Thursday, June 25, 2009

Human Rights in Australia - Asylum seeker procedures changed but mandatory detention retained

While 'utegate' spectacularly morphed into 'fakegate', leaving 'truffles' looking like a conniving spiv prepared to enter into any kind of 'faustian' deal with anyone who could bring him closer to the glittering prize, important changes to asylum seeker procedures went through the lower house today.

The Canberra Times reports, "The cracks in Coalition unity have spread, with Liberal backbenchers Petro Georgiou and Judi Moylan both arguing for a Government Bill that will abolish charges levied on asylum-seekers held in detention.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and Coalition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone both argued against the Bill in Tuesday's joint party room meeting.

But Mr Georgiou and Ms Moylan, who have both criticised the party in the past for their approach to asylum-seekers, have supported the Bill, while fellow moderate Russell Broadbent could also support it."

The Government has been quietly getting on with reform to several key areas that impact on human rights, not least, of course, putting in the hard yards to keep Australia the best performing economy in the developed world. This has reduced the harm to vulnerable groups that would have ensued from a major economic meltdown.

They have been attacked relentlessly over deficit financing of human capital investment and essential infrastructure by one of the least impressive Oppositions. The Coalition has hurried to the status of champion bottom feeders and have lowered the tone of our political culture substantially. After Howard's lost decade I would have thought the Opposition needed to claw back some of the middle ground of the body politic, but it seems the radical reactionary agenda continues unabated.

It is interesting that the Coalition faces a similar problem to the GOP in the US - their appeal to a narrow demographic base through extreme right-wing agendas has left them largely irrelevant to the new paradigm emerging in the wake of the GFC.

The Coalition's response to asylum seekers is a case in point. The dishonest dissembling and nasty posturing of the Howard years does'nt wash any more, and as we discover the extent of lost reform and productivity opportunities in a time of a revenue bonanza, Australians with compassion and wit will look back in anger and regret at the human rights malaise we endured.

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