Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I heard a radio report earlier today about a Chinese-born Australian man who is going to sue the government for unlawful detention after he was detained for three days in 2002 at the Villawood immigration detention centre. From this ABC article ("Overseas-born Australians urged to carry passports"):

"A man identified only as 'Howard' was detained with his three-year-old Australian-born son despite telling immigration officials he had an Australian passport.
Howard's lawyer, Nick McNally, says his client showed officials his Medicare card, driver's licence and employment papers, and told them he had an Australian passport."

It seems then that the immigration 'debate' (if you could call it that - it's been more like four years of outcry from refugee advocacy groups, the "left" and the odd 'real' liberal within the Liberal Party, responded to with stone-walling from the government) is possibly taking another turn. I mean of course that the problem is perceived as leaking out to include Australian citizens. So it was pish-posh to the Bakhtiyaris, but ears are apparently pricking up again now that Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon Alvarez - cases of unlawful detention and deportation concerning Aussies (if only those foreign-born, mildly insane and therefore kind of suspect ones) - have been presented to the mainstream media.

It's hard to say whether or not this will have any real or large impact on government refugee policy. I mean, it's obvious that the only real moral justice will arise from having Amanda Vanstone accidentally trip and roll through the Liberal cabinet, fatally squashing Phillip Ruddock (from whom no vital fluids will be squeezed, as the man is both morally and physically shrivelled) and other such worms - but this is unlikely without the intervention of the Deus ex Machina.

I doubt there will be an explosion of outrage. I would like an explosion of outrage to force a Royal Commission, but I can't imagine that this will be forthcoming. It will probably end up being played down as an administrative error or string thereof - you know, "let's just set up a national missing persons list", rather than an inquiry to find whether or not there may be systematic problems within the Immigration Department.

Which is why I responded somewhat ambivalently upon hearing of this Sydney man sueing the government: when a person sues, it generally only addresses problems at the level of the individual, one-off case. Accordingly, the injustice and idiocy built into the fibre of the institutions themselves remains in place.

There is of course some possibility that an avalanche of such cases will turn into a 'scandal', and so be effectual within the arrogant bullshit-fest that is the Australian Parliament. As I've mentioned above, however, I can't really see this taking hold - it's too easily written off. And, of course, no one cares - well, no one outside of Age readers, and perhaps the odd (small-L) liberal.

Fat lot of good Kim Beazley's doing about it, too. And yes, that pun was intended.

(But I shouldn't whinge too much. After all, our reactionary, xenophobic and populist immigration policy means that Australia is at least a world leader in something! Just look as those smug Europeans as they struggle to keep up in our wake.)

It is interesting, though, that two or three of the 'big stories' of the last week or so have concerned the fate of Australians abroad: Schapelle Corby, Douglas Wood and Vivian Solon. A bright-eyed, ordinary Australian girl embroiled in drug trafficking charges up in Indonesia's barbaric justice system ("Did she do it? Was she framed? Tune into Channel Nine and voice your opinion!"); a fat, everyman taken hostage in Iraq as he was just trying to do his bit for the Iraqi people; and Solon... How do we place her? Where is she being placed by the media? And just what is the wider implication of this slew of 'Australians abroad' stories?

More analysis is needed.


Blogger Mel said...

Eh, sorry about this old chap, but I have passed you a musical baton.

6:05 pm  

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