and then there was one ….

I flew back from Canberra this evening in time to go see Julian Burnside speak at the AGM of the Qld Council for Civil Liberties. I’ve heard him speak a number of times now, but he is always worthwhile listening to – one of the best public speakers I’ve experienced. He gave a brief outline of the origins and principles of the Rule of Law and some of the fundamental principles underpinning it, one of which is the right for a person to know the evidence being used to charge them.

He mentioned that it was recently the 100th anniversary of the French Army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, finally being exonerated from charges of treason, 12 years after he was convicted (and then imprisoned in solitary confinement) on the basis of secret evidence (which turned out to be forged) given to a secret trial. Not surprisingly, he also then used the example of the two Iraqi refugees men who remain stuck on Nauru due to a secret ASIO assessment which they are not able to appeal or even be given any information about. (there’s a bit more about them in this piece I did five months ago)

Just after I arrived home I received a call from ABC radio’s AM program saying they had just had confirmation that one of those men, Muhammad Faisal, is finally being allowed into Australia. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s only happening because his health has deteriorated so severely that the Nauru government was basically insisting on him being brought to Australia for treatment – as foreshadowed in two stories by Michael Gordon earlier this week.

The other bad news is trying to imagine how the last remaining refugee – Mohammad Sagar – feels being left on his own. One can only assume he also will have to end up sufficiently broken and psychologically destroyed before the Australian government will act on his situation.

Still, just as the last refugee but one finally departs Nauru after nearly five years, it appears he is about to be joined by a fresh group of 8 Burmese asylum seekers, who were picked up on Ashmore Reef at the start of this week.

All of this is a reminder that, even though it was a great thing that the Senate refused to pass the legislation extending the reach of the so-called ‘Pacific Solution’, the essential task must be to repeal the original legislation which keeps it in place which was passed back in 2001, before more lives are needlessly destroyed.

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26 Comments

  1. When I think about Mr Burnside, I wish him well with the Scott Parkin case. The Halliburton protester was, to my mind, arrested simply to provide some “terror threat” media on the fourth 9/11 anniversary,along with that videotape of the Al Qaeda threat to Australia (say, where did that go/)

    If they were prepared to surround and capture an ant-war propagandist on the strength of Asio having a Pentagon file on him (without realising it was for handing out peanut butter sandwiches) to provide appropriate media spin, who knows what might be in store in the next few weeks.

    Burnside’s work is intrinsic to “getting to the bottom” of Australia’s current psychological peril.

  2. For those who don’t know his story, Scott Parkin’s case is another perfect example of the dangers of scrapping basic rights from our laws. It is a reminder of what could happen to any of us if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time:

    He was validly issued a visitor visa to Australia, yet ASIO then decided he merited a negative security assessment – despite the fact that he broke no laws while he was here.

    The negative ASIO assessment means DIMA has to automatically cancel his visa, so he was arrested on the street without warning and put into a detention cell. He was not able to get any details of why he had suddenly received a negative security assessment, and if he wanted to appeal he would be required to stay in jail while that process occurred – and be liable for the cost of each day’s detention.

    Instead, he was deported, accompanied by two Federal Police all the way back to the USA – which he was also liable for the cost of – and now has a black mark on his passport for life which will probably prevent him being able to travel to most places outside the USA.

    All of this on the basis of a charge which he has been given no details of, let alone any evidence to verify it.

    He is now trying to challenge this whole process through the Courts – and I expect the federal government will try to claim ‘National Security’ all the way along to try to avoid providing any details.

  3. I heard in an interview with the Nauruan Foreign Minister that Mohammed Sagar is spending time there working with the University of the South Pacific teaching their people computing skills. The locals say he’s doing a great job and really appreciate it.

    Hopefully this means he’s not doing his time quite as hard as the other Muhammad, and that he’ll come out of it (if he ever does) with his mind in a bit better shape.

