Scott Morrison, LNP Shadow Minister for Immigration, was kind enough to respond to my recent correspondence to him where I requested that he cease dehumanizing asylum-seekers and in so doing, knowingly inflame and validate xenophobia.
I said to Morrison that his behaviour was grotesquely inappropriate for an aspirant to national leadership and also reflected badly on the Gospel of Jesus Christ since Morrison claims in his biographical note on his website that ‘Christian faith remains the driving force for [his] family, beliefs and values’
In his usual blunt style Morrison said that my characterisation of him as a xenophobe was ‘tired’ and showed that I was a ‘lazy, arrogant elitist’ because it deliberately failed to see that legitimate’border protection’ issues were driving LNP policy announcements on asylum seekers
Given this willing blindness therefore I was lazy, elitist and arrogant ‘to dismiss and diminish the concerns of [my] fellow Australians on this issue’.
I was actually happy that Morrison responded so directly. I far preferred getting something like that than a robot-generated auto-email thanking me for taking time to write or some such puerile non-response.
But as I looked at Morrison’s replies I saw that even his outrage was confected and his supposed candour was merely a form of cover-up. Just more deceit.
I took Morrison to task on his deceitful misuse of Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention. Morrison uses Article 31 to justify his use of the term ‘illegal entrants’ to describe asylum seekers as Article 31 does indeed specifically mention illegal entry. Here’s Article 31, section 1 in its entirety:
The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on
account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees
who, coming directly from a territory where their life or
freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or
are present in their territory without authorization,
provided they present themselves without delay to the
authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or
Lawful, Not Illegal
Morrison deceitfully claims that he uses the term ‘illegal entry’ in good faith to merely state with accuracy that asylum seekers have arrived illegally, by which he means the asylum seekers do not have visas. Morrison claims fidelity to the Convention and that he is merely stating truth.
In fact by stressing illegal entry Morrison is reversing the intent of Article 31. Article 31 was framed to make explicit that illegal entry is irrelevant to asylum claims, whereas Morrison wishes to make the illegal entry the defining and overriding feature of asylum claims.
Morrison stresses illegal entry so that asylum seekers may be regarded as criminals, hence of poor character, and hence worthy of suspicion, rejection and dismissal. Morrison thus aims to remove all discussion of the persecution and personal events that drive asylum seekers to leave their homelands and instead focus solely on their non-existent criminality. Morrison does not want the electorate to view asylum seekers as people but as criminals. He is therefore deliberately and maliciously dehumanizing them.
In reversing the spirit and intention of Article 31 Morrison is therefore not seeking accuracy but rather to deceive the public.
The intention of Article 31 is to state that what otherwise would be illegal is not illegal when done for the purposes of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers are lawfully in Australia. Here is a note from current Department Of Immigration commentary on Article 31:
“The circumstances set out in Article 31 may be viewed as mitigating factors which a State accepts in becoming a signatory to the Convention, and as consistent with the doctrine in domestic and international law of ‘necessity’ as a defense to otherwise unlawful conduct.”
Article 31 allows for the fact that in fleeing persecution refugees may not be able to conform to the normal entry requirements of the country of refuge.
‘Normal entry requirements’ means presentation of a valid passport with a current visa. Morrison knows, but chooses to ignore, that refugees cannot be expected to have either. Yet he relentlessly chooses to emphasise the exact opposite and characterises asylum seekers as ‘Document Destroyers’.
By ‘Document Destroyers’ Morrison implies asylum seekers wish to conceal their true identity and therefore must have something shameful to hide or be criminals or be aware that their asylum application could not succeed if their true identity was known. The total inference given by Morrison in relation to ‘Document Destroyers’ is that asylum seekers are underhanded and sneaky, possibly criminal, certainly knowing manipulators of the asylum system who do not deserve entry to Australia.
The characterisation of ‘Document Destroyer’ so forms a core component of Morrison’s strategy to dehumanize asylum seekers.
Morrison’s ‘Document Destroyer’ meme is an attempt to subvert Australians’ sense of fair play and channel it into disgust at asylum seekers. In fact absent, destroyed and even false documentation is recognised by the Refugee Convention as an expected by-product of the experience of persecution and is therefore declared irrelevant to asylum applications.
To state this plainly, even carrying False Documentation is legal for asylum seekers. This legal position is described by Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, Professor of International Refugee Law and member of the English Bar in his paper Article 31 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees: Non-penalization, Detention and Protection which was prepared for the UNHCR. Goodwin-Gill quotes the reasoning of English Lord Justice Simon Brown on the issue:
‘The combined effect of visa requirements and carrier’s liability has made it well nigh impossible for refugees to travel to countries of refuge without false documents.’ … Simon Brown LJ identified the broad purpose sought to be achieved as ‘to provide immunity for genuine refugees whose quest for asylum reasonably involved them in breaching the law’
As is plain, whether or not asylum seekers have documentation and whether or not that documentation is valid or false is irrelevant under the Refugee Convention and international law.
