Sunday, November 16, 2014



On the 60th Anniversary of the Signing of the Refugee Convention, on World News Radio, Dr Susan Harris-Rimmer, Director of Studies at the Australian National University's Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy said of the Refugee Convention-

"Robert Menzies signed on to the Convention in 1954 because the memory of war -- and the aftermath of war, and the negotiations to deal with all the refugees produced by the Second World War -- was still very fresh in the Australian memory. I mean, Robert Menzies was no soft-hearted humanitarian. He wasn't necessarily an internationalist. He was pretty similar, in many ways, to the current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and John Howard. He was acting in Australia's national interests. Darwin had been bombed, Australians had been captured in Singapore, enemy submarines had been in Sydney Harbour. It wasn't inconceivable to Menzies that Australians might be refugees themselves. And so there was a reciprocity in signing the Convention, in the sense it might benefit Australians or our neighbours, and that sense of reciprocity is the heart of international law.”

The commitment to the Refugee Convention in 1951 was a bipartisan commitment. Doc Evatt the Labor Leader at the time had been instrumental in the establishment of the United Nations and the writing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He was enthusiastic about the formation of the Refugee Convention.

Paul Power from the Refugee Council of Australia reported on the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Refugee Convention that -

“Australia was represented at the July 1951 Conference in Geneva, where they spent three-and-a-half weeks developing the various articles of the Refugee Convention, and one of the articles said that it would come into force 90 days after the sixth country ratified, or acceded to, it. And it just so happened that Australia was the sixth country."

Ahead of Australia, five European countries -- Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany -- had signed up over the first two years.

Indeed, the original convention was very much about Europe, where the war had displaced millions of people.

Many were Jewish refugees who had escaped the Holocaust, and many were Eastern Europeans who didn't want to go back to their home countries now under Communist rule.

Mr Menzies signed into effect an International Convention that defined who was a refugee, the rights of a refugee and the legal obligations of countries signing up to the Convention.

Refugees were, it said, people outside their own countries who feared persecution because of their race, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

Nations signing up, it said, could not expel refugees, could not return them to places where they were not safe.

The Convention, in fact, referred specifically to events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951.” Reference Ibid.

In 1967, Australia ratified the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. 146 countries ratified this Protocol. Where the United Nations 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees had restricted refugee status to those whose circumstances had come about "as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951", as well as giving States party to the Convention the option of interpreting this as "events occurring in Europe" or "events occurring in Europe or elsewhere", the 1967 Protocol removed both restrictions on time and place. Reference :

How times were different then. Or were they? There were millions of displaced people fleeing war, persecution, torture and death. There ARE millions fleeing war, persecution, torture and death now. Certainly many of those displaced then were European and many were Christian. Now refugees largely come from the Middle East, Arab Countries and South East Asia and aren’t Christian. Why does that make a difference? Australians themselves had been through the deprivations of war, whereas now Australians live in comparative luxury compared to the living conditions of refugees on the trail to find a safe haven.

In our political life bipartisanship on the issues of refugees and asylum seekers has become fraught, with the LNP Coalition seemingly determined to take the toughest line they can get away with with the electorate, and the Labor Party Federal Caucus in government and in opposition struggling to keep up.

John Howard set the pace after 9/11 with the Tampa and the fear campaign that those coming on the boats may be terrorists. What self respecting terrorist would get on a rickety boat and risk drowning? They would fly in of course! The Labor Party led by Kim Beazley was helpless and hopeless in the face of Howard’s assault on the rights of refugees. It was Beazley’s me-tooism that led John Robertson, Amanda Tattersall and Paul Howes to found Labor for Refugees.

Labor for Refugees is made up of party members and trade unionists who, in 2001, committed themselves to updating and improving Labor Party Policy on refugees and asylum seekers. At State and Federal Conferences of the party since then Labor for Refugees have worked hard. At the 2002 NSW State Conference, Labor for Refugees successfully led the push for the improvements to NSW State Party Policy on refugees and asylum seekers, combining Right and Left voters in an almost unanimous updating and improvement in party policy. NSW State Party Policy on refugees and asylum seekers was updated again in 2007. Labor for Refugees was instrumental in the improvements to National Policy at the National Conferences of the ALP in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2011. The next National Conference of the ALP is going to be crucial in determining whether the ALP can return to a fair and humane policy on refugees and asylum seekers.

We face a crossroads in our party. In the last 2 years at least four State Conferences of the ALP have supported Labor for Refugees initiated motions. In WA, Victoria and Queensland, those resolutions were carried unanimously. In NSW there were amendments but the resolution put by Labor for Refugees was only narrowly lost. We have a divided Caucus with a number of members, Melissa Parke MP for Fremantle, Anna Burke, the former Speaker of the House, and others trying to move the Caucus to a more humane position. The Federal Labor Caucus Majority at the present is committed to offshore processing. This was the position adopted by the Gillard Government after a number of deaths at sea from 2008. The Caucus Line now could be summed up with - we have to maintain the offshore detention centres but administer them better than Scott Morrison in order to stop the boats and stop the drownings.

