30 July 2004
What is legal? What is ethical? What is the difference?
The Edmund Rice Centre in Homebush has recently launched a monthly electronic publication Good Business where questions such as this can be considered.
The publication is part of the Edmund Rice Business Ethics Initiative, launched in 1991, which exists to promote a conversation between business and the community on values and ethics: promoting life humanly in our businesses, our communities, our planet. It aims to create a space where these issues can be discussed and researched in mutually supportive ways
29 July 2004
It is unclear exactly who and how many families currently on temporary protection visas will ultimately benefit from the proposed changes, in the meantime the anxiety, and trauma of many families will continue.
Whilst welcoming the step towards a more humane and compassionate policy Br Chris Meehl, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre at St Albans urged the granting of permanent residency. “The families have contributed greatly to our culture and the local community. They have established strong networks and links with the community. They need to be given every encouragement and assistance in obtaining permanent residency. A permanent visa will enable them to move on with life in a positive settled manner – with greater opportunities of them to contribute to the richness of our multi-cultural Australia” he said.
There is a straightforward solution to the TPV dilemma. The Government should simply convert them into permanent visas. The TPV holders in question have already been found to be genuine refugees. They should not have to prove themselves yet again.
As the morally discredited, hardline stance of this government continues to slowly crumble in the face of sustained criticism and pressure, readers of this bulletin are encouraged to maintain that pressure by writing or emailing their political representatives urging the immediate granting of permanent residency to those currently on TPV’s and for a complete review of the Migration Act.
For the latest information about the campaign to secure justice for asylum seekers visit the A Just Australia website.
For information about the campaign to reform the immigration Act visit the Polmin website
"Our starting point is to recognise that if East Timor goes broke that's bad for Australia," he told commercial radio.
These comments came after some Members of the U.S. Congress had again expressed concern about Australia's stance toward East Timor in boundary negotiations between the two countries.
While noting his respect for Australia's government and people, representative James McGovern expressed concern for Australia's "ruthless treatment and disregard of East Timor's rights." He urged Australia "to do the right thing by East Timor: rejoin the international dispute resolution mechanism for maritime boundaries; refrain from offering disputed areas for new petroleum contracts; and expeditiously negotiate in good faith a permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea."
Calling East Timor's claim "protected by international law," Rep. Dennis Kucinich accused Australia of "displaying 'bad faith' in the negotiating process." He went on to say, "The people of East Timor do not want to be poor; they do not want to be begging for charity from wealthy countries, they do not want to end up as a 'failed state.' They want to be self-sufficient," as he urged his colleagues to "support the efforts of the world's newest independent state."
In March 2004, 53 representatives of Congress wrote to Australian Prime Minister John Howard, concluding that, "We trust your country's commitment to the freedom and security of East Timor will include recognition of East Timor's territorial integrity and its right to a swift, permanent resolution of the maritime boundary dispute."
Readers of this bulletin are encouraged to ensure this issue remains on the political agenda by writing to their local candidates expressing their concerns. Contact details for all members of parliament can be found at the Parliament of Australia website.
Further information including details of the forthcoming public forum in Melbourne can be found at the Timor Sea Justice website
It is based on responses to standard questions sent to the primary spokesperson for Indigenous Affairs with each major party: Senator Amanda Vanstone (Liberal/National), Senator Kerry O'Brien (ALP), Senator Aden Ridgeway (Democrats) and Senator Kerry Nettle (Greens). Their responses to each question have been added to, where appropriate, from each party's
respective policies on Indigenous Affairs, as published on their party websites.
View the Political Parties' Report Card on Indigenous Affairs
14 July 2004
A wide range of organizations, publications and websites have come into existence in recent times that focus on the honesty of politicians, the maintenance of standards of public accountability, parliamentary democracy and openness and the ethics of a fair public debate. In addition to the websites which appear regularly in this bulletin the following sites may also be of interest
Julian Burnside Website
A common feature of sites such as these is that they challenge a government or political party which seeks to manipulate the truth, to duck accountability or to lie to the electorate and focus on democratic and parliamentary accountability, the roots the Westminster system of government and core human rights and international conventions in relation to issues such as refugees, engaging in war, or to other broadly internationally agreed values
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have also recently released a pre-election statement "Having Faith in our Democracy: Building a Better Australia". The Statement highlights values and priorities for consideration in the forthcoming federal election.
Crucial challenges facing Australia are addressed according to the values of life, love, knowledge, health, care, reconciliation, hospitality, peace and creation. The document can be accessed at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference website.
