26 November 2010


The Catholic bishops of Australia have welcomed the recent High Court Judgment which affords asylum seekers the same protections of the legal system that are offered to everyone else.

In commenting on the decision, the spokesperson for the bishops on migrant and refugee matters Bishop Joe Grech stated that "All Australians will welcome the High Court’s judgement that the rule of law must be followed by decision makers employed by the Australian Government. Most Australians would perhaps be surprised to learn that such a requirement has not been standard practice"

The High Court judgment found that the assessment of asylum seekers claims for refugee status did not comply with Australian law and failed to observe the requirements of procedural fairness.

Bishop Grech condemned the political expediency that had resulted in the detention of people in remote areas and expressed the hope that the decision would mark "the end of so‐called ‘Pacific solutions’ in which those seeking asylum in Australia are moved to remote offshore locations in order to avoid their access to Australian laws".

In the meantime the Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council Bishop Christopher Saunders has questioned the manner in which the Northern Territory Emergency Response (‘the Intervention’) is being carried out in indigenous communities.

"We … have to ask who makes the decisions about income management. Will it be applied by officials who have little connection with Indigenous people or possess little understanding of the complexities of the issues involved? What qualifications will be employed to select those people who will have extraordinary power over the income and lives of powerless people?

Compulsory income management alone will not address the underlying causes of poverty and disadvantage. A rigid focus on compliance of a policy that implies that 'we know best' or 'it is all for their own good' risks adopting the kind of attitude that gave rise to policies behind the Stolen Generation"
he said.

More information about issues arising from the ‘Intervention’ can be found in the latest briefing from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

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