Labor for Refugees recently published our second book The Drownings’ Argument in which 11 prominent writers and activists for refugees explode the drownings’ argument. Ged Kearney launching this book in Geelong recently called it a “small book but mighty”. You can order a copy of this book here tonight. Julian Burnside, the prominent Melbourne QC who now campaigns for refugee and asylum seeker rights, and who has just won the Sydney Peace Prize for his efforts, says in this book,

Let’s be very clear about this: every death at sea is a tragedy. No-one wants to see refugees die in their attempt to escape persecution, but the often recited concern about refugees drowning is just hypocritical propaganda.”

“People like Abbott and Morrison express their concern about refugees who drown. They are not sincere, but it provides a vaguely respectable excuse for harsh policies. I will say this plainly: when Abbott and Morrison say they are worried about refugees drowning on their way to Australia, they are lying: they are deceiving the public. It opens the way for them to mistreat asylum seekers who have not drowned, and it helps them pursue the darker purpose of keeping refugees out.”

Reference The Drownings’ Argument, Labor for Refugees, 2014, Page 12.

But our Shadow Immigration Spokesperson Richard Marles suggested recently that the Caucus move on from that position when he said in a stunning departure from previous Federal Labor Caucus refugee policy on Sky News on Sunday 26th October 2014,

The opposition immigration spokesman gave his strongest indi¬cation yet that if Labor was ¬returned to office it might not ¬jettison the centrepiece of the -Coalition’s border protection.
Labor would need to be convinced the policy was safe and not erode the relationship with Indonesia, Mr Marles said, adding those questions had not been answered because of the “shroud of secrecy of operational security’’.
“We have no doubt at all about the impact of the turnback policy,’’ Mr Marles said. “It has had an impact and, let me be clear about it, it has to be said in combi¬nation with the regional resettlement arrangement which Labor put in place.’’
The opposition immigration spokesman gave his strongest indi¬cation yet that if Labor was ¬returned to office it might not ¬jettison the centrepiece of the -Coalition’s border protection.
Labor would need to be convinced the policy was safe and not erode the relationship with Indonesia, Mr Marles said, adding those questions had not been answered because of the “shroud of secrecy of operational security’’.
“We have no doubt at all about the impact of the turnback policy,’’ Mr Marles said. “It has had an impact and, let me be clear about it, it has to be said in combi¬nation with the regional resettlement arrangement which Labor put in place.’’
The opposition immigration spokesman gave his strongest indi¬cation yet that if Labor was ¬returned to office it might not ¬jettison the centrepiece of the -Coalition’s border protection.
Labor would need to be convinced the policy was safe and not erode the relationship with Indonesia, Mr Marles said, adding those questions had not been answered because of the “shroud of secrecy of operational security’’.
“We have no doubt at all about the impact of the turnback policy,’’ Mr Marles said. “It has had an impact and, let me be clear about it, it has to be said in combi¬nation with the regional resettlement arrangement which Labor put in place.’’
The opposition immigration spokesman gave his strongest indi¬cation yet that if Labor was ¬returned to office it might not ¬jettison the centrepiece of the -Coalition’s border protection.
Labor would need to be convinced the policy was safe and not erode the relationship with Indonesia, Mr Marles said, adding those questions had not been answered because of the “shroud of secrecy of operational security’’.
“We have no doubt at all about the impact of the turnback policy,’’ Mr Marles said. “It has had an impact and, let me be clear about it, it has to be said in combi¬nation with the regional resettlement arrangement which Labor put in place.’’
“that if Labor was ­returned to office it might not ­jettison the centrepiece of the ­Coalition’s border protection. Labor would need to be convinced the policy was safe and not erode the relationship with Indonesia”, Mr Marles said, adding those questions had not been answered because of the “shroud of secrecy of operational security. We have no doubt at all about the impact of the turnback policy,’’ Mr Marles said. “It has had an impact and, let me be clear about it, it has to be said in combi­nation with the regional resettlement arrangement which Labor put in place.’’ Reference

Uproar followed within the Federal Caucus, the ALP generally and in the community.  By the following day, Richard Marles was backing away from these comments but his defenders in the Federal Labor Caucus then called for the next National Conference of the ALP in 2015 to accept turning back the boats as party policy. Reference The Australian 28.10.14, 12.00am, Jared Owens Reporter. “Opposition moves to adopt the Abbott government’s policy of turning back asylum-seeker boats would be resisted at next year’s ALP National Conference, exposing a damaging internal rift ahead of the next election.
Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles yesterday maintained he was “open-minded” about the border measure to deter people-smuggling from Indonesia. But he refused to commit to turnbacks, even if Labor could
be assured it was safe and did not harm relations with Jakarta.”

Good grief !!! Even Julia Gillard in 2010 said….

 “Let me say one thing loud and clear. Our nation would not leave children to drown. We are Australians and our values will never allow us to embrace this kind of evil. So inevitably, the so called strategy of turning back the boats would become a strategy of rescuing asylum seekers from the water with all the risks that that entails to the lives of defence and customs personnel. The slogan is hollow and Mr Abbott knows it.” Reference Lowy Institute Speech, 6.7.10.

In response to Richard Marles’s comments, Robin Rothfield the National Co convenor went public warning Richard Marles that he was “out of step with party members”, calling Richard’s statements about retaining the Coalitions hard line on boat turnbacks as “absolutely appalling” and “totally unacceptable.” Robin said, “He has to keep in tune with the party membership. His views are totally out of line with the party membership.”


Richard Marles backed down after several members of Caucus refused to  back his proposed change to their policy but there was a quote in the media from some right wing members of the Caucus for his proposal to be put to the next National Conference of the ALP.

Labor for Refugees wants the next National Conference of the ALP to be a break away from the policies that Labor has pursued over recent years. The next National Conference of the Party is a chance for Labor to make a break with the past and move towards a more humane and fair policy for refugees and asylum seekers. What we also need now is a commitment that those who will be part of a Labor Government on our behalf will accept and implement a more humane policy, and not keep allowing the LNP Coalition to set the agenda on the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.





But right now, in Parliament, refugees and asylum seekers and indeed the people of Australia themselves, face an attack on their rights and libertities. Scott Morrison is seeking to bring in legislation that includes all of the measures that he has ever wanted the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014.

Since becoming Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison has implemented an unprecedented assault on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. He did inherit what Labor left behind, up to 35,000 unprocessed asylum seekers in on shore and offshore detention. Make no mistake, Scott Morrison wants to deport these 35,000 asylum seekers and he will tear up the rule of law in this country if he has to, to achieve that. Morrison is at war with asylum seekers but he is also at war with the Australian legal system. Refugee Advocate lawyers are fighting him tooth and nail through the courts , especially the High Court, to stop his assault on the rights of asylum seekers. So far the High Court is winning. Reference:


But this legislation, if passed, will give Scott Morrison unprecedented powers as a Minister. This is the legislation of Scott Morrison’s wet dreams!!! If passed in its draft form, his powers will not be subject to the rulings of the High Court.

What this legislation does is


1.   Removes references to the Refugee Convention from the Migration Act.


2.   Suspends the rules of natural justice applying to asylum seeker applications – removing the possibility of High Court challenges.  This cannot be allowed to happen. The rule of law and the judiciary is fundamental in our democracy, ensuring fairness, justice and transparency in decision-making.


3.   Brings in changes that would allow boats carrying people seeking asylum to be towed anywhere beyond Australian territories, including the open sea, and leaving them there without regard for the safety of their passengers.


4.   Introduces a fast track assessment process with no access to the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) and very limited review processes.    It should be noted that fast turnaround processing was ruled illegal in the United Kingdom in July 2014 as it carried an “unacceptable risk of unfairness.”



5.   Brings in changes that mean that children born to asylum seekers in Australia who arrived by boat, will not be eligible for any visa, but would be classified as “transitory persons”, creating a new group of stateless persons. Unfortunately the High Court has given this some validity in a recent ruling that said a child born to asylum seeker parents in an Australian or offshore facility is deemed to have been born on a boat…..what an extraordinary decision!



6.   Introduces Safe Haven Enterprise Visas, as suggested by the Palmer United Party. These would be temporary visas for 3 to 5 years which would not lead to permanent protection visas even for those people assessed to be refugees.   There is no justification for leaving people found to be refugees in limbo, with no prospect of resettlement in Australia.



There is no doubt that this legislation will get through the LNP Coalition dominated lower house but it can be stopped in the Senate. If Labor and Cross Bench Senators decide not to support the proposed changes the legislation is dead. This legislation must die in the Senate. So far Richard Marles has indicated that Labor will move amendments which they expect to be lost, and then vote against the whole Bill. This is very important. We cannot afford to give Morrison unprecedented power.




