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CLA puts solutions to Riot Inquiry

CLA puts solutions to Riot Inquiry

CLA proposed refugee solutions, and expanded the investigation’s reporting scope, when appearing before the Manus Island Riot Death Inquiry at Parliament House.

CLA puts solutions to Riot Inquiry

In a deliberate ploy, Civil Liberties Australia delivered an opening statement to the Manus Island Riot Death inquiry to allow the parliamentary committee to recommend future solutions to improve refugee policy in Australia.

The statement – which is in addition to CLA’s original submission to the inquiry – also outlines new options to encourage selective migration.

CLA President, Dr Kristine Klugman, told the inquiry[1] “a policy and detention system that produces riots and death, and which induces severe depression and severe mental health problems in adults and children, is unsustainable”.

“How many adult deaths – or deaths of children – will it take before we urgently change policy,” she asked.

“We are effectively destroying people mentally, even if they don’t die a physical death. Many will never fully recover from the year or years spent in ‘detention’, Dr Klugman said.

Dr Klugman inspects a map of the Manus Island Detention Centre, on display at the parliamentary inquiry.
Dr Klugman inspects a map of the Manus Island Detention Centre, on display at the parliamentary inquiry.

She called on the Australian Parliament to revert to a bi-partisan immigration policy of the type which existed 20 years ago.

Right: Dr Klugman inspects a map of the Manus Island Detention Centre, on display at the parliamentary inquiry.

In an opening statement to an inquiry hearing in June 2014[2], Dr Klugman said:

“Civil Liberties Australia proposes that a small subset of MPs be invited to volunteer to work cooperatively towards immigration settings which mirror those in place during the times when migration to Australia was important, successful and non-controversial.

“A model for such cross-party cooperation could be the recently-formed Parliamentary Friends of the ABC group.

“The fundamentals of a new, long-term policy would include:

  • Australia welcomes migrants.
  • Australia reserves the right to select migrants with the best-possible chance of both making a success of their life here, and of contributing positively to Australia’s prosperity.
  • Australia will develop one or more major infrastructure projects (of the vision and size of the Snowy Mountains Scheme) to engage large numbers of migrants for 20 years.
  • People will be obliged to work on this/these schemes, being paid and learning English and work skills, for a number of years before being able to then settle anywhere in Australia as citizens.

“In addition, before committing to war or war-like engagements, Australia will:

  • Assess the likelihood Australia’s action generating excessive migration to Australia (and to other countries).
  • Decline to engage in such foreign actions if the likely annual cost of managing additional migration attempts to Australia will equate to a known measure (eg, the monthly cost of maintaining troops in the war theatre).

“To solve the short-term (next 5-10 years) dilemma, Australia does the following:

  • Acknowledges that it retains effective control of and responsibility for all places detaining people intercepted by Australian border operatives;
  • Establishes a control and supervisory structure for each offshore detention place that is based on medical (including mental health) professionals having the largest and final say in how the centres are managed; and
  • Operates to the minimal principle of at least doing no harm to people it detains.”

During the hearing, CLA’s chief executive officer, Bill Rowlings, said the problems identified by witnesses in the Manus Island riot, during which refugee seeker Reza Berati was bludgeoned to death, had the same planning and implementing overtones of the Pink Batts affair.

“In both cases, people died because the Australian government rushed to implement policy conceived to provide public relations ‘spin’ that had not been thought through properly,” he said later outside the hearing.



[1] Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014: an inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, reporting date 16 July 2014

[2] Hearing at Parliament House Canberra, 13 June 2014 – participants: Civil Liberties Australia, the Australian Lawyers Alliance and the Law Society of NSW Human Rights Committee.

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