  4. Can’t believe Kevin Rudd is getting around with a religious lapel pin on lateline tonight. I researched it and found out that this guy is a raving churchie, can’t believe it I used to like him…he’s lost my family’s vote now. Separate church and state, this guy can jam his “faith based initiatives”.

  5. Funny sick story today in the estimates answers that I can’t keep bottled up anymore.

    It revolves around an innocent young man named Mazhar Ali from Afghanistan. When he was in Woomera he was deemed by DIMA to be from Afghanistan but denied a visa for the reason that he supposedly claimed the Taliban only came to the house 2 times when it was really three times. Trouble is he was in the hills for the third time so when they murdered his sisters old father in law he wasn’t there.

    However he was in his early 20’s and a prime candidate to be taken to his father sent him, his sister and 5 children out of the country to Pakistan to join her husband.

    They booked into a smugglers slum waiting to leave Pakistan for somewhere, anywhere. The father came first thinking he was going to Germany and was locked up in Port Hedland where ASIO investigated him for months and found him to be a genuine Afghan refugee on 29 June 2000 – then released him.

    His wife and kids and brother in law came later and were all deemed by DIMA to be Afghan citizens. Language analysis said he was an Hazaragi speaker from Afghanistan who might have spent a couple of years in Pakistan. He never denied that and nor did the rest of the family.

    Anyway he was deported to Karachi in Pakistan on 25 July 2003 and we never knew how it was done until today.

    It seems they got another dodgy Pakistani document and matched it to something or someone who might be Mazhar Ali – 14 months after the RRT said he was from Afghanistan but the Federal court could not review the decision. It is not possible to judge that the person on the document is Mazhar Ali because they have blacked out the photo and the photo on the phoney Australian certificate of ID.

    Which is not signed or requested. Strangely then there is a “confirmation” that he was deemed to be a Pakistani based on the certificate made by Australia. Bizarre right?

    It gets worse. They had one of those dodgy documents claiming to be Mazhar’s father – yet the man never came to Australia at all so what did they match it to? And again the photo is blacked out which is a bit useless as the man died in early 2001 after getting his wife and kids out of Afghanistan – apparently the drought and the Taliban got him.

    The truly strange thing though is that DIMA claim the ACM guards didn’t have visas to get into Pakistan because they were not going to leave the airport – that is trafficking. It is illegal.

    Mazhar was arrested but finally let go as long as he went back to Afghanistan which he did.

    Funny how they can over ride an ASIO report on Ali Bakhtiyari more than 2 years later based on a document that was never verified by anyone, is only a photo copy from 1975 and the RRT says the photo is not the applicant yet they stick so rigidly to an ASIO report that they drive a young man to insanity on purpose.

    There is a lunacy in the department that seriously needs to be addressed.

  6. Kevin Rudd

    As Shadow Minister for trade he headed for the hills when we sent him information on AWB ownership and involvement of the Live Animal trade.
    As the AWB enquiry was underway at the time we thought he might feel he had a duty to inform the public that they were not just about Wheat.

    Apparently not.

    Gee Kevin must have missed the 60 Minutes report that ran while the AWB enquiry was underway regarding Live exports and the fact that there is huge public interest in this.

    He said he didnt know about the AWB ownership of live exports.?

    Wow The Shadow minister for Trade doesnt know about something the public are so interested in.

    To use his words it beggers belief and is beyond the PALE.

    Of Course hed be a Churchie hed be too weak sucking up to who ever to be anything else.

    I am sure the stem cell thing will lead to the re hash of abortion.

    At the moment the only counciling being done on it is pro life.

    So in this free country that means our taxes are not being faily and evenly handed out.

    I dont want my taxes going just on pro life.

    Bonner as well is going on about it.

    I think we all need to be careful we dont have a Family first, National, Labour , done deal on this issue.

    Apart from being badly informed deaf Mr Rudd must be blind as well.

