My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 30 May 2017: Dutton and Bishop both busily spreading ‘fake’ news

by ray goodlass

Last week Ministers Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop demonstrated that ‘fake news’ isn’t confined to President Trump and his media minions.

Broadly, both Dutton and Bishop were doing their best to re-write our human rights practice. Let’s hope everyone isn’t fooled by such con jobs.

To Dutton first. Fresh from re-writing the news about the refugees we are incarcerating on Manus Island, this time in a blatant example of ‘fake news’ he adopted an alternative fact to justify our latest human rights violation

This involved the federal government setting an October 1 deadline for 7,500 people who arrived in Australia by boat between 2008 and 2013, but who have not yet lodged claims for refugee protection, to apply for a visa or face deportation.

He announced that “the game is up” for “fake refugees”, who he referred to as ‘Illegal maritime arrivals’, his media release reading “The Turnbull government has today set a deadline for thousands of Illegal Maritime Arrivals (IMAs) who flooded into Australia under the previous Labor government to prove they are genuine refugees and owed protection by Australia.”

This is a deliberately false and misleading statement as it reinforces prejudicial stereotypes that successive governments have used to demonise people seeking asylum in Australia. The subjects of the government’s announcement are not “people”, “individuals”, “human beings”, or even “asylum seekers”. Instead, they are “illegal maritime arrivals”. How many times do Dutton & Co need reminding that it not illegal to seek asylum, with or without papers?

These apparently non-people did not “travel to” or “arrive in” Australia. Instead, they “flooded into Australia”.

They are the latest group to suffer from the shameful practice of setting human beings apart from others in the community, being classed as a threatening peril or a menace.

Dutton’s condemnation of “fake refugees” is prejudicial. It suggests those people now subject to his deadline must not have genuine protection claims, or they would have been lodged already.

It is in fact ‘fake news’, for Department of Immigration statistics show people who travel to Australia by boat without a valid visa, seeking asylum, are more likely to be genuine refugees than people who travel by air with a visa and seek asylum on arrival. Over the years, between 70% and 100% of people arriving by boat have been assessed as eligible for refugee protection.

Furthermore his assertion that these people have failed or refused to apply for protection quite wrongly and very unfairly suggests that sufficient time has already been afforded, when the truth is that the Department of Immigration is unable to process the volume of asylum claims because in fact it is under-resourced.

Dutton’s demonising of asylum seekers is truly odious. So too is our human rights record, which didn’t stop Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop officially launching Australia’s bid for a 2018-20 seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

With a straight face Bishop managed this by describing Australia as the “standout candidate” for this position because “we are arguably the most successful, the most diverse, multicultural society on Earth”. Try telling that to those who seek asylum, those found to be genuine refugees but are languishing in the hell-holes we have put them in on Manus Island or Nauru, or our own First Nations people classed as being incapable of looking after themselves and so are made to suffer the paternal indignities of the ‘Intervention’.

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