All readers of this bulletin are urged to ensure the voice for justice is loudly and clearly heard by candidates and parties participating in the election.
Whilst refusing to admit that it may have got it wrong the government at least appears to be bowing to the overwhelming criticism from professional and church groups, organizations concerned with human rights and the persistent campaigning of concerned citizens such as the readers of this bulletin.
Perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of the end of a particularly shameful episode in Australian history. If so, it is a welcome development and a victory for all those who have worked to correct an enormous injustice. Nevertheless if we are to avoid travelling the same path at some time in the future it is worth recalling some important facts.
The total number of children who arrived in Australia by boat or plane without a visa between July 1999 and June 2003 was 2184. According to the HREOC inquiry, children who were in detention in 2003 spent an average time of one year, eight months and 11 days behind bars. The longest any one child had been held was five years. Most alarmingly, 98 per cent of Iraqi children, 95 per cent of Iranian children and 74 per cent of Afghan children were eventually found to be genuine refugees.
It is difficult to escape the cynical suspicion that the government’s policy reversal is more related to the forthcoming election than any genuine change of heart. Whatever the case there is still a need to push for a change of policy in the treatment of any future asylum seekers.
"The Better Way" is an alternative to the current failed system of 'one size fits all' maximum-security mandatory detention. It shows asylum seekers can be housed in different types of accommodation according to their needs. It was developed by experienced and respected community organisations and welfare agencies from the Justice for Asylum Seekers network. Recognised by HREOC, The Better Way is an effective, more humane way of caring for the special needs of asylum seekers. It has also been demonstrated to be cheaper than the current system. More information can be found at the The Better Way website.
Whilst the campaign to secure the release of all those remaining in detention is continuing, the long battle of many refugee families to find a safe haven may nearly be over. How well many of those will recover from the "inhumane and degrading treatment" they have received in Australia remains to be seen and likewise the long-term damage inflicted on Australian society is difficult to assess.
What is sure is that the effects of this sorry, inhumane episode of political opportunism are likely to haunt this nation for years to come.
The response repeats the legal arguments Australia has put forward previously in defence of its position, emphasises the benefits to East Timor under the existing arrangements (while ignoring the far greater benefits to which East Timor may potentially be entitled) and points out the positive role Australia has played in supporting East Timor’s transition to independence and its continuing financial assistance through AusAID.
The moral issue of the vast discrepancy between the standard of living enjoyed in Australia and East Timor (where most of the population lack the basic necessities of life) was ignored.
Those concerned about this issue may be interested in attending the Public Forum “East Timor Today” on Fri 13th August at the Hawthorn Town Hall, 360 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn commencing at 8.00pm. Admission is free.
The forum will feature Dr Jose Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and East Timor’s Foreign Minister.
The evening will consist of live music, visuals, guest speakers and a question and answer forum on East Timor including its claim in the Timor Sea oil and gas dispute with Australia.
A petition is currently in circulation which asks that the Australian Government to:-
- Accept the sovereignty of East Timor over the oil and gas deposits which are closer to East Timor than Australia.
- Accept the request of the East Timorese Government to meet monthly to negotiate permanent maritime boundaries with East Timor as quickly as possible.
- Accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on issues of maritime boundaries and accept the compulsory dispute resolution mechanisms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 with regard to Australia’s maritime boundaries.
- Place in trust (escrow) revenues received from disputed areas immediately outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) established by the 20 May 2002 Timor Sea Treaty, for distribution between Australia and East Timor after the maritime boundary dispute between the two countries has been settled.
A copy of the petition and instructions for completing it is available for downloading at the Timor Sea Justice website.
The Government has deleted Reconciliation from the work of Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA).
"The Howard Government cannot be believed when it says it supports Reconciliation", he said
"Nobody is fooled by its hollow rhetoric and its actions speak for themselves:
- It has rejected the final recommendations of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, delivered in 2000.
- It has led a virulent and divisive campaign against the aspirations of Indigenous Australians to gain recognition of their rights and identity as Indigenous peoples.
- It is currently seeking to dismantle independent Indigenous representation and involvement in policy and service delivery, and to return to mainstream delivery and appointed 'advisors'.
- Its mainstream approach under 'practical reconciliation' has failed to stem the ongoing, entrenched crisis in Indigenous communities, with life expectancies 20 years lower than other Australians, health conditions at 'Third World' standards and worsening, and education and employment opportunities far below those of other Australians."
Phil Glendenning is also Director of the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education in Sydney. Links to the Centre's website and the ANTaR website can be found at left.