Re­moval of chil­dren in de­ten­tion

Daily Mercury - - YOUR SAY -

MACKAY doc­tor El­iz­a­beth Weiss­man de­serves to be com­mended for her ad­vo­cacy di­rected at re­mov­ing chil­dren in “off­shore” de­ten­tion on Nauru and on be­half of those al­ready brought to Aus­tralia but who re­main in “on­shore de­ten­tion” with an in­de­ter­mi­nate fu­ture other than re­main­ing at risk of be­ing sent back to Nauru (“Re­move kids from Nauru”, DM De­cem­ber 6, page 5).

By com­par­i­son, the cur­rent LNP Mem­ber for Daw­son de­serves to be con­demned for his re­sponse (as re­ported in the same story) to a let­ter Dr Weiss­man wrote to Mr Chris­tensen about the mat­ter in the hope of sup­port for a bill be­fore fed­eral par­lia­ment in­tro­duced by in­de­pen­dent Mem­ber for Went­worth Dr Ker­ryn Phelps de­signed to bring vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and their fam­i­lies to Aus­tralia for med­i­cal treat­ment – the Mi­gra­tion Amend­ment (Ur­gent Med­i­cal Treat­ment) Bill 2018.

It is re­gret­table that it is nec­es­sary to bur­den read­ers with web­sites to en­sure de­bate on the is­sues in­volved pro­ceeds on an ac­cu­rate ba­sis but it is ap­par­ent from Mr Chris­tensen’s lan­guage that he ei­ther has no idea of the facts or, more likely, mis­chie­vously ig­nores the facts in an ap­peal to what he per­ceives to be his far-right wing sup­port base.

To be­gin, an el­e­men­tary er­ror on Mr Chris­tensen’s part is that he per­sists in us­ing the pe­jo­ra­tive term “il­le­gal” in re­la­tion to peo­ple who ar­rive in Aus­tralia by boat who do not meet the usual en­try re­quire­ments (that is, without a visa): peo­ple ar­riv­ing by boat seek­ing asy­lum are not break­ing the law.

● Ar­ti­cle 31 of the UN Con­ven­tion Re­lat­ing to the Sta­tus of Refugees clearly states that refugees should not be pe­nalised for en­ter­ing without valid travel doc­u­ments. This is be­cause peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum will of­ten find it very dif­fi­cult or even im­pos­si­ble to get a visa: www.refugeecoun­cil.org. au/get­facts/in­ter­na­tional/in­ter­na­tion­al­sys­tem/the-refugee-con­ven­tion/.

● At worst these peo­ple may be de­scribed as ir­reg­u­lar ar­rivals: www.refugeecoun­cil. org.au/get­facts/myth­busters/ il­le­gals/.

Fre­quently asy­lum seek­ers are sub­jected to a num­ber of puni­tive mea­sures that can sig­nif­i­cantly im­pair their men­tal health and gen­eral well-be­ing, some­thing es­pe­cially true of chil­dren who, typ­i­cally, would have played no part in the de­ci­sion by ac­com­pa­ny­ing adults to un­der­take a po­ten­tially haz­ardous sea voy­age: www.unhcr.org/en-au/asy­lum -in-aus­tralia.html.

As re­ported, Mr Chris­tensen then de­scends to a level where logic is com­pletely aban­doned – all in sup­port of the cur­rent LNP Gov­ern­ment’s “firm view” that “at­tempts to en­ter the coun­try il­le­gally would never re­sult in re­set­tle­ment (in Aus­tralia)”.

Aside from the non se­quitur on ac­count of the er­ro­neous use of the term “il­le­gally”:

● To say “if we change from that then it’s open slather” is an ir­ra­tional ex­trap­o­la­tion.

● To then as­sert “we will have il­le­gal boat ar­rivals hap­pen­ing again” de­ploys yet again the mis­use of the con­cept of il­le­gal­ity and is put for­ward bereft of ev­i­dence.

● Adding “(we will have) … the peo­ple-smug­gling busi­ness out of In­done­sia spark­ing up again” is equally an as­ser­tion un­sup­ported by ev­i­dence.

● Con­clud­ing his “rea­son­ing” by say­ing “un­con­trolled bor­ders … will end up cost­ing the coun­try dearly” is an­other as­ser­tion un­sup­ported by ev­i­dence.

