One thing that has stayed with me even from as a small child was a piece advice that my mum gave me: never say that you "hate" someone or something unless you actually want them to die. "Hate" is therefore a word which I don't like to use very often; so when I do, I'd better have a pretty good reason for doing so.
I want to say that I hate offshore processing of asylum seekers. I hate it. I wish it were "dead, buried and cremated", to use the words of our current Prime Minister.
Whilst I was still working for the Commonwealth Reporting Service and sitting in the courtroom behind banks of audio gear in both the Federal Magistrates and Federal Courts, the sorts of cases which I'd usually be recording were those in which the appellant had already applied for asylum and been rejected by lower courts. When they got to the Federal Courts, they were appealing on the basis of the a mis-operation of law and by that stage, the vast bulk of them failed.
It still doesn't change the fact though, that many of these people had braved horrible conditions to even get to Australia and that once they were here, they were hanging on to what little hope they had left.
In lower courts though (which I didn't record terribly many of), asylum seekers quite often were granted asylum, and the expressions of utter joy which flooded their faces are something which I will not forget for a long time.
This explains in part why I utterly hate offshore processing. Hate it. Wish it were stopped entirely. For people who have risked practically everything they have; only to be turned away by Australia and without the hope of being processed; thus without even the possibility of having their claim for asylum properly addressed and heard in court, I see as an affront to decency; an affront to justice and affront to humanity and compassion.
(See Horse 1126 and Horse 1630)
When The General Assembly of the United Nations met in December of 1950, Australia was one of the twenty-six nations which signed up to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (and eventually ratified it in 1951). I think that by "stopping the boats" and preventing refugees from even reaching Australia to be assessed under due process, Australia shows utter contempt for the Conventions which it supposedly stands for:
A refugee shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all Contracting States.
- Article 16.1, Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951
How is it possible that someone who doesn't even arrive in Australia, can even have free access a court of law? It is the nation of Australia openly declaring to the world that it is determined not to be just.
Australia even likes to stand behind the razor wired fence that is the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (2004) and likes to use that very protocol as a blunt baton; smacking down any obligations that it might have under the 1951 Refugee Convention. In addition to this, Australia also likes to use Section 5AA of this Migration Act 1958 as another blunt baton
Meaing of unauthorised maritime arrival
(1) For the purposes of this Act, a person is an unauthorised maritime arrival if:
(a) the person entered Australia by sea:
(i) at an excised offshore place at any time after the excision time for that place; or
(ii) at any other place at any time on or after the commencement of this section; and
(b) the person became an unlawful non-citizen because of that entry; and
(c) the person is not an excluded maritime arrival.
- Section 5AA, Migration Act 1958.
Just because something is legal, doesn't mean that it is just, decent or compassionate. Pooh to Section 5AA of the Migration Act 1958. Pooh to it with highly polished brass knobs on. I can see the reasons behind Section 5AA and although I don't know if I hate it, I hate the way that it is used.
Further to this, Australia likes to brush off people to places like Papua New Guinea or Nauru (and now is trying to do the same with Cambodia) even though those countries are often ill-equipped to handle in influx of people.
"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.
Yet again I ask, what decent government would send boat people to a country where they could be exposed to makeshift weapons wielded by private security firms which are under the employ of the government? What decent government would send boat people to a country which the per capita GDP is less than half the average weekly wage in this country?
Well this one apparantly:
The Abbott government wants to send some asylum seekers from Australian to Cambodia at a time the country's strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen is overseeing a brutal crackdown on dissent in one south-east Asia's poorest nations.
Hate is a strong word to use but in this case, I don't think that it's even adequate. I hate offshore processing and would prefer that all of Australia's sattelite processing centres were shut down immediately and that Australia would move to an exclusinvely onshore processing system only.
I would prefer to see that Australia executes justice for the refugees, the orphans and the widows, and shows compassion for the aliens by giving them food, clothing, and maybe even hope and a future.
*Arrived in Australia on the SS Oronsay on 7th Sep 1960... as a boat person.