Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Human rights in Australia - Australian of the Year gets it right on mandatory detention

It was encouraging to hear the new Australian of the year, Prof McGorry, say "immigration detention centres were factories for producing mental illness and mental disorder''.

They are and it is about time the ALP stopped pandering to right wing fear mongering on this subject and enabled Australia to meet its international refugee and human rights obligations.

Today's Essential Report has Labor slipping in the area of national security. The silly season produces some daft polling numbers and 2009-10 has been no exception. Add to this a relentless campaign by Abbott and the right wing media to beat the border security drum, and it is likely those members of the permanently credulous, in thrall to these distorted fear messages, will respond by getting behind Abbott and his fellow bandwagoners.

Howard tapped in to the credulity of many Australians with devastating effect. I know as I was one of the benighted public servants dragged into managing his Pacific Solution. The Murdoch press bang the ‘border security’ drum relentlessly, and commercial TV stations like CH7 profile people from ‘mysterious’ places on shows like ‘Border Security’. So, you get a woman wearing a hijab looking suspicious as her bag is searched by a customs officer! Never mind that the great bulk of nasty substance smuggling into this country is orchestrated by home-grown villains.

The numbers of refugees arriving by boats is minuscule compared with the experience of many European countries. It is a sad reflection on the state of our body politic and lack of self-assuredness that the fear messages gain traction but there it is.

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