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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

fostering a deliberative democracy « Previous | |Next »
February 14, 2005

The Canberra bureaucracy can be, and often is, a law unto itself. The Immigration Department is an example. It has closed down the shutters on its massive maltreatment of Christine Rau, an Australian resident, who was classified as an illegal,imprisoned without charge, and incarcerated in a detention system with no proper medical supervison.

The Rau case effectively undermines the "them" and "us" rationale used by the national security state. However, the Immigration Department is protected by the Howard Government:


The failure to have a full and open judicial inquiry into the Rau case means that no light is going to be shined inside the solitary confinement cells, or on the systematic inhumane treatment. With the Senate backing off from conducting its own inquiry into the secret activities of the mandatory detention system we citizesn are unable to call the Immigration Department to account.

Given the historical record of the mandatory detention system is not a good one, it is significant that the social work academics will launch their own inquiry. Accordding to Andrea Jackson in The Age , this will investigate whether there are "any more Cornelia Raus" hidden away in the system, and compile a dossier of cases of detention neglect. Jackson says that the inquiry plans to:

to sit in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide '[and] would accept oral and written submissions from detainees and former detainees, health and mental health professionals, former and present detention centre staff, non-government social service agencies and lawyers, with provision for confidential submissions.

This is a good move, as it is the only way to provide citizens in our deliberative democracy with much needed information, given the current failure of the Senate to stand strong and push the boundaries.

Chris Goddard and Max Liddell say there is a need to ask some pressing questions:

Why was it that those who are among the most marginalised Australians, the Aboriginal community in Queensland and those imprisoned in Baxter, were apparently able to recognise someone in desperate need of help when professionals were not? Why was it that it was those same marginalised people who were the ones who showed kindness and concern?

Why do we treat those in need of help so brutally? Why do we imprison those who are ill? What is it in us that makes us place "suspected non-citizens" behind wire in the desert, in an environment so remote, harsh and damaging?

Good questions. Let us hope that we can hear the diversity of voices that tell us about the humiliation and ill-treatment of asylum seekers and stateless people, such as Peter Qasim. The picture that is forming is that the detention system is the cause of serious harm to those incarcerated.

Why not offer permanent residency to the 700 who have been accepted as refugees and are in the community on temporary community visas? As Petro Gorgiou has argued, the flow of boat people has all but ceased, and the vast majority of the boats had benen carrying genuine refugees.

Hopefully, the academics inquiry will be a placeholder for the much needed review of the mental health risks to asylum seekers by the mandatory detention system.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:48 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference fostering a deliberative democracy:

» Foucault and deliberative democracy from
The Foucaldian critique of deliberative democracy would highlight the disciplinary function of democracy. Participation in Senate inquiries, for instance, requires disciplined attendance, putting aside personal convictions, a degree of self-restraint, ... [Read More]