Morrison chooses to ignore Refugee law and states instead that destroying documentation or lack of documentation should be of paramount importance in determining asylum claims.
Ministers of the Crown are expected to uphold the law, not reverse or ignore it.
Parasitical Hazaras Too Lazy To Obtain Visa Demand Free Microwaves
Now, let’s just pause for a moment and consider one group of asylum seekers that Morrison insists should have a Visa in order to avoid being described as illegal entrants and hence correctly regarded as criminals. That group is the Hazara people of Afghanistan who make up a significant proportion of asylum seekers.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hazaras, who are Shia, are routinely massacred by local Taliban. Is it common for cars driven by Hazaras to be forced to a standstill by Taliban death squads, for the Hazaras to be taken out and then simply gunned down on the side of the road.. Oy maybe tortured, cut into pieces and have their eyes gouged out.
Morrison expects Hazaras to go to the local Afghani passport office and apply for a passport and then, once that is approved, apply for an Australian Visa. Now, a Hazara fronting the local Taliban controlled passport office will not be issued with a passport. They will instead be issued with a bullet to the head. And as for the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan, well, its location is secret for security reasons.
The Australian Embassy in Kabul operates from a number of locations that are not publicly disclosed due to security reasons.
The Australian Embassy in Kabul has no visa function. For visa information, visit the Australian High Commission, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Ministers of the Crown are expected to uphold the law, not reverse or ignore it. That is sick enough. But to insist Hazaras obtain a passport from Taliban controlled offices and then attend an Australian office for a visa application when the location of that office is concealed even from Australians…well that is by definition grotesque.
1. odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.
Not Concerned With Accuracy
Morrison claims to be merely and uncontroversially accurate in his use of Article 31. But his concern in emphasising illegal entry in regard to asylum seekers has nothing to do with accuracy. As I have said, the Convention mentions illegal entry specifically to state is of no consequence. Morrison makes it of paramount importance thus reversing the spirit and intention of that Article. Which is dishonest.
The difference between the terms ‘illegal entry’ and ‘illegal person’ is zero. Both aim to characterize asylum seekers as criminals and therefore illegitimate and properly distrusted and rejected. Morrison knows this.
Furthermore Morrison does not correct those who use the term ‘illegals’ to refer to asylum seekers. A cursory flick through interviews on his website with Ray Hadley, Steve Price and other such radio hosts shows him uncritically accepting and validating their use of ‘illegals’.
This shows Morrison’s supposed concern for accuracy is non-existent. When Morrison starts correcting Ray Hadley and Tony Abbott over ‘illegals’ he will have some credibility on this.
It should be obvious that my criticism of Morrison as xenophobic is not lazy. It is based on two lines of evidence these being Morrison’s grotesque misuses of the UN Convention On Refugees, proven above, and his stream of dehumanizing invective directed against asylum seekers.
Anyone paying remote attention to Morrison knows that his basic discourse on asylum seekers is that they are diseased, cunning, parasitical criminals who cause social discohesion and who do not deserve to attend the funerals of their parents; who are poised to swamp Australia and who will cause an overload, if admitted, on essential services thus causing a breakdown in the general amenity and comfort of society.
Here’s Morrison describing the parasitic cunning of asylum seekers to Chris Smith of 2GB, tacitly agreeing with Smith that Australian tax-payers are being ripped off by asylum seekers:
I tell you what, I think it’s fair to say and it’s not beating it up, that some asylum seekers are living in better conditions than Australians.
There’s no doubt about that and particularly the most vulnerable Australians and certainly Indigenous Australians. When it was first released, we drew comment to it. $9100 for fridges, televisions and furnishings into 720 odd homes, about 1600 people living in community detention around the country. They’ve already turned our navy into a water taxi service. Now they’ve turned the mainland into a bed and breakfast. And then they wonder why the boats keep coming, that’s what astonishes me. They wonder why it keeps happening when they keep putting out a product for people smugglers to sell.
Someone’s being ripped off.
Well look it’s the taxpayers basically getting the bill for all of this
Others in the Coalition compare asylum seekers to a societal cancer comparable to illegal narcotics and predisposed to violent affray. Morrison does not contradict those colleagues.Nor does he contradict radio hosts who say, in so many words, that asylum seekers come here merely to sponge off welfare payments. On the contrary Morrison is an honoured and welcome guest on such programs and is treated by those hosts as a like mind.
Demonstrating their blokey comeraderie, here is Ray Hadley discussing with Morrison whether or not Michael Danby, ALP member for Melbourne Ports, is a pinhead. The transcript is on Morrison’s website:
Now what do you know about Michael Danby?
Well – I’ve sat on a committee with Michael.
What sort of pinhead is he, is he a decent bloke or is he – I don’t know him?
I’ll let others make commentary on Michael Danby.
Well I only say that because I copped a mention from Michael Danby –
Oh did you?
In parliament, yes. He described me as a right-wing crank.
Oh well anyone who believes in border protection is a racist and a right-wing crank.
In mu correspondence to Morrison I stated that I suspected his motivation in dehumanizing asylum seekers was to prevent the Islamisation of Australia. He said that my suspicion of himself as anti-Islamic was offensive and untrue.
