Removal of children in detention
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