Sunday, 15 February 2015

The unprecedented attack on the independent Australian Human Rights Commission by Prime Minister Abbott provoked a response from the Australian Bar Association and the Law Council of Australia

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission in November 2014; Australia currently holds about 800 children in mandatory closed immigration detention for indefinite periods, with no pathway to protection or settlement. This includes 186 children detained on Nauru. Children and their families have been held on the mainland and on Christmas Island for, on average, one year and two months. Over 167 babies have been born in detention within the last 24 months.

In November 2014 it completed its The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention report which it states; provides compelling first-hand evidence of the negative impact that prolonged immigration detention is having on their mental and physical health. The evidence given by the children and their families is fully supported by psychiatrists, paediatricians and academic research. The evidence shows that immigration detention is a dangerous place for children. Data from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection describes numerous incidents of assault, sexual assault and self-harm in detention environments. 

The evidence presented within this report spans the period 1 January 2013 to 30 September 2014, during which time there was both the former Labor and current Liberal-Nationals federal governments directing the detention of asylum seekers.

The Abbott Government did not make this report public until 11 February 2015. Prior to tabling this report, the Attorney-General unsuccessfully sought the voluntary resignation of the Commission’s president, Professor Gillian Triggs.

On 12 February 2015 the Prime Minister rose to his feet in the House of Representatives and uttered these words:

It would be a lot easier to respect the Human Rights Commission if it did not engage in what are transparent stitch-ups like the one that was released the other day. I say to the Human Rights Commission: if you are concerned about real human rights, real human decency, real compassion for people, you should be writing congratulatory letters to the former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, who has stopped the boats, who has saved lives and who has got children out of detention.

In an earlier pre-recorded interview with Neil Mitchell of Radio 3AW he had also said this:

"Where was the Human Rights Commission during the life of the former government when hundreds of people were drowning at sea?"
"This is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise.
"The Human Rights Commission should be ashamed of itself."

Finally, the legal community reached the limit of its tolerance:

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