The Bill of Horror

Convention mapAs well as the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas, which leave refugees in constant statelessness and fear of being returned to persecution, the Australian Minister for Immigration is proposing changes to the Migration Act which are utterly alarming.  The ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014’ removes references to the UN Refugee Convention to allow Australia’s domestic law to ignore Australia’s obligations under international law. It also removes the ability of the High Court to challenge refugee and asylum seeker policy and operations.

The bill exempts vessels involved in Operation Sovereign Borders from the appropriate maritime laws. There will be nothing to stop fuel, food, water and safety devices from being removed from intercepted boats. The Government will have the power to send boats or individuals anywhere it chooses.  The bill removes the need for Australia to have a Memorandum of Understanding in place, or for the country to be a signatory to the Refugee Convention.  The bill will allow boats to be towed outside of Australian waters and left there without regard for the safety of passengers.

The bill proposes a fast track assessment process which removes access to the Refugee Review Tribunal. Fast turnaround processing was ruled illegal in the United Kingdom earlier this year due to an “unacceptable risk of unfairness”.  The bill seeks to change the definition of ‘refugee’ to allow the government to reject a refugee status application if it decides that there is a ‘safe area’ in the country of origin, or that the nation’s police force is ‘reasonably effective’.  This is nothing short of playing with people’s lives.  It will allow the Australian government to send back asylum seekers, regardless of whether they face a real chance of torture or execution on return.  What does Scott Morrison think happens to Hazara people when they are returned to Afghanistan or to Tamil people who are returned to Sri Lanka?  Does he really believe that members of the Taliban or Rajapaksa’s regime are unable to travel to target their victims?  If he had converted to Christianity in Iran, or spoken against the Iranian Government,  would he really trust the Iranian police force to protect him?

Children born in Australia, to asylum seekers who arrived by boat, will be classified as “transitory persons”, creating a new generation of stateless people, and giving them no access to permanent residency or citizenship.  Does Scott Morrison really believe that these babies pose a serious threat to Australia as we know it?  Or is his distain, even hatred, for asylum seekers so great that detaining innocent children indefinitely doesn’t satisfy his lust for vengeance;  does he feel the need to ensure that his punishments will continue for each of their lifetimes?

The ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014’ gives the Australian Government, under domestic law, the power to ignore international law and to engage in state-sanctioned human rights abuses. It will allow Australia to be complicit, even collaborative, in the persecution, torture and execution of innocent people. The Minister for Immigration will have absolute power, and his actions under Operation Sovereign Borders will not be brought to account by Australia’s justice system.  He will become untouchable. This sets a very dangerous precedent for Australian politics and law.

I see so many people ‘liking’ and sharing messages about Australia’s terrible mistreatment of asylum seekers, on social media.  I read the comments they write, pouring out their outrage and their grief.  Yet, when it comes to asking them to take the time to write to politicians to urge them to oppose this horrific bill, the passion and the anger appear to evaporate.  I for one, need to know that I have done everything in my power, and then some, to persuade the Senators to vote against this bill.  Will you join me in writing to them?  You don’t need to produce a perfectly crafted, eloquent letter; you just need to write!  A few lines will do.  If you are an Australian citizen, tell them that you cannot support politicians who sanction human rights abuses.  If you are an expat, tell them how horrified you are at what Australia has become while you have been away. Most of all, tell them to oppose this bill.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ― Thomas Jefferson

Here are the addresses you will need:

Here are the contact details for the cross bench Senators who will ultimately pass or reject the bill:

Senator Bob Day AO
Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices
100 King William Street
Adelaide SA 5000
senator.day@aph.gov.au

Senator Jacqui Lambie
29 Wilson Street
Burnie TAS 7320
senator.lambie@aph.gov.au

Senator Glenn Lazarus
PO Box 228
Brisbane QLD 4001
senator.lazarus@aph.gov.au

Senator David Leyonhjelm
PO Box 636
Drummoyne NSW 1470
senator.leyonhjelm@aph.gov.au

Senator John Madigan
17 Albert St
Ballarat Vic 3350
senator.madigan@aph.gov.au

Senator Ricky Muir
Level 4, Treasury Place
Melbourne VIC 3002
senator.muir@aph.gov.au

Senator Dio Wang
PO Box 6120
East Perth WA 6892
senator.wang@aph.gov.au

Senator Nick Xenophon
Level 2
31 Ebenezer Place
Adelaide SA 5000
senator.xenophon@aph.gov.au

Write to Clive Palmer too, as he will be instructing his PUP Senators:
Mr Clive Palmer MP
Palmer United Party
PO Box 1978
Sunshine Plaza QLD 4558

You’ll find the other Senators for your state here. You can search by state by using the map. Then click on their names for contact details.
http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Senators

Join the Combined Refugee Action Group’s Letter Blitz group on Facebook to access information and letter writing tips.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/805601422837175/

* Information on the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Bill was sourced in analyses undertaken by ChilOut Revived;   Refugee Council of Australia;  Human Rights Law Centre;  and Professor Mary Crock, Sydney University

7 thoughts on “The Bill of Horror

  1. Pingback: Scott Morrison aims to remove all refernce to the UN Refugee Convention to allow domestic law to ignore Auatralia’s obligations un der international law. It also removes any High Court challenges. | olddogthoughts

  2. Thank you for your blog. I find it inspirational.

    I knew eight days ago when I received this latest post that I should act. I tried but failed to find the stage at which the ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014′ was in process and how urgent was my need to respond.

    I also regularly receive emails from http://www.getup.org.au and received one today that gave me a clue as to the timing of the process regarding the Bill.

    This morning I have entered a new phase of activism, beyond a simple “Like”.
    I have written a personal submission to the Senate Committee inquiring into the ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014′ and I have emailed 14 senators. Never done this before.
    I also prostrated myself before the living God pleading that this Bill will fail.
    I wait before God for good outcomes.

    • Fantastic, Janice! I am so glad that you have been spurred into action. Now that you have done everything that you can do to block this bill, please keep those prayers going up.

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