Australia needs to grow up and recognise that we are part of the world and that we have international obligations as a world citizen. We are currently taking 13,500 refugees and asylum seekers a year, reduced by the current government from 20,000. Recently 250,000 refugees crossed from Syria into Turkey in a matter of days and we whinge and whine about 13,000 in a year! Sweden takes in more refugees through the UN agency UNHCR than any other European country; this year it has decided to allocate almost one-third of its quota (600 out of 1,900 resettlement places) to Syrian citizens and Palestinians from Syria. Reference:


Lebanon, a country with many troubles is almost at breaking point with trying to care for the refugees flooding in to that country. In October 2014 the U.N. High Commission on Refugees estimated that by December 2014, Lebanon will have taken in 1.5 million refugees. This is a considerable burden for a country with a population of only 4.5 million, leading Lebanon’s government to announce last week that they could no longer continue to accept Syrian refugees. Reference:

After a terrible number of drownings at sea, and uproar within the Italian community, the Italian Government has until recently run a program called Mare Nostrum in which they go out and collect people from asylum seekers boats and welcome them with open arms as migrants. That program has recently been modified on the distance they will go to do pick-ups due to the cost to the Italian Government, already struggling with the after effects of the GFC. Fears have been expressed that up to 3000 asylum seekers a year will lose their lives in drownings due to the ending of Mare Nostrum.

Australia needs a properly negotiated and structured regional framework in which we acknowledge our responsibilities not just dump them on countries like Cambodia which can barely afford to feed, clothe and educate its own people. We need to work with our regional neighbours towards a system of co-operation which ensures the protection – not rejection – of people seeking safety and security. And this process needs to start BEFORE people get on boats or even need to get on boats. Labor for Refugees has outlined how this could work to several Labor Ministers and our views are documented in our first book, Alternatives to Offshore Processing. You can also order a copy of this book here tonight. Ministers say to us that the Indonesians won’t co-operate. We have had people talking to the Indonesian bureaucracy and they are very interested in the idea. It can be done. There just has to be the will in government.


The next Labor Government needs to develop approaches to the processing of refugees and asylum seekers which are based on decency, the rule of law and which protect human rights.

Our National Platform currently says

“Labor recognises the economic and social contribution that has been made by migrants and refugees throughout our nation’s history. Labor regards Australia’s diversity as a source of national strength and a critical factor in nation-building.


147 Australia is and will remain a society of people drawn from a rich variety of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds. Australia is and will remain a multicultural society.

148 To support Australia’s multicultural society, Labor’s migration policies will:

●● remain non-discriminatory

●● respect the heritage and traditional customs of migrants and their children

●● recognise the importance of all aspects of the migration program, including skilled, family and humanitarian streams

●● be evidence-based, supported by rigorous research and evaluation

●● support Australia’s social cohesion by encouraging universal respect for Australia’s democratic beliefs and laws, and the rights, responsibilities  and privileges of Australian citizenship

●● promote our cultural diversity and combat prejudice and discrimination

●● consistently oppose those who foster extremism, hatred, ethnic division or incitement to violence.”

We in the Labor Party, we as Labor in Government need to give effect to those words.



















Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Nifty And The Nurses

By Jenny Haines, New Matilda, 22.4.14
Neville Wran
Neville Wran
Neville Wran's reforms to the NSW health system often put him at odds with the Nurses Union, but as Premier he was always approachable, writes Jenny Haines
We were well into a two week strike by mental health nurses over the 1983 Richmond Report, and we were in the Premier's office looking for a solution. Ron Mulock, the Minister for Health, was raging at us and the mental health nurses around the table with me were smiling.
I found out many years later that Neville "Nifty" Wran was out in the corridor, saying to his aide “I hope that f*****g Ron Mulock has got this right!” If only we had known that was what he was thinking. And so typical of him to give us credit, when so many wouldn't.
My first memories of Neville Wran were from when I was still a student nurse in the early 1980s, when the Wran Government announced the Beds to the West Program. Huge numbers of beds in the inner city were to be closed to free up money to build and develop hospitals and health services in the west, south-west and north of Sydney. To do so, Wran wanted to close stately old hospitals like Crown Street and Sydney Hospital.
There was no doubt that health services in these areas needed development. They also needed doctors and nurses to move to those areas to staff the facilities. But we in the union objected to the closure of beds. Why wasn’t there government money to develop health services in the suburbs, before looking at what needed to be closed in the city.
I ran on a Nurses Reform Ticket in the 1982 NSW Nurses Association elections. The old leadership of the Nurses Association had done very little to protect its members affected by the cuts, and many were shocked when we won office. Neville was a formidable opponent. He had garnered the support of the Right and the official Left of the ALP. We were painted as selfish, and the tools of the Australian Medical Association.
Over the next five turbulent years many things changed for nurses. We had to fight for wage and career structure reform, and put in place protections for nurses affected by cuts. Then the Richmond Report arrived. The proposed community alternatives for mental health care were grossly underfunded, and had to be stopped. We opposed the decisions and strategies of the Wran Government, but Neville himself was always approachable, always someone you could talk to.
I remember being in the lift at the Randwick Club on the day that Bob Hawke took over from Bill Hayden. Nifty got in at the last minute as the doors closed. As we left the club he offered me a lift to the city. I turned him down, because I feared that I would be compromised by a private discussion. To this day I regret that decision.
Nurses in the 1980s were moving towards university education. In an attempt to pacify the raging nursing profession, in 1984 the Wran Government announced the closure of hospital based schools and the transfer of nurse education to Colleges of Advanced Education. The educators and managers were thrilled but fearing for the impact on the nursing workforce numbers, the union urged the phasing out of hospital based schools and the phasing in of university education.
Again, we met the Premier. I well remember him saying, “Beware the Ides of March...” but I wasn’t sure what he was referring to at the time. Later I understood that he was then under challenge for the leadership in his own government, and he knew the perilous position of the Nurses Reform leadership.
Nifty stayed in government until July 1986. I remember walking into the NSW State Conference where he announced his retirement. There was a stunned silence over the room. I had been out buying a coffee. He was announcing his retirement as I walked in the gallery and people in the conference were yelling “No, no!” Female compatriots of Wran were crying. Everyone was shocked. Barrie Unsworth was blessed by the factions as Wran's successor.
Rumours had been circulating for a while, after the Street Royal Commission. As Wran himself once said, “If you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas”. Nothing was proved, but he had made the decision to go.
Neville was a lawyer with a distinguished career behind him when he became Premier. He was a Labor man through and through and led the Labor Party through turbulent times. He was a reformist and a committed social democrat. The reform of the Upper House was one of his best achievements. Compared to the so called political leaders of today he was a giant among men.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Paris Aristotle in this article throws down the challenge to all sides and parties in our current and next Parliament.  The arrival of asylum seeker boats is not going to be addressed without a more organised solution to which there is bipartisan commitment. The Malaysia Deal is not that solution. The recent Malaysian elections exposed some of the tensions along the lines of race, class and religion in an already overpopulated society. To send asylum seekers back to Malaysia from Australia is not only Australia shrugging off its responsibilities but putting those asylum seekers into a society that does not want them, will not welcome them and will marginalise and discriminate against them.


