Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Very Christian Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection In Action

In a year when I thought that evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had comprehensively blackened the reputation of Australian Christianity and that its standing could sink no lower, along came the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

This was the very Christian Scott Morrison, Liberal MP for Cook, as recorded by Hansard on 14 February 2008:

Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message. In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, like my colleague, who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.

Australia is not a secular country—it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As US Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.

So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24:

... I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.
From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way:
... we expect Christians ... to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.
These are my principles. My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous: strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources; and, above all, generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice…..
In conclusion, it says in the Book of Joel, ‘Your old men will dream dreams; your young men will see visions.’ Let us have in this place a vision of young men and women that realises the dreams of generations past—the dreaming of Dharawal elders of ancient times, the dreams of Cook and his era of discovery and enlightenment and the dreams of my grandparents’ generation, who fought wars, survived the Great Depression and gave birth to our great Liberal Party with the dream of a brighter day for those who came after them. May God bless and guide us all in this place as we serve those who have had the good grace to send us here on their behalf. [my red bolding]
This is the very Christian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Liberal MP for Cook, Scott Morrison, putting his values into action.

The Abbott government has singled out Sri Lankans for special treatment, or mistreatment, if the conclusions of successive international reports on the country's human rights abuses are accepted. Australia subjects only Sri Lankans to "enhanced", or expedited, screening. Australia's "arrangement" with Sri Lanka is all about stopping the boats carrying its nationals. 
The Tamil boat exodus to Australia did not happen during Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, in which atrocities on both sides – the Sinhalese majority and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – were well documented. Rather, the flood of boats erupted almost three years after the official end to the war in 2009. Between January 2012 and late last year, Australia received more than 8300 Sri Lankans by boat. 
Why? Other destination countries are asking the same question. In the foreword to a 2014 report that documents the testimony of 40 Tamils who fled to Britain, South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes: "It shows how anyone remotely connected with the losing side in the civil war is being hunted down, tortured and raped, five years after the guns fell silent. Shockingly, more than half of the abductions in the report took place as recently as 2013-14 ... The sheer viciousness and brutality of the sexual violence is staggering ... Thirty-five of the witnesses were forced to sign confessions in Sinhala, a language they do not understand."

A bold move by the Abbott government to circumvent a decision of the High Court and the will of the Senate appears certain to trigger another High Court challenge.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has responded to a court decision two weeks ago on visa caps by declaring he will personally apply a "national interest" test to every application for permanent protection by those who arrive without a visa.
The minister has also signalled he will reject all such cases by outlining several reasons why the national interest test will deny the grant of permanent visas and no reasons that would support the grant of a permanent visa.

The Guardian 3 July 2014:

The UNHCR has expressed “profound concern” that two boats carrying Tamil asylum seekers may have been sent back to Sri Lanka by the Australian government, and directly raised the possibility that Australia has broken international law.

The Guardian 2 July 2014:

Children account for the "greatest percentage" of self-harm incidents and suicidal behaviour by asylum seekers in detention, the president of Australia's Human Rights Commission has revealed, citing new statistics showing there were 128 reported self-harm incidents amongst children in detention between January 2013 and March this year.

Excerpt from a doorstop interview on 28 June 2014 where questions were raised about the fate of Tamil refugees, who were subsequently transferred at sea by Australia to the custody of the Sri Lankan navy and the regime from which they were fleeing:

Click on image to enlarge

Scott Morrison June 2014:

The Guardian 30 May 2014:

The desperate state of healthcare offered to asylum-seeker families, children, babies and pregnant women inside the Nauru detention centre can be revealed for the first time in a comprehensive report produced by five independent clinical experts, obtained exclusively by Guardian Australia.

Dept. of Immigration and Border Protection Review into the events of 16-18 February 2014 at the Manus Regional Processing Centre May 2014 – details of injuries sustained by asylum seekers at the hands of Centre staff, expat Australian service providers and PNG nationals including:

Reza Barati (Boat number FRT068) who died as a result of his injuries
[redacted] who lost his right eye
[redacted] who was shot in the buttocks, and
Mr. T2 who was slashed across the throat.

The Australian 31 March 2014:

Immigration Minster Scott Morrison today confirmed he had fulfilled his election pledge to remove free legal advice to asylum-seekers who arrive without visas by sea or air
“If people choose to violate how Australia chooses to run our refugee and humanitarian program, they should not presume upon the support and assistance that is provided to those who seek to come the right way, and they should certainly not receive additional assistance, as they did under the previous government,” he said.

ABC News 25 November 2013:

Mr Morrison says an asylum seeker who gave birth in Brisbane nearly three weeks ago could also be sent back to Nauru.
The baby boy was delivered by caesarean, and has suffered respiratory problems and feeding difficulties.

The Guardian 15 November 2013:

When asked if Nauru had suitable medical facilities for disabled children, since it did not have suitable pre-natal care, Morrison said there were disabled people in the detention centre receiving “appropriate” care.
“It doesn’t matter how much education you’ve had, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve come from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, anywhere else, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a child, it doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an unaccompanied minor, it doesn’t matter if you have a health condition, if you’re fit enough to get on a boat then you can expect you’re fit enough to end up in offshore processing,” he said.

The Australian 30 July 2013:

Thousands of asylum seekers will be housed on Nauru in a tent city for up to five years under a coalition government, as a cheap alternative to the Labor government's proposed Manus Island resettlement program.
At least 2000 people would be sent to a new camp to be built by the coalition if it wins government, but thousands more would be located elsewhere, with no guarantee of final settlement in Australia, The Australian reports on Tuesday.

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