I responded by pointing out that respected journalists David Marr (in Quarterly Essay #47) and Lenore Taylor in the SMH had reported that Morrison had advocated an anti-Islamic strategy to his party colleagues and that this had appalled them to such an extent that a Shadow Cabinet colleague (in my view probably either Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop) had leaked this proposed strategy to the press.
Morrisson said to me that Marr and Taylor’s reports were ‘complete rubbish’.
I believe Marr and Taylor on this rather than Morrison. Marr and Taylor probably despise Morrison, but they are professional and experienced journalists of long standing. They are not going to publish invented stories.
Nor is Peter Hartcher, Political and International Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, whose scathing piece on Morrison and his proposed anti-Muslim campaign, ‘Ugly Game Of Race Baiting’ appeared in the SMH on 19 Feb 2011. On the events of that Liberal Party strategy meeting Hartcher writes:
A member of the Liberal shadow cabinet later told me: “We had all been asked to come up with potential issues we could run with. Scott said, ‘What are we going to do about multiculturalism? What are we going to do about concerns about the number of Muslims?’ He put it on the table like a dead cat.” Malcolm Turnbull, Philip Ruddock and others argued strongly against any exploitation of the issues. Abbott, running late, was not in the room. The session was being chaired by the deputy leader, Julia Bishop, who wrapped the debate up by saying: “We have a non-discriminatory immigration policy, and let’s keep it that way.”
Marr, Taylor and Hartcher do not go on record with invented stories. Their entire careers are a testimony to that. They would not otherwise enjoy the respect and prominence that they do.
Xenpohobic But Decent
I was interested in Morrison’s comment to me that my criticism of him as xenophobia were elitist and dismissive of the concerns of ordinary Australian citizens.
This to me echoed the comments of Tony Abbott to the nasty anti-Carbon Tax rally organised by Chris Smith of radio station 2GB in which the infamous banners of misogynistic scorn towards Julia Gillard formed a wholly unpleasant feature. He called that group ‘a crowd of fine Australians’
As I look out on this crowd of fine Australians I want to say that I do not see scientific heretics. I do not see environmental vandals. I see people who want honest government.
Abbott’s intention was to validate that crowd’s own fundamental opinion of themselves as decent citizens, even though that day they were overshadowed by a dark stain of deeply indecent hostility and misoygyny. In doing this Abbott made the crowd’s opposition to the Carbon Tax in itself decent since the tax was spawned by a dishonest and untrustworthy Prime Minister. Thus decency became equated with both opposition to the Carbon Tax and misogyny expressed as loathing and scorn.
Morrison does the same.
Morrison validates the xenophobic fears of ordinary Australians as part of their innate decency. Since it is only the lazy, arrogant elitist Greens and Leftists who make those accusations of xenophobia such criticism is irrelevant and indeed emanates from a hollow and itself immoral source. Thus Morrison marries xenophobia and decency. One becomes an expression of the other.
Its possible to be both decent and a xenophobe. Morrison conflates those categories, sprays the conglomerate thus created with disinfectant and room deodorant and then blesses the steaming pile as ‘decent’.
Thus validating and nurturing xenophobia.
It is also interesting to note that Abbott did not fully resile from his validation of anti-carbon tax misogyny misogyny. Five months later at another rally where the same or similar banners were flown Abbott said
Ladies and gentlemen, I can see a lot of people, a lot of very enthusiastic people. I can see a lot of people that I agree a very great deal with. I can see some people who I probably don’t agree with on everything. I can see a lot of signs. Some signs I agree with. Some signs I don’t necessarily agree with
Abbott is never definitive when supposedly rejecting the hateful side of his politics. He tries to pussy-foot with it, continuously holding the door open to the thugs. His mealy-mouthed denunciating of Corey Bernardi’s recent comments on Gay Marriage come from the same strategy: a paper-thin rejection of thuggery whilst simultaneously giving it a nod and a wink.
Another example is Abbott’s defence of Morrison’s horrid remarks about how the children of the drowned asylum-seekers should not have been flown at taxpayer expense to their parent’s funerals and should have paid for it themselves. (with what money Scott ?)
Tony Abbott was asked for his position on the same day. He stood with Morrison. “I am curious as to why that [funerals held on Christmas Island] couldn’t have happened and I’m also curious as to why rellies are being flown around the country. I mean, look, a terrible tragedy and I think everyone shares the grief of people who have lost loved ones particularly in these horrible circumstances, but, you’re right, it does seem a bit unusual that the government is flying people to funerals.”
It took Joe Hockey to take the stand the weak leader, Abbott, could not. Hockey utterly rejected Morrison’s comments and then privately said:
“I am rock solid with Tony, but I am not selling my soul.”
I am encouraged to find that Hockey had the ethical life and moral backbone to stand up for what was right and in his words did not ‘sell his soul’ to the xenophobes. It’s horrifying that Abbott cannot hold the moral line on the issue of racism and adequate reason in itself why he should never become Prime Minister.