More organisation in Indonesia and Malaysia to identify refugees and then flying them to Australia would stop the boats. This has been done before in the 1970s and 1980s with the Orderly Departure Program that saw up to 250,000 Vietnamese boat people brought to Australia on Hercules Aircraft. The Orderly Departure Program was organised by the UN and the US and Australian Governments in co-operation with the Vietnamese Government of the time to stop Vietnamese Boat People taking to boats and being attacked on the high seas by pirates or pushed back to sea by the Malaysian military. We can do this again. Nothing stops us except our ability to get it organised. We can absorb tens of thousands of people a year in this country quite successfully. We have done it with the Vietnamese and other ethnicities that are now part of our daily lives in one of the world’s most successful multicultural countries. We can do this again. All that is required is the political will and political leadership. We need to stop catering to the lowest common denominator in this debate and start acting to save lives.


Jenny Haines

Saturday, December 29, 2012


By Jenny Haines


This is an important book in the current debate about refugees, asylum seekers and people smugglers that should be read by all members of Federal Parliament, some of whom stood weeping in Parliament during the debate on asylum seekers in 2012, and then allowed the re-opening of Nauru and Manus Island to add to the asylum seeker misery they claimed to be so concerned about.

At last we get to hear the debate from the point of view of an asylum seeker who through circumstance becomes a “people smuggler”. Ali Al Jenabi grew up in Saddam’s Iraq. He learnt very early the vile nature of Saddam’s regime through the internment, torture and persecution of his father, a man with a most remarkable ability to survive the horrors of Saddam’s jails. Ali himself is interned in Abu Ghraib and despite the best efforts of the cruel guards, he also survives Saddam’s jails. He makes several efforts to escape Iraq and eventually after many attempts gets to Malaysia, and then on to Indonesia. After you have read what he has been through you are cheering him on. His bravery, endurance, commitment and sheer entrepreneurial skills are just what Australia needs, but in Indonesia they were also just what his fellow Iraqis fleeing the horrors of Saddam needed. After being cheated on the beach by a people smuggler, Ali decides to go into the business of transporting desperate people to Australia by boat himself, but not to cheat and rob them, but to help them. His prime motive was always to raise enough money to get his own family out of Iraq and to Australia. As his lawyer in Australia says to him later –

“Smuggling is the wrong description for you. You weren’t trying to get people into a country without the authorities knowing. The Australian’s knew from their own intelligence the vessel had left Indonesia, because their Orion aircraft were out there looking for it. They picked the people up and took them to Australian territory for processing as refugees. That’s not smuggling. Smuggling is about hiding people in containers and under vehicles like they do in Europe. You were not doing that. Nor were you human trafficking, which is kidnapping and trading of slaves for sex or labour.”

Ali gradually learns through trial and error the “people smuggling” business, successfully getting seven boats to Australia, including one which carried several members of his family. There is a terrible time for Ali where he hears that the boat that his family were on may have gone down. He lies catatonic on a bed for 14 days until his sister rings from Australia to tell him that the captain got lost, so it took seven days. and then when they landed the Australian authorities kept the news from the media so no one knew the boat had arrived. Ali weeps like a child.

