Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Asylum seekers and our democracy - Manne, Lake, Burnside, Megalogenis

Four of the nation's leading thinkers on the subject explore the asylum seeker issue (and don't always agree): on the ALP's problems dealing with it; the historical and cultural baggage; and the political difficulties inherent in taking a progressive approach.

Chaired by Dennis Altmann (Director, Institute for Human Security, La Trobe University), the panel consists of: Julian Burnside QC, Barrister and asylum seeker advocate; Marilyn Lake, Professor of History, La Trobe University; George Megalogenis, Senior Journalist, The Australian; Robert Manne, Professor of Politics.

Presented by the Ideas and Society Program, La Trobe University, October 2010.

Click on the link to watch this La Trobe University event on Slow TV.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Asylum seekers in Australia - High Court rules in favour of boat people

In a landmark decision, the High Court has ruled that two asylum seekers were denied "procedural fairness" in the review of their rejected refugee status claims.

The bovver boys and girls are already out, lambasting the Government for 'failing to protect Australia's borders', but everyone with a brain knows the Howard Government excised as much as the country as they could manage - in an alarming Pythonesque parody of power run amok - to undermine procedural fairness; bribed a failed state to be complicit in systematic violation of the rights of asylum seekers on Nauru; and, commissioned the building of the latest gulag on Christmas Island. This all happened on Howard's watch and underlines the dangers to democracy when demagogues seek to sideline the rule of law in favour of executive authority.

David Marr has written an interesting piece on this today, an excerpt of which follows:

"...A decision in favour of the men could halt dozens of deportations and change the fate of thousands of boat people held in camps across Australia. The "excision" system that ships them all through Christmas Island would become redundant. The court might put in doubt every negative finding of the so called "non statutory" Refugee Status Assessment system that has decided the fate of every boat person for a decade.

It's big. Few decisions of the court have been so anxiously and eagerly awaited. All will be clear this morning, but when lawyers gathered in August to argue the case in Canberra, judges on the bench indicated they were ready to make a big call: that boat people cannot be detained and processed outside the law..."

Yes, its big and overdue. Hopefully an opportunity will arise for many of those persecuted under the various mandatory detention regimes to seek recompense through the courts.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Asylum seekers in Australia - Bartlett nails the lie behind refugee hysteria

Andrew Bartlett has penned a piece to expose the nonsense behind the hysteria whipped up in Australia over refugees by our dishonest brood of politicians. An excerpt follows:

"Despite all the significant economic, human rights, environmental, social and security issues which are important in our future relations with our neighbouring countries, the issue of a few thousand asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat each year is the one which is dominating most Australia media coverage of the Prime Minister's current visits around the region.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has finished her first East Asia Summit, had bilateral discussions with the Vietnamese government and has been to Malaysia for discussions there. Indonesia comes next. This transcript of the media conference she gave in Vietnam after the Summit shows that fully half of the questions related to asylum seekers, with most of the other split between the issue of human rights in the region and a local political story in Australia.

The issue also dominated the coverage by ABC radio of the Prime Minister's Malaysian talks, with just a brief mention at the end of the story about the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement. By contrast, this article about the visit from a Malaysian news agency makes no mention of asylum seekers or people smuggling at all, focusing instead on economic opportunities and how this links with tertiary education and training opportunities offered in Australia."

The shameful xenophobia whipped up in the Adelaide Hills recently is typical of the nastiness spawned by Coalition politicians to shore up electoral support. They pander to a dark underbelly, where sub-cultures lurk that frequently find voice through an 'easy racism'. One Nation tapped into this phenomenon and a key legacy of the Howard years sees Coalition politicians exploiting this tendency ruthlessly. Misrepresentation of facts and ethnic stereotyping are the calling cards (or ‘dog whistles’) of ‘culture warriors’ within politics and the media, pandering to the ignorant and misinformed. One fella turned out on the media to tell us the refugees would be more likely to be at risk in the case of bushfire because they could not speak English, despite the fact the asylum seekers are subject to the authority and care of several federal agencies. Perceived threats to security, health services, water, schools are straws in the wind, served up by the self-appointed spokespersons of affected communities to justify their bigotry and fear of the 'other'.

Our 'easy racism' remains our collective shame and makes of us a laughing stock in our region, where refugee issues really bite.