Defying the Refugee Convention
I was (somewhat) heartened by Karen Middleton’s article “Shifting debate on offshore detention”, August 20-26. The recent material published by The Guardian reinforces the extensive chilling reporting on Manus and Nauru by The Saturday Paper. There is growing recognition of the moral bankruptcy of the present offshore detention regime with experienced mainstream commentators increasingly articulating the unacceptability of current arrangements and the overriding need to engage in genuine regional dialogue about asylum flows. It should never be forgotten that these asylum seekers are victims, not criminals, the overwhelming majority of whom are consistently found by rigorous legal processes to be refugees within the meaning of the Refugee Convention. The evidence is irrefutable. Australia is subjecting them to serious and significant harm for reasons a court would undoubtedly find come within the Refugee Convention definition. Australia, as a consequence of deliberate government policy, is persecuting those fleeing from persecution.
– John Blount, Fadden, ACT, former director, Refugees Immigration & Asylum, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 1990-93
Manus and Nauru must be closed
How many more articles about the plight of refugees (ostensibly within the supposed care of our government) do we have to have (see the excellent articles by Paul Bongiorno, “Shameless in Canberra”, and Sarah Price, “Grand champion”, August 20-26) before the government and its ministers see that something urgent has to be done for these poor individuals who will be traumatised by their experience at the behest of the Australian government? They did come here by boat smugglers, but I am sure that they have been more than punished for their misadventure. It is time to close both detention centres and repatriate those who meet refugee status within our community and end their dismal existence on Manus and Nauru.
– Les Lloyd, Noosaville, Qld
Another voice against racism
Maxine Beneba Clarke rightly warns us of the dangerous undercurrents of racism that are re-emerging in Australia. (“The monster we will not name”, August 13-19). This was the battle we fought and imagined we had won back in the 1970s after immigration reform groups attracted young people in all the mainland states, and gradually influenced public opinion and politicians to reject the past racist immigration policies, and turn Australia into the diverse multiracial nation we are today. Who could have imagined that, in 2016, overt racism would make such a comeback? The election to the senate of Pauline Hanson and others from One Nation; the moves by Coalition backbenchers, such as Cory Bernardi, to alter section 18C (1) of the Racial Discrimination Act; attacks on Indigenous footballers at AFL matches, and the vicious race hate campaign against former senator Nova Peris, are all warning signals that we cannot become complacent or tolerate racism. Our geographical location, surrounded by emerging nations that we formerly patronised as colonial subjects, but which have now become our equals and trading partners, will not tolerate any signs of racial prejudice on our part. We must be vigilant against all forms of racial, religious or ethnic prejudice, which can threaten our national unity and harmonious relations with our diverse geographical neighbours. After I read her column I began reading Ms Clarke’s recently published memoir, The Hate Race, and applaud her for saying what needed to be said, based on her own experiences as a “person of colour”. May she contribute many more columns to The Saturday Paper.
– Dr Ruth Fink Latukefu, Newport Beach, NSW
Lawyers give thanks
As the birthplace of Lord Atkin, Brisbane has a lot to answer for (“Snail’s place in law”, Gadfly, August 20-26). Atkin made billions for lawyers with one of the great pieces of drivel in the history of the law. Lawyers rub their hands when they hear the word “reasonable”; it can mean anything. In Donoghue v Stevenson (1932), Atkin wrote: “The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour … You must take reasonable care to avoid acts and omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation.” (Emphasis added.)
– Evan Whitton, Glebe, NSW
A principled character
Josh Frydenberg (Karen Middleton, “Meet the minister for trees and coal”, August 13-19) is a very affable and plausible politician. He relies on the short memories of most of the voting public and his dominant characteristic is ambition. Straddling the fence between Energy and Environment will be difficult even for him. He seems the perfect modern exemplar of the Vicar of Bray.
– Gael Barrett, North Balwyn, Vic
Standing with the police
Regarding Mike Seccombe’s “How top police failed the siege”, August 20-26: New South Wales Premier Mike Baird told media, “I worked alongside Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn throughout the entire [Lindt cafe] siege.” Burn says she went home. She must have wondered why Baird followed her.
– Ed Matzenik, Maitland, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 27, 2016. Subscribe here.