What we do to asylum seekers, including children, attempting to reach Australia by boat is arguably permissible under Australian legislation.
It is also arguable that our approach to asylum seekers is unbecoming of a liberal democracy priding itself on being a fair and just nation and, at a minimum, against the spirit of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
Facts that are being revealed also indicate that, whether we are willing to acknowledge or not, we are potentially setting the foundations of a future Royal Commission into the suffering caused by our current asylum seeker policies.
Arguably, every person from a third-world nation will be an ‘economic migrant’ in one sense. But arguments that asylum seekers from theocracies and war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka, are by-and-large non-genuine refugees is preposterous and defy logic.
As to which side of the argument you stand on will most likely, and sadly, depend on your political affiliation given the politicisation and polarisation of the issue.
When it comes to the government’s attacks on the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, over her report into children in detention we are entering very dangerous territory that threaten the very foundations of our democracy.
Gillian Triggs has a distinguished career in law, which includes working with the law firm Mallesons Stephen Jacques (as it was known at the time), as a barrister at Seven Wentworth Chambers and appointment as Dean of the University of Sydney Law School. She is also internationally renowned on international and human rights law.
The AHRC is an independent statutory body. It does not exist to serve the political agenda or ideology of the government of the day. In fact one of the purposes of the AHRC is to keep governments accountable:
Leading the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia by:
• making human rights values part of everyday life and language;
• empowering all people to understand and exercise their human rights;
• working with individuals, community, business and government to inspire action;
• keeping government accountable to national and international human rights standards; (emphasis added)
Source: Australian Human Rights Commission
I concur with our eminent legal scholars who have penned an open letter of emphatic support for Gillian Triggs as President of the AHRC and call upon the government to end their ill-advised and ill-mannered attacks on the AHRC, and its President. This course of action could have serious long-term effects on the independence of statutory bodies generally.
The Liberal Party of Australia politicised and polarised the asylum seeker issue for electoral gain for years now. The timing of the AHRC report which highlights the dire consequences of the policies of successive governments may be seen as inconvenient by the current government, but it has been long time coming.
To cry foul now, to satirically adapt the ill-conceived phraseology of Matthias Cormann, is the government behaving like ‘political girlie men’*.
*Read with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.
The government should be addressing the factual findings of the report, rather than attacking its author.
The recent revelations that Gillian Triggs was allegedly offered an inducement to resign are also particularly troubling, must be fully, independently and transparently investigated, and any wrongdoing that may be identified must be punished to the full extent of the law.
Admittedly, there is a hashtag for everything on Twitter, but #IStandWithGillianTriggs.