People smuggling is not illegal in Indonesia. Just a well, as just about all of the authorities are getting a cut of the trade. Ali has to pay them all so the desperate people he is trying to help can get to safety. So for the Australian Federal Police to arrest Ali they have to get him to Thailand. Ali is betrayed, and the AFP arrested him in Thailand on a false passport charge, then arrested for people smuggling. He was extradited to Australia and tried in a Darwin court on people smuggling charges but thank heavens for Australian lawyers and courts. After hearing all the evidence Justice Mildren says -

“....Oskar Schindler saved many lives by employing Jews as slave labourers and he made a great deal of money out of their labour, although of course he did later repay many of those that he was able to save. But the point is a valid one: there can be mixed motives and I accept that the prisoner was not solely motivated by money, but was largely motivated by the need to get his family to Australia come what may.”

Ali Al Jenabi...the Oskar Schindler of Asia.

Ali is sentenced to jail and with time already served only spends another 21months. On his release a DIAC Officer tries to trick him in to going back to Iraq voluntarily, but he wisely refuses to sign and makes a claim for asylum. He spends time in Villawood while the Howard Government, and then the Ministers of the Rudd and Gillard Government’s, angry at the court’s decision and sentence,  when the Government had wanted to make an example of him to pander to marginal seat prejudice, spitefully keep him in detention. It is only when asylum seeker activists take up his case he finally is granted a Removal Pending Bridging Visa, which means the government can send him back to Iraq at a time of their choosing.

Faris, an asylum seeker who travelled to Australia on one of Ali’s boats, but lost his family on the SIEV X says of Ali in the book “I think he is a very very gentleman. He is the best smuggler. He had a good heart. He was not hard, not a greedy person. I have a conscience about what I saw from Ali Al Jenabi.”

Ali watches the parliamentary debate in 2012.He hears Julia Gillard and Minister Chris Bowen talk about “the people smugglers business model” He laughs and asks -

Do they think there are men in suits sitting around boardroom tables somewhere devising strategies? Has no one told them people smuggling is an amorphous rag-tag network run by word of mouth and mobile phones? There are no records or bank accounts. No spreadsheets or business plans. They pop up where ever people are trying to escape and disappear when they are no longer needed. If you want to stop people smugglers you have to do something about what causes people to flee their own countries in the first place.”

Wise words from Ali Al Jenabi. Is anyone in power listening?

Friday, November 23, 2012


Sent to the SMH 22.11.12, not yet published.

The Editor,



The Gillard Bowen Government is in an real mess on asylum seekers now. Having walked away from their own party to making policy on the run to appease the ever more right wing calls of Tony “the No Man” Abbott, they have now walked themselves right in to Howard territory from which it is going to be hard for them to retreat.


We now have mass hunger strikes on Nauru and at least one asylum seeker close to death. There will no doubt be mass hunger strikes on Manus Island soon as the people placed there realise they may be there for up to 5 years. Immigration goon squads are raiding houses in Australia again, Gestapo style, to pick up asylum seekers whose poor English in their application to stay here (because they didn’t have any interpreter assistance with making a proper application), has not passed some DIAC officers assessment for being allowed to stay in Australia.


Now we are to release new arrivals into the community while their legitimate claims are lodged and processed but they will not be allowed to work, and so reliant on the kindness of churches, charities and strangers, none of whom having seen these people’s need will ever vote Labor again. What a terrible mess! And none of it is stopping the boats because none of it addresses the push factors.


What is needed now is leadership and sadly I don’t think it is there on either side of parliament. Minister Bowen is now totally captive by his department . Where are the Greens and Independents? I did hear Oakeshott say that there are no short term solutions here and that we need to concentrate on a longer term regional solution. We can’t do that with 2 major parties running short term, short sighted agendas up to the next election only.


Jenny Haines


Sunday, November 18, 2012


Asylum Seeker Roundup begins - Raids, Re-detentions and Deportation.
Sunday 18.11.12

Immigration raids and re-detentions have begun across Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide this weekend. Immigration cars are watching houses where people are living lawfully on community detention conditions and bridging visas. There is fear among community based asylum seekers as those called to appointments are then seized and taken back to detention centres. These are men who have been detained in isolated detention centres already for more than two years which compounds their terror of being taken again.

When one person in a house goes to a DIAC (Immigration) and then does not return it sends fear into those left behind. In some instances they then have gone to stay elsewhere because they are unable to bear the waiting for their turn to come when they too will be taken. One man tried to return to get his papers on the weekend but saw the DIAC cars waiting for him so he spent the night in a park in fear. Other men who have cases filed in the court so cannot by law be deported and who would not normally be detained, have been told that they will be locked up no matter what. Their house has been raided three times since Friday.

