NOOSA - The Australian government has been in real disarray recently as it struggles with the case of asylum seekers Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa, whose plight again became a matter of great public concern.
The latest drama involving this family occurred when four-year old Tharnicaa became seriously ill and, accompanied by her mother, was flown to Perth after pneumonia turned into sepsis and there were fears she might otherwise die.
I must remind my Papua New Guinean friends, although you already know this, that the Australian government that provides your country with K1.3 billion a year is the same country that maltreats people of colour within its own borders.
It is the same government that refuses to find a place in its Constitution for the people who occupied its soil for 60,000 years before the first colonisers arrived in 1788 to consign those people to a subservient and even despised place in society.
Australia is a country where, in many people, the racism lies not far beneath the skin. But you know that. You have most likely experienced it.
Until this week the Murugappan family had been held on Christmas Island since August 2019. They were suddenly brought together in community detention in Perth after a public outcry about their treatment.
The father and mother, Priya and Nades, arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013, and for some years lived and worked in the Queensland regional town of Biloela.
There the community warmed to them, then was proud of them and later was horrified when the family was callously removed in 2018 after all members of the family except baby Tharnicaa exhausted legal attempts to be granted refugee status.
They appealed against their expulsion and a court injunction prevented them being deported to Sri Lanka.
The Australian government has been spending K4 million a year keeping them under guard on Christmas Island.
They were transported to Christmas Island very much as those early convicts were transported from England to Australia – to get them as far away as possible and make their lives as harsh as possible so they might realise the full weight of their folly.
The Australian government’s actions are cruel and morally bankrupt.
But, as experts in immigration law, like John Menadue, former secretary of the Australian Immigration Department know, that law is built around exceptions.
“There are options to resolve this matter with justice and fairness,” Menadue wrote on his website Pearls & Irritations this week.
“Ministerial intervention powers are designed to deal with compassionate and exceptional circumstances otherwise not covered in legislation. I have personally seen those powers exercised.”
Menadue believes that in this case there other exceptional and compassionate circumstances that should be considered
These people are being deported because the parents arrived in Australia in small boats.
These boats provided the Liberal-National Coalition with a wonderful political scare campaign: these boats would flood Australia with ‘illegals’, as they were called, incorrectly but deliberately.
Eventually, the Coalition got smart, sent naval assets to the country’s north-west and began to implement its policy of ‘turn-backs’ remains, since which there have been few attempts to reach Australia by boat for many years.
The government did not tell the Australian people this, but the asylum seekers did not stop coming. Instead of arriving in boats, they arrive in aircraft.
With the help of people smugglers there has been a huge increase in asylum seekers coming by air
“Over the past six or seven years, the government has presided over the biggest labour trafficking scam and abuse of Australia’s asylum system in our history,” John Menadue writes.
“As a result of that scam, there are currently over 27,000 unsuccessful asylum seekers living in the community. This number will rise significantly as more of the huge backlog of applications is processed.”
Menadue writes that he expects that many boat arrivals have been resettled into the community already on temporary visas.
“Legally, these people are in the same position as the Biloela family,” he says, “yet these unsuccessful asylum seekers have not had a team of Border Force officers fly to a remote Queensland town to pick them up and put them into detention.
“In my public life I have not seen much to beat all this for cruelty and hypocrisy.”