Thursday, October 4, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Kids, everybody, off Nauru
Australia is enabling disaster capitalism

Image of Nauru


In an alarming interview on the ABC’s 7.30 last night, barrister Geoffrey Watson SC, who has been representing asylum seekers pro bono in the Federal Court, argued that in the past few months Australia has effectively ceded control of the offshore processing scheme to Nauru. “Australia can’t order the Nauruan government to do anything,” Watson said, “and the Federal Court of Australia certainly can’t order the Nauruan government to do anything.” His comments follow instances in which, after the court has ordered a medical evacuation, Nauru has refused to allow air ambulances to land, or refused to grant an exit permit. “We’ve lost control,” Watson said, and went on to offer a shocking explanation: “I’m sorry, I just cannot see any motive apart from the fact that the Nauruan government sees this as a means of making money.”

As offshore processing on Nauru passes its fifth anniversary, with almost a hundred kids still detained there on Australia’s behalf and no solution remotely in sight, this inexcusable situation surely cannot continue much longer.

Geoffrey Watson is a hero to a certain bunch of journalists (including yours truly at one point) who reported on the sensational Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings five years ago, where he was counsel assisting. The commission relentlessly exposed corruption across both major parties in the state of New South Wales, and led to the jailing of former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid and the resignation of Liberal premier Barry O’Farrell. Watson was wilfully blind to the power or prestige of his witnesses, and relished cross-examination. The whole state was watching: the hearings were so compelling they were dubbed “icrack”. He is an utterly credible public figure. Now he is representing asylum seekers, on behalf of the National Justice Project, in the Federal Court, and last night told 7.30 host Laura Tingle that it is “the most fulfilling work I have done in my legal life … we go up, make urgent applications seeking to get orders compelling Mr Dutton, the minister, to bring the injured people here and they’re nearly all children”.

Watson went into the plight of those in detention, including the resignation syndrome many of the kids are suffering, and pointed out once again that all have been recognised as legitimate refugees. Asked why Nauru had begun in recent months to obstruct Australian court orders to evacuate sick detainees, Watson explained: “There is a problem here. We entered into – we call it the devil’s bargain – Nauru is not a very rich country. It needs our help and support. Perhaps one of the ways that they perceive that we’ve given that is that Nauru is paid in the order of $3000 per month for every one of these refugees who is kept there. The fact that the refugees are there has created an employment market, which otherwise wouldn’t exist. It’s brought money, spending, to Nauru which otherwise wouldn’t be on Nauru. I’m sorry, I just cannot see any motive apart from the fact that the Nauruan government sees this as a means of making money.”

Are we to believe that Australia has the right to detain refugees on the island but no right to get them off? I asked the office of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for a response to the interview, but had not heard back by deadline. However, the situation is simple: Australia has legal obligations under the refugee convention and cannot wash its hands of these people, much less abandon them to a failed state.

since this morning

The Liberal vote in the previously safe seat of Wentworth has collapsed and the by-election could be a very close contest, according to The Guardian. A ReachTEL/UComms survey shows the Liberal Party ahead of Labor on 51 per cent to 49 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.

The Guardian reports that the ABC board took immediate action on allegations made by former managing director Michelle Guthrie that former chairman Justin Milne called for journalists to be sacked.

Australia has joined [$] with the international community to condemn a “pattern of malicious cyber activity by Russian intelligence targeting political, business, media and sporting institutions worldwide”.

FOI documents obtained by the ABC reveal that the federal government delayed for nearly two months the release of figures showing Australia is failing to rein in its greenhouse gas pollution.

in case you missed it

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has pledged that, if elected, Labor would extend 15 hours per week of subsidised early childhood education to three-year-olds, at a cost of $1.75 billion.

In a speech today, ACTU secretary Sally McManus has attacked [$] enterprise bargaining, which was introduced by Labor, as a failed system, and renewed calls for sector-wide bargaining rights.

In the battle for Wentworth, The Australian has revealed [$] that a second ALP operative is playing a key role in independent candidate Kerryn Phelps’s campaign; meanwhile, Fairfax Media reports that Labor candidate Tim Murray backs a carbon price.

According to The Daily Telegraph [$], NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet has blasted the Morrison government for its new GST deal, which he says could leave NSW taxpayers up to $5.5 billion worse off.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has formally granted Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy a taxpayer-funded overseas travel entitlement – a perk that no other former prime minister has listed in their allowances.

Fairfax Media reports that an architect of the landmark Paris climate deal has lambasted the Coalition government’s inaction on greenhouse gas emissions, saying it “goes against the science”, squanders economic opportunity and risks Australia’s international standing.

Shane Danielsen
A man and his bear: Marc Forster’s ‘Christopher Robin’
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by Matthew Clayfield
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David Farrier becomes the darkest ghoul on the bus in this Netflix travel series

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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