It may be ac­cepted that the ALP did not cover it­self with glory on this is­sue given what hap­pened dur­ing their pe­riod in gov­ern­ment from 2007–13 – in re­spect of the fail­ure to se­cure bor­ders, the mis­man­age­ment of the sit­u­a­tion re­sult­ing in chil­dren be­ing lost at sea and the knee-jerk im­ple­men­ta­tion of off­shore de­ten­tion.

How­ever the LNP has fared no bet­ter dur­ing its pe­riod in power – seem­ingly sat­is­fied with a sim­plis­tic pol­icy of “stop the boats”.

The fail­ure to “stop the boats” un­der La­bor may be put down to in­ef­fi­cient and un­so­phis­ti­cated en­force­ment mea­sures.

And the fail­ure of “off­shore pro­cess­ing” con­tin­ued un­der the Coali­tion is self-ev­i­dent.

It’s time for a more ma­ture and com­pas­sion­ate ap­proach, of the kind ad­vo­cated by Dr Weiss­man and sup­ported by the Law Coun­cil of Aus­tralia: www.law­coun­cil.asn.au/me­dia /me­dia-re­leases/law-coun­cil­backs-par­lia­men­tary-ef­fort­sto-get-sick-asy­lum-seek­er­soff-nauru.

Sadly, in the face of a de­feat in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, this year’s fed­eral par­lia­men­tary sit­tings have ended with the LNP adopt­ing what­ever “tool or tac­tic” avail­able – in­clud­ing fil­i­bus­ter­ing in the Se­nate – to pre­vent the Phelps’ Bill be­ing passed (ABC The Drum, De­cem­ber 6).

In these cir­cum­stances, it seems prob­a­ble the gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to pro­ceed in ac­cor­dance with its cur­rent pol­icy of bring­ing chil­dren to Aus­tralia be­fore par­lia­ment

next sits so they are able to say then and at the time of the elec­tion that there are no more kids on Nauru.

This so­lu­tion does not ad­dress the on­go­ing con­cerns of Dr Weiss­man but it at least deals with the im­me­di­ate con­cerns about vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren (un­like the cal­lous and sim­plis­tic so­lu­tion put for­ward by RZ, Andergrove, SMS on De­cem­ber 1 of send­ing “them and their par­ents back to where they came from”).

Neil Francey, Mackay

Com­mit­tee not sold on sugar tax idea

AUS­TRALIA is fac­ing a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge in tack­ling the in­creas­ing rates of obe­sity within our com­mu­ni­ties and, in this con­text, Cane­grow­ers

ac­knowl­edges a re­cent Se­nate in­quiry re­port call­ing for Aus­tralia to be­gin a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion on the is­sue.

This con­ver­sa­tion would hope­fully lead to a co-or­di­nated and ev­i­dence-based re­sponse.

The re­port it­self high­lighted just how di­vided opin­ions are on the is­sue of a sugar tax.

Five of the seven sen­a­tors on the com­mit­tee, in­clud­ing those from the La­bor and Lib­eral par­ties, pro­duced dis­sent­ing re­ports op­pos­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion for a tax on sugar-sweet­ened drinks.

These sen­a­tors based their dis­sent­ing views on the lack of ev­i­dence that such a tax would work in the way that its pro­po­nents sug­gest.

Cane­grow­ers has been say­ing for some time that it would be dan­ger­ous to have as a key tac­tic to ad­dress­ing obe­sity a mea­sure that is not proven, is very nar­row and is dis­tract­ing from the broad range and com­plex fac­tors be­hind Aus­tralia’s obe­sity rates.

These dis­sent­ing re­ports ap­pear to back that up.

As sugar cane grow­ers, Cane­grow­ers mem­bers are proud of their sus­tain­ably grown crop and the nat­u­ral prod­uct made from it – a prod­uct that has a place in a healthy and balanced diet.

As Aus­tralian con­sumers, we sup­port mea­sures, such as la­belling, that al­low peo­ple to make in­formed choices about the food they pur­chase and eat.

Dan Gal­li­gan, Cane­grow­ers CEO

‘‘ CANE­GROW­ERS HAS BEEN SAY­ING FOR SOME TIME THAT IT WOULD BE DAN­GER­OUS TO HAVE AS A KEY TAC­TIC TO AD­DRESS­ING OBE­SITY A MEA­SURE THAT IS NOT PROVEN, IS VERY NAR­ROW AND IS DIS­TRACT­ING FROM THE BROAD RANGE AND COM­PLEX FAC­TORS BE­HIND AUS­TRALIA’S OBE­SITY RATES. DAN GAL­LI­GAN

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