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One for the Blairites « Previous | |Next »
May 22, 2003

In this interview on the ABC's 7.30 Report Philip Ruddock, the Minister of Immigration, said that the treatment of asylum seekers at Woomera by ACM was humane.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: "Well, the point I would make is that we were obliged by law to detain people who arrived without lawful authority, to deal with a number of issues."

KERRY O'BRIEN: "Humanely?"

PHILIP RUDDOCK: "Humanely, yes. And we endeavour to deal with them as humanely as possible. The inhumanity that you speak of is as a result of behaviour of the detainees themselves."

Kerrie O'Brien let the Minister's use of humane in a detention centre run by ACM go past and he moved onto self-harm by the detainees. It was a golden oportunity to explore the new world of the national security state.

The use of the word should be quetioned since the Minster's national security policy is not a humane one. He will not allow two young Balinese children to visit their father (an Iranian) in detention at Baxter even though their mother was killed in the Bali bombings. They have not seen their father for two years.

Why not? An answer is given here by Minister Ruddock.

PHILIP RUDDOCK, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: "My view is that to reunite him with his children with the purpose of a visit without enabling him to remain with them is not really a satisfactory outcome. He is Iranian and he can go to Iran at any time..."

The voice of the reporter picks up this thread latter in the text.

HEATHER EWART: The Immigration Department last month knocked back an application for visitors' visas for his children. This latest bid doesn't look promising either, despite promises from Brian Deegan and Ibrahim Sammaki's lawyer the children would be returned to Bali after visiting their father.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: "What I think is better for the children, is to be reunited with their father.That's what I think is better."

HEATHER EWART: "But not in Australia?"

PHILIP RUDDOCK: "Well, I think the balance of convenience in this case suggests that the father be able to be reunited in the country in which the children are citizens, and that's Indonesia, or that the children be reunited with him in the country of which he is a citizen, and that is Iran."

HEATHER EWART: "But so far Indonesia will only allow a visit and it's not clear whether Iran would take the children as permanent residents along with their father. In the meantime, the Minister says he's worried about the ramifications of the children making even a short visit to Australia."

PHILIP RUDDOCK: "I suspect that man would argue that the children ought to be able to remain with their father.I would be querulous of that if they were putting to me that we ought to have the children join him in detention."

No way says the Minister. They are not Australian citizens. I only care about Australian citizens hurt by the Bali bombings.

This policy is not humane because it refuses to acknowledge the humanity of people who are not Australian citizens.

The national security state is closed. A wall of protection surrounds it. It is such a stark contradiction to the open borders and free trade connected with the big push for a bilateral free trade agreement with the US.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:36 AM | | Comments (5)


Totally agree. The contradiction between open borders for trade but not people ranks up there as one of the great hypocrisies of the great god globalisation.

But I constantly find myself asking _why_ do we treat asylum seekers so badly? Why do politicians from both parties practice such deliberate policies of fear and loathing towards people who are different ethnically and culturally? Why don?t we treat white intruders the same way?

I have a theory: I reckon you can trace Australian attitudes towards anybody who's different back to the penal colony beginnings of Australia. It's only a coupla hundred years since the place was settled by whites, a mere blip in the process of accretion of cultural layers. Australia started off as a penal colony of petty criminals and debtors, and ruled by military bureaucrats. The practices and values established then have filtered down over the years, and you see them in the punitive way we treat interlopers who look and act differently.

The asylum-seekers are different by virtue of their colour, religion, ethnicity and culture. They?re not _like_ us. Not quite civilised. And how dare they try and eat from the same table, when we who were born here or have paid our dues have played the game? From there it?s a quick two-step to demonisation and harsh treatment in concentration camps.

For me, this whole issue lays bare just how fragile our ?civilisation? is, how real the possibility of a totalitarian state is. In my more morose moments I see it just around the corner.

This presupposes that Australia was always a bastion of tolerance and diversity which historically it never was. White Australia anyone? The whole national myth of mateship and egalitarianism which John Howard triumphs with such effect was in part created between men in 'hard times' and was based on white exclusivity and certainly didn't include the 'yellow peril' from the North. It appears fairly easy to fall back into this way of thinking in times of international turmoil especially if politicians exploit the issue.

Minister Ruddock is merely doing his best to maintain logical consistency in our policy of ordered migration in the face of a media that likes to seize on emotional examples, rather than explore the consequences of the open border policy which it is implicitly promoting.

Making exceptions for the most media-worthy cases, like the Balinese children, is hardly a basis for responsible policy, but the media campaign has, from the start, been based on highlighting individuals (like the Afghan refugee - sorry, Pakistani plumber - who had them fooled for so long).

Incidentally, the "contradiction" between advocating free trade and opposing free migration is equally applicable to the reverse positions, especially when you realise it isn't a contradiction at all. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that one of these policies works to the benefit of humanity and the other does not.

Ps - I am the son of a "Yellow Peril" migrant who does not believe in open door policies. In my mother's original home of Malaysia, the consequences of "multiculturalism" are all too evident. Yet I spent my Keating era school days being encouraged to think of myself as a hyphenated half-Chinese-Australian. I will be happy to increase our intake of refugees when the Left stops using government funding to actively encourage migrants not to assimilate. Until then, I'd rather not join in the fun of Europe's ethnic ghettos and race riots.

Alan I do not think that you can write 'humanity' here. Free trade may very well benefit humanity, but closed borders to asylum seekers benefits Australia not humanity.

That's what undermines the Minister's logical consistency. He tries to justify closed borders through appeals to universalism. It jars. I interpret it to mean he has not fully shifted to a conservative discourse that rejects univeralism.

I am not advocating an open border policy by the way. The nation state has a right to say who enters and leaves the country. But it is not an absolute right---Australia has signed up, and is a party to, various international treaties and various obligations to other nation states.

The multiculturalism/ assimilation scenario re the nation state that you raise is another issue. It is the way that the state should treat its citizens.

"But it is not an absolute right---Australia has signed up, and is a party to, various international treaties and various obligations to other nation states."
No AUSTRALIA (if you mean the people of Australia) did NOT sign up up anything. Such agreements were effected without reference to the people on which they impact.
Lets have some national plebiscites to see just waht the people of Australia do support!