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Crikey on the Palmer Report « Previous | |Next »
July 18, 2005

I've just read Crikey's Daily report, that was sent out to subscribers last Friday. In it Michael Pascoe makes a good comment about the Howard Government's spin around Palmer Report. It stands in contrast to the conservative response which is content to fill in the details of the Government's spin.

Pascoe says that Vivian Alvarez and Cornelia Rau are relatively lucky because they are Australian citizens. He reminds us that what has been conveniently forgotten is the cases of thousands of non-Australian citizens abused and maltreated by DIMIA, who have been kept under the carpet. Pasco says:

Palmer was excluded from examining the much bigger and no-doubt uglier picture, leaving Howard and Vanstone to pretend these were two unfortunate mistakes instead of being the natural outcome of government policy.

The message sent by Howard and Vanstone is that it's not a rogue department at all, that the good servants of DIMIA have been doing just what their political masters have wanted. Under the policy of deterrence, Australia is to be a fearsome place for non-citizens. DIMIA thuggery is not only tolerated, it is encouraged by the government's words and actions. No-one is sacked when such behaviour unfortunately comes to light. Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.

Mistakes? Palmer talks in terms of failure---of culture, process, management, instruction, executive leadership, training, record-keeping, diagnosis, treatment and duty of care. This is a Department doing what was required by the Howard Government. It is government policy to have mandatory detention centres that function as camps in which detainees, or rather prisoners, are maltreated as routine practice.

'Mistakes' highlights the banality of evil involved in public administration.

A state of emergency (the boat people) required such deterrence. Even though the emergency has actually passed (ie., no more boat people) the deterrence, camps, maltreatment and brutality remain. They have become a normal feature of the political landscape.

The state of exception is now the normal. In the light of this Andrew Bartlett's observations are on target:

The notion that you can overhaul the culture of an entire Department without reforming the laws and policies which are the air that Department has breathed for the last decade (and more) is farcical. It is also a convenient way of blaming the public servants, who have basically just delivered the system the Government has demanded.

The law and policies remain firmly locked in place. Still, the public servants should be held responsible for the harm they have caused to Australian citizens and to the refugees.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:47 AM | | Comments (4)


For all the hysteria, the Pacific Solution probably only stopped 1300 people. The initial outlay was 48 million. I have no idea what the ongoing cost was. What a waste.

It has also left the DIMIA with more arbitrary powers, and less oversight than before. Now the status of the refugees is at the whim of the Minister, rather than a repeatable and reputable process.

It brings nothing but disrepute to Australian government and politics.

money is no object to the national security state. Witness the US.

Immigration and terror are increasingly comming together as a threat to the fortress isolated in an alien sea.

Gary, Good old fortress Australia. Last vestige of the cultural scoundrels. I never understood the cultural conservatives aggression toward multi-culturalism. If anglo-Australian culture is so great, then immigrants will naturally gravitate to it and adopt it. If it is inferior, then immigrants will probably give it a pass.

If a culture has to be propped up by government coercion, ie immigration controls, history wars, obstruction toward republicanism, national symbolism etc; as cultural conservatives want and demand, then it is like the old protectionist industries. They are admitting that it cannot survive in the free market of ideas and actions.


Prosperity comes from maximum liberty, cultural conservatives are holding the nation back, retarding its progress, by requiring government intervention.

the political reason for the antagonism towards multiculturalism is social cohesion and national unity.

The philosophical reason is nihilism--the emptying out of meaning torn fragmented world.

It boils down to the centre cannot hold and so the state needs to govern the nation and regulate human bodies.