New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
A letter from the camps
Today in the 21st century, in every corner of the world, human beings are making endeavours for the growth and development of science and awareness for the residents of our planet as well as exploring other planets, finding cures for incurable diseases, preserving the environment and climate, campaigning against extremism and terrorism. We have a lot of knowledge and compassion in relation to our fellow man. Unfortunately, in the past three years, the international community has witnessed the conduct of the past and present Australian governments towards the refugees and asylum seekers in the offshore processing camps. Despite the outcry, the hostile mistreatment and inhumane actions still continue. It has now been more than 1160 days since many innocent men, women and children have held their hand out for friendship to the Australian government but have been declined their right of freedom, protection and the right to live like human beings. We are treated like hostages. We have become victims to unjust policies beyond the scope of international commitments that, under the title of protection of water borders and denial of entrance of asylum seekers, and their mismanagement and treatment, the government is preventing our entrance. This is despite claiming to spend billions of dollars, yet no solution has been brought forward. Asylum seekers have been inflicted with physical and mental damage, where suicides have become a common occurrence. We the refugees and asylum seekers imprisoned in the camp in Manus Island and Nauru urge any international community and human rights organisations to condemn the hostile and inhumane policies of the Australian government. We are living in what can only be referred to as modern-day slavery conditions. It goes without saying that, while respecting the opinions and views of the Australian nation, including pros and cons regarding entrance of the asylum seekers, by writing this letter we do not mean to insult the Australians or politicians, and despite the dishonest statements and accusations of some of the Australian statesmen about asylum seekers, we declare that we have not insisted on residing in Australia and seek to be resided in those countries as qualified for receiving refugees by the United Nations. In the end, in the name of humanity which is the best principle, we wish a world filled with kindness and friendship, peace and calmness for the residents of the Earth.
– Some of the asylum seekers and refugees, Manus Island offshore processing centre
Take action yourself
Yet again you show yourself to be just about the only mainstream media outlet that sees the importance of human rights. How can this be happening, on our watch, with our money (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “Leaked UN report: Manus world’s worst’, October 8-14)? One thing... You put the phone number of Lifeline at the end of the article. Could we also have the phone number of the federal parliament (02 6277 7700) at the end of future articles? Yes, I feel sad when I read how lives of the brave are being ruined. But I feel a whole lot better when I have taken action to add to the pressure to stop the abuse of power, by phoning parliament, and asking to be put through to Malcolm Turnbull’s office, to express my opinion. Joining a group that acts in solidarity with the refugees is a great idea, too. We must keep pressing for an end to the wretched camps, and for safe passage to be given to refugees, from Indonesia, to here. Ultimately we need a Human Rights Act to bring us into line with New Zealand, Canada and other civilised countries.
– Stephen Langford, Paddington, NSW
Schools fight has history
Regarding the editorial “Diminishing school” (October 1-7), unfortunately it is hard to see either side of politics agreeing to cease funding wealthy private schools in Australia any time soon. So many politicians are alumni of the same schools. I fought and won two High Court cases in 2012 and 2014 against federal funding of predominantly evangelical, religious-only chaplains in public schools. The government simply circumvented the decision by sending the $60 million in annual funding via the states unfettered by statute. While the High Court found that the national school chaplaincy program did not – and still does not – constitutionally represent the provision of “benefits to students”, I was advised we could not run a separation of church and state argument to say the funding contravened section 116 of the constitution, the only section that discusses religion. The Barwick court in 1981, in approving state aid to private schools, had defined this clause so narrowly it was pointless to contest it. So, neither side of politics will scupper federal funding of wealthy private schools and the High Court is apparently stalemated by the 1981 decision.
– Ron Williams, managing director, Secular Public Education Ltd
Hitting back at review
Clearly EA doesn’t get it (Review of Clementine Ford’s Fight Like a Girl, October 8-14). This annoyingly superficial “review” is not up to the standard I have come to expect of The Saturday Paper. Having read only the first chapter of the book, EA’s remuneration for this piece should be cut by the commensurate percentage.
– Louise Dressing, Clifton Hill, Vic
Georgia Blain (“Choose control”, October 8-14) speaks of the consolation that would come from just knowing she had the “insurance policy” that would allow her to avoid the risk of futile and intractable suffering. I sincerely hope that she will somehow be afforded the choice to achieve this peace of mind; and that this same surety will soon be entrenched in law for others.
– Julia Anaf, Norwood, SA
Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 15, 2016.
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