The ordinary rules have changed. DIAC orders are now to raid, capture and detain those on community detention. In addition there are a large number of Hazaras whose bridging visas cease on the 29th November and who are being told to go to DIAC offices with an airline ticket and passport for return to Afghanistan.

Currently there are three legal cases on foot which may affect these men’s status. It would seem that DIAC are acting before this can happen.

The two groups at risk are the Tamil and Hazara asylum seekers. The common factors in their cases are that they have not had a fair go. These cases were judged under the IMR system which has been discontinued and discredited. Some of the reviewers have been named in Court as showing “bias” and criticised for the decisions they handed down.   There was no redress for those whose cases did not get to the court but who were refused by the same reviewer on the same spurious grounds. An unofficial, un- documented PRE process which was put together to quietly fix the terrible decisions only operated from BOAT 175 onwards. This has left a pool of people who fell outside both the faulty system and the faulty system fix. The difficulty in finding a lawyer and get to court because they were detained in far off WEIPA or Curtin detention centres has further cruelled any chance for a fair go.

 These men also missed out on the Complementary protection provision which was introduced in March this year. This means that their cases were not examined against the torture convention or other international human rights conventions leaving them further at risk. Political edict saw the acceptance rates of Hazaras go from 99% in 2009/2010 to 30% in 2010/2011 be ministerial decree as the boat numbers grew. We have seen the same cases detailing persecution on grounds of ethnicity, religion and political belief dismissed because of political considerations when if they had arrived six months earlier they would have been accepted.  The statistical evidence screams politics rather than fair assessment in the treatment of these men.

What is most egregious about the kangaroo court injustice they have received is revealed in reading their cases.  We see case after case where the reviewer says that they accept that the asylum seeker is a “credible witness”, that the reviewer accepts that Family members were killed by the Taliban, that brothers and fathers disappeared at the hands of the Taliban, that the letters threatening them are genuine but still they refuse them on the grounds that they can “relocate” elsewhere or on the grounds of the DFAT cable which claims that Hazaras are experiencing a “golden age”. It is unbelievable that such bare faced political concoctions can be used to dismiss refugee applications but this is the reality.

NO SPIN OR GLOSS CAN HIDE THE FACT that people are about to be sent home to die for Australian political purposes.

PS Enablers in DIAC and the Government have got around the fact that the Afghan Ambassador, a decent man , has not obliged by providing travel documents to return Hazaras to Kabul. Enablers have found someone in Kabul the capital of corruption who is obliging!
 The Australian government's cosy relationship with the SriLankan embassy and lashings of cash to the SL government for boats and surveillance equipment  has been rewarded with compliance.
Pamela Curr
Campaign Coordinator
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


31 Oct 2012

Labor Learned Nothing From Howard

 Federal Labor is performing amazing policy contortions as it seeks to excise mainland Australia from the migration zone. It's another shocking repudiation of the party platform, writes Jenny Haines of Labor for Refugees

Here we go again! Labor, in an effort to try to prove it is as tough as the Howard government on refugees and asylum seekers, is preparing to do a double back flip that would make an Olympic diver proud.

Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen admits it’s a backflip. He says he is changing party policy to allow for the excision of the whole of the Australian mainland, including presumably Tasmania and Macquarie Island, just in case any asylum seeker boat ever gets there. He must not be reading the same party policy as I am. The National Conference Platform adopted at the National Conference of the ALP in 2011 included the following statements in Chapter 9, A Fair Go for all Australians:

"26. Labor believes a Human Rights Framework that reflects our international obligations is necessary in reflecting our commitment to fundamental rights across social and economic policies.
We are committed to promoting the awareness and understanding of human rights, supporting the international human rights instruments to which Australia is a signatory, and properly funding the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Labor will adhere to Australia’s international human rights obligations and will seek to have them incorporated into the domestic law of Australia, and have them taken into account in administrative decision-making and whenever new laws and policies are developed."

The National Conference committed us to the Refugee Convention, its values, principles and commitments. It hasn’t met again to revoke this decision. That is how party policy is changed — not at the whim of a minister who is being badly advised by his department. Nor is party policy changed by the perceived demands of a party struggling to drag itself out of the mire of the polls.

But National Conference Policy, to its shame, and because Labor for Refugees could not convince delegates to vote these provisions down, also states:

"153. To support Australia’s strong border security regime, Labor will maintain:
• an architecture of excised offshore places
• the non-statutory processing on Christmas Island of persons who arrive unauthorised at an excised place, except where other arrangements are entered into under bilateral and regional arrangements.
Labor is united in its commitment to prevent further loss of life at sea of vulnerable children, women and men… Such arrangements will result in asylum seekers who arrive both by air and sea being treated the same when it comes to the processing of their claims and access to support while on bridging visas."

