Stuart, no-one in DIMIA will give as much as a free cough unless bullied into it.

This is a stinking department from the top down.

I read something hilarious last night though - Iraq has an immigration ministry. What a hoot - who the hell is migrating to Iraq?

Stuart, asking DIMIA nicely does not work.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Hello Kaye Bernard
I guess this is "a me to" job, so that when Howard is meeting for tea with Bush, he can say we did it your way! Secreted the people off shore and out of reach from more accessible protest.
What sort of money per head are we looking at to satisfy Howard’s policy? And who will be available to look after the welfare of these people? Also if it is the fourteen-day detention aspect, then will they be given a bill for their return airfare to Christmas Is?
Actually, in our prison system, the inmates earn so much per day. With detention you simply come out bankrupt, because of the extortionate charges and no pay. If that's not enough, psychologist costs would probably be met by the impoverished detainees and the total costs eventually met by taxpayers.
Howard’s policy doesn't seem to be about keeping us safe, but keeping an enemy before the public so that he retains power?
I wish I were better informed.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Hi Margo
What is known about the fumbled transfer of the last detainees from Christmas Island? In as much that instead of the one aircraft flight, there were two! Along with the expense of maintaining, staffing and cost per head of detainment, this is a crazy additional expense we pay for.

Mismanagement alone demands answers to us, not behind closed doors.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Grant Giachin the Christmas Island mega black hole, currently under construction is the ideal place, if nil accountability is the aim, to deposit those suspect Aussies snared in new detention laws.

The new centre is geographically located on the opposite side of the island from the settlements, and the screams from the gulag will float out to sea.

The 'Christmas Is detention centre sparks mental health fears' news is real and through my involvement with the most recent detainees there I can tell you the health of these people was compromised by offshore detention.

Minister Vanstone claims that no mainland immigration detainees will be taken there....this gives rise to a high possibility that Christmas Island is where we will send suspects under the proposed 14 day rule.
link here

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

This may sound cynical, but could this backyard blitz be an attempt to make the facilities a little better for the Australians that may soon be detained when they decide to revoke their citizenship on flawed ASIO assessments, & the increased media attention this will bring to the detention centres

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Hi Margo, did Amanda actually say, "People, our business"?

Did you hear that Amanda was in there for free cheese at the relaxing of import regulations governing natural cheese (from France). Why is it that I’m not surprised?

When the Baxter food was suspect recently and her goons threw, first the man who threw his plate against the wall (the same man who had just returned from having an operation) into solitary. Then another who had the audacity to caution these outsourced goons about his condition, he got similar treatment and a broken leg to boot (or was his leg simply bent).
Who is kidding who? Sure our prison inmates are treated differently to many, even badly. I’m not too happy about our penal system, but that’s one thing. What about people not too different to us? People who have been willing to risk everything for a better and safer life. For themselves and their children. Many might like the argument that they brought it on themselves. Personally I find that smug and ugly. These people haven’t been treated with any fair play, kindness, compassion, but as another writer put it, worse than dogs. No consideration has been given to the long term effects of incarceration by prison guards, behaving like prison guards and with the full approval of DIMIA. So there isn’t any surprises for the likes of Vanstone and Ruddock and the Mugabe like boss whose hands are clean, when it comes to hearing yet the next expose of mistreatment.

I agree with Jack H Smit: "Baxter should close, it, and the policies that created it, should be dismantled and never again should Australia engage in these horrendous practices that were introduced because Mr Howard wanted to win an election."

I’d go a step further for a complete and thorough change of culture in DIMIA, by establishing a new range of staff and of course that must include Vanstone. (I still find it a paradox that she should have that portfolio? Overseeing people who come here starving from lack of food and mistreatment that we can hardly comprehend).

Members of John’s congregation please take a look at your values as you kneel before your God and tremble. You can rubber stamp this inhumanity, or speak out! What you do is recorded for all time.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Ross, the last 12 who were flown off Christmas island on a charter flight had seen their brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties and cousins flown off a few weeks before on a charter flight. I tried my best to get them all on board to no avail.

Christmas Is detention centre sparks mental health fears reminds me of some of my thoughts about offshore detention I put down a while ago after I had visited the detainees there... Cornelia Rau on Christmas Island.

The most recent Refugee detainees who spent two years in detention on Christmas Island were systematically drugged as a behaviour management strategy and not given adequate mental health service delivery by DIMIA or it's contracted service provider GSL.

The contractual maze for mental health service delivery for detention on Christmas Island relied heavily on the 'phone a friend' practice whereby non english speaking detainees who were unwell (as a direct result of detention) were faced with using a telephone interpretor to speak with psychologists on the mainland.

Individual psychological counselling is available to all detainees through Detention Services Provider (DSP) subcontractor Professional Support Services (PSS), a subsidiary of Davidson Trahaire Corpsych, Australia’s largest firm of psychology consultants. PSS staff visit Christmas Island on a regular scheduled rotation and psychologists are available at all other times by telephone, with telephone interpreters provided by Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS). (DIMIA response to IDAG Committee community concerns - December 2004.)

There are cases of young men who told me they realised after 12 months in detention that they had to wean themselves off the 'medicine' given to them by DIMIA and GSL, when they realised they were in a drug induced stupor.

DIMIA have disclosed that there were 18 self harm incidents recorded for these Christmas Island detainees.

In one appalling case an unregistered Psychologist prescribed English lessons as a treatment for a detainee on suicide watch.
PM - Probe reveals detention centre health worker unregistered.

When the last batch of 12 of the Vietnamese Refugees were finally released from Christmas island and flew into Perth not long ago, I was absolutely shocked by the size of the bags of prescribed drugs they were carrying. Over the next couple of days these people were throwing this DIMIA medicine in the bin and I was encouraging them to go to the doctors to make sure the side effects of withdrawal would not be too severe.

In one particularly sad case one of these men broke down after he was released and cried to me over a 'referral letter' from the GSL nurse when it was translated to him. The letter said that this man had a pre existing mental health problem in Vietnam. The man said to me that this was completely untrue and it was detention on Christmas Island that had affected him.

The whole concept of holding people offshore, be they immigration detainees or, as seems highly likely, the suspects snared in the PM's proposed new law is dangerous and unecessary.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Webdiarists, particularly Marilyn Shepherd, have been right all along and DIMIA wrong, which seems to be par for the course for that incompetent Department and the two Ministers who have been in charge since 2001.

As Alamdar Baktiari says in a companion SMH article by Paul McGeough:

"Why should I bother? I've registered and been accepted, but all governments are the same - they fix the result of everything."

And not just in Immigration either.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Marilyn Shepherd: "read something hilarious last night though - Iraq has an immigration ministry. What a hoot - who the hell is migrating to Iraq?
I think the Labor Party have plans to have a Minister of Unemployment, boy is he going to be a busy boy if Labor ever gets in.

re: Amanda's Baxter backyard blitz

Hi Margo. What I'd like to understand, is the lack of awareness in the general public of these in-humane practices. Is it carefully massaged news or fear aligned news propagation.

When I speak to quite a number of people they hold with the policy of detering others of making similar trips to Australia, by the horrible detention expectations.

I might add that I'm living back in WA and (wash my mouth out) and it's very close behind Tasmania in the Red Neck stakes!

I'd like to be more effectual in bringing greater awareness.

Margo: Do Australians trust their government and their law enforcement and spy agencies not to abuse the law, for political reasons, for example? Surely not! A cursory look at DIMIA's systematic abuse of power, with tragic results for Australians as well as asylum seekers, wouold convince most Australians that they need safeguards and independent - ie judical - oversight, yes? It's common sense.

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