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.