Let’s go there

The Liberal Government has finally relented on some of the harshest measures of its draconian mandatory detention system but the changes don’t go nearly far enough. In fact, resting more power with Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone seems about as logical as asking Saddam Hussein to monitor human rights abuses in a Basra jail (though perhaps not quite as inappropriate.)

On last night’s 7.30 Report, John Howard refused to apologise for treatement of refugees and blamed the parents for bringing their children here in the first place in an unauthorised way. The Prime Minister’s glaring ignorance of world affairs was all too apparent. As Kerry O’Brien asked, “would you agree that people who are facing the possibility of death for themselves and their children aren’t necessarily going to think in terms of whether they should or shouldn’t queue in a refugee centre in Pakistan or somewhere else for an indefinite number of years, where in fact people are dying in those camps?”

Howard ignored the question: “the reality is that not everybody who has sought to come here in an unauthorised way fits the category of somebody who’s genuinely in fear of their life…no country can afford to have an unrestricted approach to the entry of citizens of another country into our country.”

Do we need to say this again? Arriving in any country, including Australia, with no papers and claiming asylum is not illegal under international law.

As for the situation on Nauru, children and families in that post-colonial dependent nation can rot, as far as Howard is concerned.

Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett reckons the changes announced by Howard are limited, at best: “I am amazed at how limited the changes are, how misleading the portrayal of the changes have been and how even more power has been given to a Minister and Department that has been shown to be highly dysfunctional.”

Lateline, meanwhile, continues its run of stunning investigative journalism, leaving much of its competition in the dust. Last night, Margot O’Neill (give that woman a Walkley, please!) uncovered evidence of a Chinese spy network in Australia, intimidating and threatening Falun Gung practioners. A huge story? The Sydney Morning Herald all but ignored it today.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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