    They tell me that Kevin Rudd was about the only person who didnt notice the half a dozen strippers standing outside the door at the AWB enquiry with Ban Live Export banners when he was there.

    The girls made a pretty sight and many asked questions about AWBs involvment in the trade.

    Not Kevin. Perpaps because hes so Godly he didnt feel right walking up tgo the ladies who were carrying Gods message.
    AWB ownership of live exports> compashion for Animals.
    Gee I wonder if he goes to the same church as Steve Feilding Of Family First.

    We will just pray for both of them.

    Stem cells may or may not have all the answers but hey why even think about stopping it.

    They can hardly claim it on grounds of compashion given all the animal experiments.

    But wait> Maybe they could eventually make two Kevin Rudds.

  7. I am confused – (dont say whats new) – if Mr Parkin doens’tknow why he was negatived, and if that is to be suppressed if it is tried to be revealed through legal action – how come someone else can publcailly expose it now?

  8. I read awile ago (might have been from Weezil @ Machine Gun keyboard or Richard Tonkin @ WebDiary) that Scott Parkin was the victim of US pressure being applied due to his anti-Halliburton message and supposed ‘teaching’ of non violent demonstration tactics / techniques to protesters. Nothing unlawful or illegal.

    It was very public some time ago but as usual, the media and the public have short attention spans.

    Just reading about the Nauru refugees in Marilyn and Andrew’s posts and remembering Parkin’s persecution makes me feel so angry on their behalf. These are people’s lives just ruined, with no justice allowed them, at the stroke of a pen by our politicians and beaurocrats. Those pollies and departmental officials never feel the condemnation that they should because of the public apathy and belief in the spin/lies that are presented.

    Even if some of us maintain the rage until election day, how do you compensate these people for what they have lost? How do you adequately punish those who so abuse power?

  9. Hi tanja – I did see that. I wonder if it’s some of the same artworks by Kate Durham I mentioned briefly in the second para of this post? If so, it’s certainly worth going to (I’m sure it would be worthwhile attending anyway, mind you) (and in a piece of ‘three degrees of separation’ trivia, did you know Kate Durham went to art school with Nick Cave?)

    In other responses:
    John R – I think the cross Keving Rudd would have been wearing is a pin that was handed around to all MPs this week to mark the 40th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan. (although he certainly makes no secret of being a Christian – not that he should have to of course).

    ken – the court action to attempt to find out why Scott Parkin’s visa was cancelled is on his behalf. It’s his attempt to clear his name, his record (and presumably his debt to the Commonwealth for his detention and deportation escorts). I expect the Court action will take a whlie, not least because I expect the Commonwealth (i.e. Philip Ruddock as Attorney-General) will attempt to keep the reasons for his ASIO assessment secret.

  10. Maybe Wendy the live export trade is hideous as we have agreed but AWB were not paying bribes to Saddam Hussein in illegal transactions at the time.

    Anyway I fail to see what AWB and live exports have to do with DIMA driving young people insane without ever telling them why they are being excluded.

    Or DIMA using false documents – I believe Marion Le said they did that to a number of people on Nauru as well and Hassan Ghulam said they used some on Indonesia as well.

    I heard Alexandra Kirk talking to David Adeang on ABC this afternoon about Mohammad Faisal and the notion of him being dangerous and again she forgot to point out that this man who is supposed to be a danger to us is not a danger to Nauru.

  11. to all question
    with all the ho har getting around about terror attacks on australian soil can anyone tell me how many actual atacks have happend and by who.

    point about nauru howard has had a big win by not alowing the bill to be debaited i still havenot been able to emagine what he is up to but i think it mite have something to do with another interest rate rise before xmass.

  12. PALE if you see this could you look at the blog
    put our ppl,s first read what i have writen and reply if you are interested.
    sorry its a bit off topic.

