Thursday, June 20, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Medivac “floodgates”? Hardly
Peter Dutton’s fearmongering is despicable

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s hysterical reaction [$] to yesterday’s Federal Court ruling on the proper interpretation of the medivac laws – warning it would open the “floodgates” – is scaremongering. The idea that a nation of 25 million people would cower in fear, provoked by the minister, because 10 sick asylum seekers might successfully lodge appeals and get transferred to the mainland is beyond pathetic. It is laughable, in fact, because UNHCR figures out overnight show that the government, meanwhile, is quietly allowing more than 60,000 asylum seekers who arrived by plane to live and work here – double the number of just three years ago. Dutton told Insiders that he wanted asylum seekers “off Manus and Nauru overnight, but I want to do it in a way that doesn’t restart boats”. We already know from immigration department whistleblower Shaun Hanns that it’s turnbacks, not offshore detention, that prevents further boat arrivals. So what’s really stopping the minister? Base political advantage, that’s what.

Dutton wants to ramp up the pressure on Labor over the medivac laws, even though the government has every prospect of securing its planned repeal regardless, with the support of three of the six crossbench senators from Centre Alliance and One Nation, as well as Cory Bernardi and Jacqui Lambie. Labor is so far standing behind the medivac laws, and shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally said [$] that yesterday’s court ruling did not change the government’s ability to deny an application on health, security or character grounds. “The government has cried wolf on medivac before, and they’ll cry wolf again now,” she said. Greens immigration spokesperson Nick McKim said that yesterday’s court judgement “reinforces parliament’s clear intent: that sick people get the medical treatment they need”.

The UNHCR’s Global Trends report makes for depressing reading. A record 71 million people were forcibly displaced in 2018, of which 41 million were internally displaced and 26 million were refugees. Half of those refugees were children – that’s 13 million children needing help. There are three million asylum seekers worldwide. On any measure, Australia’s contribution to solving this humanitarian crisis is negligible.

Most of the asylum seekers arriving by plane have their applications rejected – more than 90 per cent, according to Immigration Minister David Coleman. Former immigration official Abul Rizvi told ABC Radio’s AM that the majority of the applications, from China and Malaysia, were a sham. “When you have large numbers of asylum claims from just one or two countries and the vast majority are being refused, that is clear evidence that there is organisation behind this and that there are people doing this in order to profit.”

Then starts another race to the bottom on who is tougher on refugees, with Keneally tweeting a thread that accused the government of losing control of our borders. The broader point goes begging: the hypocrisy of Australia’s offshore detention regime has been highlighted again. Given the scale of the human dislocation across the planet revealed by the UNHCR, it cannot be beyond this country to stop playing politics and fairly resolve the fate of those 800 people remaining on Manus Island and Nauru.



“You’re f***ing kidding me right? I thought someone was having a joke with me! Not that climate-change denying, weirdo, conspiracy theorist. What a dick.”

Victorian MLC Fiona Patten issues a statement reacting to yesterday’s confirmation that One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts will return to the Senate.

“The people of NSW are reaping the fruits of asset recycling. In Queensland, the tree is full of fruit that isn’t being picked. NSW wrote the playbook, Victoria has used it, Queensland needs to read it.”

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief Adrian Dwyer urges state governments to privatise another $220 billion in public assets – especially toll roads, electricity and water – to reduce debt and invest in new infrastructure.


The number of Australians among the 298 passengers who died on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 when it was shot down in 2014, a mass murder for which international arrest warrants have been issued by Dutch prosecutors against three Russians and one Ukrainian man overnight.

“No. In making that decision the minister must have regard to advice from the TSSC [Threatened Species Scientific Committee] and from public comment. Since the start of the EPBC [Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation] Act the department is unaware of any instance where a minister’s listing decision for a threatened ecological community or species has been different to what was recommended by the TSSC.”

An environment department official responds to a question about whether in 2017 the then environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, could alter the listing of endangered grasslands that were of concern to his colleague Angus Taylor, who has an interest in a rural property affected by the listing.

The list

“Angelica Mesiti summons the possibility of harmonic cohesion from disparate sources. Working with dancers, gymnasts, musicians of all kinds, even virtuoso whistlers, she has become in the last decade the country’s most accomplished interpreter of the fragile beauty of dialogue across cultural and linguistic divides. Mesiti’s latest three-channel video work, Assembly, commissioned by the Australia Council for the Australian Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, has David Malouf’s poem ‘To Be Written in Another Tongue’ as its starting point.”

“You don’t often see people smiling when they talk about climate change. But Mike Cannon-Brookes couldn’t help it as he quoted the responses of certain small-vision politicians to the plan he cooked up two years ago with fellow tech billionaire Elon Musk to help fix South Australia’s electricity crisis. One of them, he recalled, derided the idea of installing the world’s biggest battery to store renewable energy and stabilise the state’s power grid as akin to building ‘the Big Banana of energy’.”

“On 25 January 2014, a new group of asylum seekers was brought to the detention centre in Nauru. Ashkan went to the gate to greet the arrivals. He watched tired and confused men, faces tinged with sadness, stagger into the compound. A Transfield employee handed each one a package that included shampoo, a towel and toothpaste. Reading the shock on one man’s face, Ashkan introduced himself. ‘I was brought here five months ago – I know how you feel right now,’ he said, pressing the man’s hand.”

Quarterly Essay 74

Win a double pass to hear The Saturday Paper’s Erik Jensen in conversation with Chloe Hooper discussing his Quarterly Essay 74, The Prosperity Gospel.

In this report from the campaign trail, Jensen homes in on the insecurities that drive Bill Shorten and the certainties that helped Scott Morrison win.

6.30pm on Monday, June 24, at the Church of All Nations in Carlton, Victoria.


Gaming the gaming industry
Australia records higher losses from gambling than any country in the world. Our politics encourages the industry for the sake of tax revenues.

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 Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Locking back down

Victoria’s woes are a warning for the whole country

Image of Labor candidate in Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain

Bega pleased

Kristy McBain’s win has implications for the Morrison government

Images of Kristy McBain and Fiona Kotvojs

Southern discomfort

Tomorrow’s result in Eden-Monaro is on a knife edge

Image of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds speaking at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Grey zone

Between war and peace, Australia’s defence strategy is evolving

From the front page

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Locking back down

Victoria’s woes are a warning for the whole country

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Weal of fortune

Rebuilding the economy means government investment, but not all public spending is equal

Image of Labor’s Kristy McBain and Anthony Albanese

A win’s a win

The Eden-Monaro result shows that Morrison’s popularity has not substantially changed voting patterns – and Labor has still not cut through

The man inside and the inside man

Crime, punishment and indemnities in western Sydney’s gang wars