March 02, 2014

Horse 1630 - Manus Island - Questions and Answers
"I'm equally shocked by the fact of the treatment that people receive in Malaysia on the basis of reports that we receive.
If we are going to be consistent about these matters then I think the conditions these people will be held and treated in Malaysia is a relevant question this parliament should be asking the prime minister.''
- Scott Morrison, as quoted in the Herald-Sun, 2nd Jun 2011.

I totally agree with the 2011 version of Scott Morrison. The conditions under which asylum seekers is a question which should be put to both the Prime Minister and the relevant Minister for Immigration.
It is a question so important that Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott whilst in Opposition, vociferously argued in parliament and it finally got asked in the High Court of Australia.

The Court held that, under s 198A of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), the Minister cannot validly 
declare a country (as a country to which asylum seekers can be taken for processing) unless that 
country is legally bound to meet three criteria. The country must be legally bound by international 
law or its own domestic law to: provide access for asylum seekers to effective procedures for 
assessing their need for protection; provide protection for asylum seekers pending determination of 
their refugee status; and provide protection for persons given refugee status pending their voluntary 
return to their country of origin or their resettlement in another country. In addition to these 
criteria, the Migration Act requires that the country meet certain human rights standards in 
providing that protection.
- High Court of Australia, 31 Aug 2011.

Two weeks after this, the  Leader Of The Opposition, Tony Abbott, had this to say:
''What decent government would send boat people to a country where they could be exposed to caning? Malaysia is a friend of Australia, but their standards are not our standards - and it is very wrong of Australia to send people who have come into our care, however briefly, to a country whose standards are so different from ours''.
- Tony Abbott, as quoted in The Age, 14 Sep 2011.

Now admittedly the Leader Of The Opposition has the duty to hold the government of the day to account but I would have though that then being given the chance to act upon what was said in opposition would prove the force of that call to account.
It is a worthwhile question to ask "What decent government?" indeed. In fact, this question has been asked again and again since the Tampa affair back in 2001. Strangely though, I think that we've still yet to see a "decent government" on this issue.

The words of former PM Malcolm Fraser seem to ring through the years now:
Former PM Malcolm Fraser has written to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen appealing for Labor to embrace onshore processing. ''The High Court decision gives the government an opportunity to seize the high ground,'' he wrote. ''I have never believed in the policy of deterrence. I do not believe even the harshest of measures devised by the Labor Party or by the Liberal Party can match the terror, the harshness, the poverty of events in countries from which people flee.''
- The Age, 14 Sep 2011.

Why if in Opposition, the then Leader and relevant Shadow Minister, thought it worthwhile to complain about government policy on the basis of human rights, would they then not complain in government about conditions which violates those same human rights?
Presumably, since in Opposition the then Leader and relevant Shadow Minister both argued in favour of the High Court's decision, that they must have agreed with it.

You'd think that after they'd won government in September in 2013 that they'd have a chance to do something about it. Maybe you'd think that a note from the UNHCR might have made them do something:
Overall, UNHCR was deeply troubled to observe that the current policies, 
operational approaches and harsh physical conditions at the RPC do not comply 
with international standards and in particular: 
 a) constitute arbitrary and mandatory detention under international law; 
 b) do not provide a fair, efficient and expeditious system for assessing refugee 
 c) do not provide safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention; and 
 d) do not provide for adequate and timely solutions for refugees. 
Further, the ‘return-orientated environment’ observed by UNHCR at the RPC is at 
variance with the primary purpose of the transfer arrangements, which is to identify 
and protect refugees and other persons in need of international protection. 
- UNHCR Regional Representation, 26 Nov 2013.

Well maybe not.

One asylum seeker is dead, another is in a critical condition and 13 are being treated for serious injuries after a second night of violence at the Manus Island detention centre.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said it was his "great regret" to report the extent of the injuries sustained by asylum seekers in the riot.
He has promised a full inquiry into the incident from which 77 asylum seekers were treated, 40 had been discharged and 22 suffered minor injuries.
- ABC News, 18th Feb 2014.


The only reason that anyone really found out about this was because of a leaked PNG Police report. It disagreed with the initial statements made by Scott Morrison.
The Royal PNG Constabulary which in its report, found that Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati, died of head wounds received whilst inside the detention centre on Manus Island on 17th February. Already the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has distanced himself from the report; saying that it is an initial finding and will not comment until the final report has been released.

I heard on ABC Local Radio, PM Tony Abbott say that "Any death is tragic and deeply regrettable, but the important thing has been to stop the boats and end the deaths at sea." I suppose that "deaths at sea" have stopped but in the world of twisted logic that is Australian politics, deaths in detention must obviously be better than deaths at sea.

If we are going to be consistent about these matters then I think the conditions these people will be held and treated is a relevant question this parliament should be asking the prime minister.
It is very wrong of Australia to send people who have come into our care, however briefly, to a country whose standards are so different from ours

Personally, I think that serious questions should be asked. Those questions should be asked by the 2011 versions of Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott, to the 2014 versions of Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.
A man has been killed while in the care of the Australian government. Another lies with a fractured skull, countless others have been injured. The men on Manus Island are in danger, and the Minister for Immigration claims his policies are successful and in no need of change.
The government cannot guarantee the safety of people in its care on Manus Island. The responsible course of action is for the centre to be closed. The riots also raise questions about safety on Nauru and Christmas Island.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Feb 2014.

The answers should be given by Malcolm Fraser. 

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