Now we know what that "architecture of excised offshore places" and the "bilateral and regional arrangements" really means. Those clauses are supposed to be read in the context of the whole document — but obviously there is some fundamentalist interpretation of the National Conference Platform being undertaken in Canberra.

But note the last sentence. While the Minister several months ago said that those who arrive by air and those who arrive by sea will be treated equally, we are not doing that. We are now going to send those who arrive by sea directly to Nauru and Manus Island, with virtually no legal resources to process their rightful claim for asylum in Australia. Limited internet access for asylum seekers on Nauru — because there are not enough computers — does not allow for the fair preparation of a claim for asylum.

There is another way.

Labor for Refugees recently made a submission to the Houston Panel which set out the following principles as a guide for government action:

• Genuine concern and compassion for the wellbeing and future of asylum seekers who come by boat; alternatives to "dangerous journeys" should not be driven by political considerations. That people are willing to risk their lives in such circumstances is an indicator of desperation. Policy should not be simply motivated by border control and exclusion but a genuine desire to find safer alternatives for people in need of protection.
• Respect for the integrity of the Refugee Convention and the international protection frameworks and compliance with Australia’s legal obligations under the convention and complementary protection legislation
• Respect for the time-honoured maritime principle of rescue at sea above all other considerations. Preservation of lives and prevention of tragedies requires constant vigilance on the part of Australia, in collaboration with Indonesia. Given Australia’s superior capabilities for surveillance and rescue, it is essential that the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority take the lead role rather than relying on the lesser resources of Indonesian maritime authorities in responding to vessels in distress en route to Australia.
• Recognition that punitive policies targeting asylum seekers arriving by boat are contrary to the Refugee Convention by discriminating on the basis of mode of entry.
• Recognition of the profound psychological harm caused to asylum seekers found to be refugees of harsh deterrence policies including offshore internment in remote Nauru and Manus Island and Temporary Protection Visas.
• Recognition of compelling "push" factors including internal conflict and human rights abuses that influence the decision to seek irregular access to Australia’s protection frameworks from source countries such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Burma.
• Recognition that the vast majority of asylum seekers who come by boat are found to be in need of protection and are therefore by definition, vulnerable people who have experienced trauma.
• Recognition of the very limited options for asylum seekers in Indonesia and Malaysia in being resettled permanently within a reasonable time-frame; that pathways to resettlement are not well established and supported in the region.
• Recognition that while it is desirable for Australia to control entry, it will not always be possible to achieve this in the context of world-wide forced migration movements.
• Recognition that Australian Government policies such as severe restrictions on refugee family reunion contribute to the number of irregular arrivals.
• That the Bali Process should involve genuine engagement and collaboration with countries of the region aimed at addressing the needs and human rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and raising the standards for protection within the region.

The most ridiculous consequence of all of this is that the Government is failing to stop the boats. Surely the test of any government policy or strategy should be, is it working? So what next?

We need to immediately establish pathways to resettlement from Indonesia. Over the period 2001-2010, Australia has accepted only 56 refugees from Indonesia per year, and only 24 in the past six months. This is despite Indonesia being the primary exit point for boats of asylum seekers to Australia and despite the fact that there are currently 4239 refugees in Indonesia awaiting resettlement. Lack of formal pathways to resettlement is directly contributing to irregular arrivals.

Labor for Refugees recommended to the Houston Panel that 2000 places be allocated annually to resettlement from Indonesia. This would effectively create a queue for resettlement in Australia.

Australia needs to assist with the processing of refugees in Indonesia and the region. This should include increased funding to the UNHCR in Indonesia in particular and processing of applications by the Australian Embassy, with staff preparing reports assessing claims which could then be sent to Immigration for completion. This may necessitate increased staffing levels at the Embassy, with costs offset against a reduction in processing costs on Christmas Island.

We need to assist the UNHCR with the processing of refugees in Indonesia. There were until recently only two people in Indonesia processing refugees, with UNHCR funding expected to be halved over the next few years. If we are serious about stopping people getting on unsafe boats, we need to increase funding to UNHCR and have more people processed in Indonesia, so refugees can see that they will have their claims heard, for free, rather than paying large sums to people smugglers.

Most importantly, as Labor for Refugees in its submission to the Houston Panel emphasised, it is crucial that we learn from the experience of offshore processing and TPVs under the Howard years. If we are genuinely concerned for the welfare of asylum seekers, these policies should not be reintroduced. The so-called Pacific Solution was high cost not only to the Australian taxpayer but in terms of adverse impacts on asylum seekers, most of whom qualified as refugees. The experience of incarceration in remote detention camps re-traumatised these vulnerable people, the majority of whom eventually resettled in Australia.

Can Labor learn? Not if the parliamentary party does not listen to its own party policy making forums. Making policy on the run does not good policy or good government make! If it is obvious that a policy or strategy is not working, then it is time to change direction and implement strategies that can work.