Posted by: jkirkby8712 | August 13, 2011

Friday., 12th August 2011 – a new sporting hero welcomed home, and our refugees still in limbo.

There was a civic reception and welcome back to Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans today, in the centre of Melbourne. I was a little apprehensive that the crowd response might not be as great as was perhaps anticipated, however, I needn’t have worried. There was a massive turnout for Australia’s newest sporting hero, where tens of thousands of people packed central Melbourne today to welcome back Evans on his first trip home since winning the race. The rather unassuming and modest cyclist and his family said afterwards, that they were  overwhelmed by the reaction of people in Australia.  While there is a high cycling population in Australia, the sport itself does not the same degree of spectator interest as in many of the European countries, but a success in any venture, usually brings out a new spectator base. Today, he rode along St Kilda Road, with a support team of twenty young cyclists, from the National Gallery of Victoria to Federation Square, where he addressed the thousands of fans, and received praise and plaudits from various government and sporting leaders. It had been expected to be a beautiful sunny day for the occasion, after a frosty freezing early morning – I don’t know what it was like down in the city central area, but from where I was, things looked fairly cool and overcast.  Apparently Cadel Evans, who was off in a few hours to ride in the USA, had made this brief trip, basically for the purpose of accepting the invitation to participate in today’s occasion.

I was interested to read today, that plans are in hand to commemorate the anniversary of the bombing of Darwin, during World War 2. Not sure if ‘commemorate’ is the right word to use,  but organise are at least keen to  ensure all Australians understand the significance of the 70th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin, due  next February.. The bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 was the first time Australia had been attacked during a time of war.  At the time, news of the bombing was suppressed and it was not until after the Japanese were defeated that many Australians even knew that Darwin, let alone Australia, had been attacked. Amazing, the degree of secrecy that was maintained at that time in our history!  Darwin City Council has taken a lead role in ensuring this event is commemorated each year, with the 70th anniversary due on the 19 February 2012.

Meanwhile, as the Government attempts to solve the legal issues associated with it’s plans to ‘ship’ refugee boat arrivals to Malaysia, the arrival of another boat today means that the Government has used up more than a quarter of its 800 quota under the Malaysia agreement within weeks of it being signed. Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen said on 7 May when announcing the Malaysia deal‘.  ‘People smugglers will need to find 800 volunteers to travel to Australia’. Well, the Opposition points out that  so far the people smugglers have found more than 770 volunteers, with the arrival of 102 today. “It’s a one-off deal with one country with a clear use-by date and a huge cost of almost $300 million, which simply hasn’t been thought through. “Re-opening the Manus Island processing centre [in New Guinea]  will not save the Government from an 800 person, $300 million deal that has already reached its use-by date. “Today’s arrival means 12,053 people have now arrived on 238 illegal boats since Labor began to unwind the Coalition’s border protection and asylum policies in August  2008,” Mr Morrison said. “The people smugglers clearly refuse to take Labor seriously on border protection issues,” Mr Morrison said.

Under the proposed Malaysia deal, the first asylum seekers were set to be removed from Christmas Island on 7 August. A High court challenge was lodged, and the Court found there is a case to answer and issued an injuction against the removals until 22 August. One of the areas of law being tested is s198 of the Migration Act which allows removal (put in place in 2001 to allow the Pacific Solution to commence).  S.198A 3) a) iv. requires that the country people are sent to meets relevant human rights standards. The question is will this be the case for the 800 people Australia proposes to send to Malaysia?  Many of us, on the basis of  historical evidence of the treatment of refugees in Malaysia, think not!  What could happen?    1. High court could defer to federal court, then back up to high court – time taken not known, but unlikely to be quick!  2.  High Court could rule in favour of the Commonwealth – deal is back on.  3.High Court could rule in favour of the 16 asylum seekers who brought the matter; if this happens, hard to see how any of the 800 asylum seekers could be sent to Malaysia.  4.Migration Act could be amended, Govt needs support of Greens or Coalition in the Senate to make this happen.

Right now for the approximately 100 men, women and children who have arrived by boat since the deal was signed, this means complete limbo. I must agree with the refugee support groups, with the view that these people and further arrivals should have their claims assessed on the mainland and should not be subject to indefinite detention, there is presently no functioning deal and no idea if or when they can be removed.  Meanwhile, Australia has begun to welcome the first of 1,000 refugees to be resettled here this year from Malaysia, the only good thing to come out of the whole proposal so far. I’m also rather pleased to hear that most of this first batch of refugees have originated from Burma, where these minority groups continue to be cruelly and inhumanely discriminated against by the Burmese military leaders.

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