Letter: Hypocrisy never ceases
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is concerned about the rights of a 14-year-old Australian child who was arrested by entrapment for possessing marijuana in Bali.
The child is not in an Indonesian adult prison, although he is in custody, but he is within the appropriate jurisdiction. I feel for him, however, as he has a journey before the Indonesian children’s court.
In July, I spoke to Prime Minister Julia Gillard about the whereabouts of 100 Indonesian children languishing in Australian adult prisons. They range in age from 13 to 17.
It has been a long and arduous journey to have some of them released — some have been released via court proceedings, and some by behind-the-scenes efforts.
I contacted Rudd and he promised he would assist. He has not.
When I spoke to Gillard, and as we held hands throughout our conversation, her warm smile froze with a worried silence in presuming another scandal-in-waiting.
Australia is yet to ensure appropriate age-determination protocols and adequate consular notifications so that these Indonesian children, some of the world’s most impoverished, do not end up in adult prisons with murderers, sex offenders and hardened criminals.
How is it that minister Rudd is concerned about the plight of a 14-year-old Australian who is being dealt with by the appropriate jurisdiction in Indonesia, and yet he is not concerned about 100 Indonesian children in Australian adult prisons?
The mantra of “breaking the people smugglers’ business model” has caused much damage and has modified public views. Is “people smuggling” a reality or is it a myth?
And is the assisting in the passage of an asylum seeker immoral and criminal?
The method used to determine the age of the children, the wrist-bone age scan, has been widely discredited by pediatric endocrinologists and by the Australian Medical Association; it is unlawful to use the technique in the UK as a means to determine age, and yet the Australian government continues to rely on it.
Lawyer David Manne has set a precedent by challenging the Australian Government in the High Court over the lawfulness of the Malaysia option.
Currently, in Victoria’s courts, and what may end up in the High Court, lawyers are arguing that asylum seekers have a legal right to come to Australia and that perceived people smugglers in fact have a legal right to assist them, and have not behaved unlawfully.
If the Victorian courts uphold the argument that there is no such thing as people smuggling per se vis-à-vis the “business model”, then this will have wide-reaching implications and may expedite the freedom of many individuals.
Australia would be best served by working with those humanitarians who risk their lives trying to help others reach our shores, and by pulling down the walls against migration and, instead, raise our humanitarian quota for refugees to, for instance, 50,000 and thereby set an example for the world.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.