The Beagle editor and readers,
After more than five years of indefinite detention many people held on Nauru and Manus Island have developed serious mental health issues and other health problems. The Refugee Action Collective (RAC) Eurobodalla supports a new approach to ensure that these people can receive the care they require, and is urging politicians to vote for the Medical Transfers Bill this week.
“The UN has even said the welfare of these seriously ill people is Australia's responsibility” says Bernie Richards, RAC Convenor. “For too long the Goverment has denied people the health care they need, resulting in the preventable deaths of several young men on Manus Island and Nauru. Holding people indefinitely, with no hope for the future has caused terrible suffering and despair”
Dr Phelps, MP for Wentworth says that “The medical transfers Bill currently before the Parliament is designed to provide a medically appropriate pathway for urgent cases to be evacuated to Australia.”
Anticipating losing a vote in the House of Reps when Parliament returns this week, the prime Minister and other ministers have launched an outrageous misinformation and scare campaign, hoping to soften Labor’s anticipated support for the Bill.
The Government makes the absurd claim that our border security depends on the continued suffering of a few hundred people detained off shore. Peter Dutton, the Minister for Home Affairs, has made the preposterous claim that some of these people may be criminals, resorting to character assassination, even though there is no basis for these claims.
The Minister fails to mention that even if this Bill is passed, the government retains the right to veto transfers should there be a risk to national security.
Of course, Minister Dutton is prone to outrageous claims. In June last year he claimed that one single act of compassion would start the boats arriving on our shores. Since then he has managed to bring more than 100 children from Nauru to Australia, (surely 100 acts of compassion), and yet not one boat has arrived.
The Government is also claiming the transfers of these people would be hugely expensive, but fails to mention that Senate Estimates show that offshore arrangements cost more than $5 billion (2012-2017), and $2.65 billion in 2016-17.[i] The cost of community detention onshore is tiny fraction of that amount.
So why is the Government prepared to spend large sums of money maintaining offshore detention, and why mislead the public? Quite simply, by running a scare campaign the Coalition hopes to secure votes.
“Though it is generally believed a minor miracle would be needed to rescue the Morrison Government, the Coalition judges the best way to "save furniture" is to wave the fear flags. "Scare" campaigns are distasteful but potent.” Michelle Grattan (ABC News - 1 Feb 2019)[ii]
The United Nations, and the PNG Catholic Bishops, and many concerned Australians are calling for an end to this cruel and damaging regime. Far from being ‘a success’ as claimed by the government, the offshore arrangements are a costly policy failure.
Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla