Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tony Kevin warns, 'Howard mandarins capturing Labor ministers'

As an erstwhile member of the PM's task force on 'illegal' migration, I am acutely aware of the role of DIMIA and AFP executives in the development and prosecution of border control strategies. Covert operations to stymie people-smuggling have been core business for these agencies under Howard. Senior bureaucrats from these and other agencies progressed their careers effectively by serving up the policy paradigm, legal underpinnings, operational framework (with resources) and spin doctoring to keep the show on the road. Of course it was all (and no doubt continues to be ) justified under the banner of 'national security' and 'realpolitik', but my minimal role in the exercise still gives me the horrors.

Tony Kevin is a reliable commentator on such matters. In an article on the Eureka Street website, he writes that "Worrying questions are re-emerging over Australia's people-smuggling disruption program in Indonesia...How long before another mysterious life-threatening refugee boat incident happens in Australia's northern maritime approaches? Is this what the new ethical Rudd Labor Government wants to see happen on its watch? I don't think so.

Time, surely, for the full-powers judicial inquiry into people-smuggling disruption, that Faulkner and the opposition-controlled Senate advocated in 2002 and 2003. Kevin Rudd has the power to set up this enquiry tomorrow. He should seriously consider doing so."

Amen! I believe such an enquiry is essential and should also include an investigation of the inner workings of the Pacific Solution.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

HREOC releases annual report on immigration detention

Last week the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) released its annual inspection report, The Summary of Observations following the Inspection of Mainland Immigration Detention Facilities 2007. The purpose of the report was to monitor conditions of immigration detention to ensure Australia's compliance with internationally-recognised human rights obligations.

The Human Rights Commission's Graeme Innes visited Immigration Detention Centres (IDC), Immigration Residential Housing units (IRH) as well as the new Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation between August and November 2007. These visits involved an inspection of the facilities and interviews with management staff, health, educational and kitchen staff as well as meetings and lunch with detainees. HREOC also visited 6 detainees who were or had been in community detention. Whilst some improvements have been made, especially by the Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin, HREOC once again reiterated a number of its recommendations from the previous year's report.

Recent events at Villawood confirm the urgency for a review of the mandatory detention policy and closure of all detention facilities. We must stop treating asylum seekers like criminals.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Its not cricket, its 'monkey business'!

Sport has'nt figured on this blog before. However, the current imbroglio around the term 'monkey' and the relative merits of the arguments put by commentators and supporters of the Australian and Indian cricket teams has got my goat. A cursory trawl through Yahoo blogs yesterday revealed some Indian bloggers are lambasting Australians as being dysfunctional bullies with criminal tendencies. Whilst this would be a fair description of many of my fellow citizens, it misses the point. I have heard several Indian commentators proffer the jingoistic line that the racial slur on the Indian nation is the core issue. I beg to differ.

I have sent the following letter to Fairfax outlets:

"Racism is a problem everywhere, including Australia and India. When I was a Doctoral student in Mumbai during the late 70s and early 80s my African and Fijian student friends copped racial taunting, much like that directed at Symonds. Colour consciousness is deeply embedded in the Indian psyche, with light skinned favoured over dark.

Cricket lovers everywhere must get off the collective grass and face up to the fact that racism is a universal blight, no less an issue in Mumbai than it is in Perth. By the way, given the nature of the taunts, I am sure the source of the abuse directed at South African players in Perth during their last tour here were individuals who felt more comfortable with South Africa under apartheid.

A proactive approach by international sporting bodies to the application of human rights and anti-discrimination principles will minimize the toxic effects of racism and of jingoistic hypocrisy over the relative superiority of the attitudes of different cultures. It is time to lance the racist boil by acknowledging our universal ascent from simian primates, by celebrating our common ancestry and reveling in our cultural differences."

The failure by many commentators on both sides of the divide to grasp that a 'zero tolerance' approach to racism is essential is dissappointing. Some of our more celebrated commentators in Australia have climbed on the "its ok" bandwagon with suggestions that, as Symonds does look like a monkey he can expect to be called as such. All I hope is that the conveyor of that opinion has the guts to say it to Symonds' face, or, at the very least, acknowledge his lack of judgement and hang his head in shame.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.