Monday, May 23, 2011

Coalition calls for a parliamentary inquiry into asylum seeker detention, when what was needed was a Royal Commission into the Pacific Solution

Those with any compassion for the plight of asylum seekers will be choking on their breakfast cereals, listening to Morrison bang on about the need for a Parliamentary inquiry into asylum seekers detention.

The treatment of asylum seekers is made worse by a constant beating of a fear drum by the Coalition and a conga line of media supporters that are busy constructing another political wedge on this issue.

If Abbott is elected the Pacific Solution and TPVs will be reinstated and we will be back to square one. Christmas Island was commissioned by the Howard Govt in response to the unsustainable expense of the Pacific Solution.

Where was the media support for an inquiry into the abuses at the heart of the Pacific Solution? Where was the media (apart from some brave souls in the Fairfax media) when the appalling violations under the Pacific Solution were bringing the human rights record of this country into the gutter?

I have posted many messages on the miscasting of aid to Nauru and elsewhere under the Pacific Solution and the alarming 'somnambulism' of the Australian people as these events unfolded. I have been critical of Australia's fourth estate for largely failing to expose and condemn the Howard Govt's approach to human rights. I had hoped the profound negative implications of the Howard experiment for the health of Australia's body politic would be the subject of much reflection in the coming years.

The tawdry misuse of official aid under the Pacific Solution and the downstream implications of the strategy, which was made up on the run by bureaucrats trying to engineer good outcomes from bad motives, have not been subjected to judicial inquiry. My published condemnation of aid to Nauru as "‘an unmitigated bribe’ to ensure the Pacific Solution continued" should have been subject to inquiry.

This blog called repeatedly for a Royal Commission into the immigration policies and programs of the Howard Govt.

It was necessary for the Labor government to investigate this dark chapter. My oft repeated call for such an inquiry to shine a light into the dark recesses of the Pacific Solution pork barrel was ignored. Now the chickens are coming home to roost for Labor. They should have exposed the whole grubby affair to bright light to put to rest any credibility the Coalition would have on this subject for at least a decade, and to provide an opportunity for a sensible public debate on this sensitive area of public policy.

I proposed a Royal Commission with Terms of Reference to include, but not be limited to, an investigation of:

1. implementation of the Pacific Solution (this of course should encompass the role and use of official aid)

2. wrongful detention of refugees and permanent residents of Australia

3. operation and financing of detention facilities on the mainland and offshore

4. wrongful repatriation of asylum seekers

5. influence of political staffers and Ministers in the determination of immigration decisions

6. role of the Prime Minister's task force on 'illegal' migration

7. influence of 'understandings' and 'deals' with neighbouring countries on the management of Australia's refugee policies and programs

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