  13. Yes, the Macarthyist Scott Parkin affair… It antagonised me also, for the sheer arrogance, ignorance and arbitrariness of the conduct.
    Typical oafish Fed antic.
    Think of Hicks, Rau, Refugees, Webb Dock, IR, Cronulla, live exports, AWB; a dozen other things.
    Unique Stephen’s comment said it all for me when he reckons he is
    “…tired of feeling ashamed of my government”.
    PS, actually thought Rudd ran with the AWB and eventually, West New Guinea too, once he reluctantly got his teeth into these issues. Seems to have gone (too) quiet again just lately.
    Almost as if embarrassed by the previous almost exhuberant stanza of activity. Perhaps anonymous Rightie goons had a quiet word in his shell-likes concerning such unseemly outbursts of diligence..

  14. A tale of two lots of refugees who both arrived this year just about sums up the perverse cruelty of the system as it stands. Now a refugee is a person with a well-founded fear of persecution who is outside their country and is unwilling or unable to return.

    That is it. Article 31 of the convention states that refugees who arrive should not be penalised due to method of arrival or lack of papers. We all got that? It\’s pretty simple.

    We look at the story of the two Mohammad\’s still on Nauru after 5 years, then David Marr in the SMH put up a story today of the TAMPA refugees – 208 in New Zealand and only 28 here, so much for the story none of them were refugees.

    Linda Kirk has a piece in the Independent Weekly today about family reunion which chimes nicely with David\’s piece.

    Ok that\’s a bit of background for you so we get to two sets of refugees.

    Set 1 — 43 West Papuans were forced to catch a canoe to the mainland or be killed. They were locked up in Weipa, had guards surrounding them, were paraded for the media with towels over their heads, flown to Christmas Island and locked up.

    Finally 42 are found to be genuine refugees at a cost of about $20 million and flown to Australia with temporary protection visas – in other words they are genuine refugees, people who have a well founded fear of persecution by Kopassus and the Indonesia government.

    They have three year visas to stay, 89% of special benefits, no English classes, medicare, no housing found and will not be able to have their families here for at least 4 years and probably more like 6.5 as the Afghans and Iraqis have had to wait.

    Set 2 — 14 Sierra Leone athletes travelled safely to a plane having lied to their country and ours about why they were coming. The bolted from the Commonwealth Games village and went awol to Sydney where thankfully they were found after spending a couple of days on the streets.

    They had their visas cancelled, turned themselves into immigration and were not locked up for even one moment. They got bridging visas, were allowed to work and today got permanent protection visas.

    In other words, just like group 1 they were found to have a well-founded fear of persecution by the authorities in Sierra Leone, they are refugees. No mention of queue-jumping, no mention of the absolute fact that they conned two countries with lies – they are refugees.

    They have full benefits, housing,work and medicare rights, English training, they can almost immediately apply to bring their families.

    The first set is the wrong way to do things and the second is how it is done all over the world except here for the 25% of all asylum seekers who come on boats.

    It is deranged to inflict such suffering on one group when the other group have already been proven to be liars and frauds on the migration system.

    Here is the rub – there is no offence flying here for false reasons and applying for protection – they came most of the way around the world from Africa – so long as they turned themselves into the authorities.

    The West Papuans were totally honest about why they came, turned themselves in to the authorities and only came from next door.

    Does everybody understand the stupidity of that?

  15. M Re Your Post 13.
    The connection between the two is that they are run by the same people.
    If you look hard enough you might find real evidence by the same dept, of dodgey docs.

    This Government like all Governments do what they like and are masters of manilpulation.

    You wont get any argument from me there.

    However I also have to use common sense when it comes to our Sercurity.
    They cant disclose everything they know to the public either.
    There is no reason for these guys to suddenly jump on a stranger and make their life hell either.
    Yep I am sure they make mistakes M.
    I am equally as sure when they do they go to great trouble to cover it up.
    Speaking of sercurity M.
    Where are you getting all these confidential briefs from?

  16. Wendy the documents I am talking about are public documents and can be found on the government site at senate estimates questions on notice.

    No real mystery.

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