Making headlines today: allegations that asylum seekers were beaten and mistreated Australian Navy personnel1, and international concerns over the welfare of more than 1000 children currently being held in detention. But no matter how alarming the accusations get, the Abbott Government’s response is the same: silence.
It’s quite a change from a last year. When in opposition, then-Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would cry “boats” as loud and as often as he could. Tony Abbott even stood in front of a mobile billboard that gleefully publicised every new boat arrival. But now they’re in Government, they’ve shed the “shadow” from their titles – and cast them over our country’s asylum seeker policies. Just before Christmas, our Immigration Minister cancelled his weekly media briefings, substituting them with a mere departmental press release. No opportunity to ask questions, and the journalists who do aren’t getting any answers.
This leaves us with only one option – to go after the answers ourselves. That’s why GetUp members are getting behind a bold new plan to crowdfund the stories and information the government doesn’t want Australia to hear.
Learn more and join in now: https://www.getup.org.au/help-end-the-secrecy
Sure, we’ve seen plenty of scary looking front pages about boat arrivals splashed across the tabloids. What’s harder to find out is what’s happening next: who’s being held in detention right now? How long for? How many are children? Are any of their claims being processed? Is it true that women have been humiliated into having to ask officials for sanitary products one at a time? Or that more than 100 men have been cramped into hot corrugated iron sheds in crushing heat?
We wouldn’t allow people convicted of crimes to be locked away without any transparency as to how they are treated or how long they’re incarcerated for, because that’s just not how we believe a civilised society behaves. So why should it be acceptable for those seeking refuge in Australia to be locked away for years under such secrecy, and at huge taxpayer expense? These aren’t enemy combatants or prisoners of war. They’re asylum-seekers.
With so many questions going unanswered, this we know: there is much more to this story than ‘stop the boats’. Let’s find out:
The Government’s continued secrecy surrounding asylum seekers has made it close to impossible for journalists to do their job, or for the public to scrutinise their actions – but we’ve spoken to a number of journalists who are willing to dedicate themselves to finding out what’s really going on. Funding investigations in the current climate of extreme secrecy and barriers to information won’t be easy or cheap. The Nauru Government has played their hand in this: increasing the cost of a journalism visa to Nauru by a staggering 3900% to $8000, well beyond the reach of most media outlets.
That’s just one reason why we’re crowdfunding the resources journalists need to find the stories that powerful forces are working so hard to silence. We’re in confidential discussions with journalists right now, and the more that GetUp members chip in, the more we’ll be able to do. Will you help fund this groundbreaking campaign today?
We have both the right and responsibility to hold our government accountable – a principle Minister Morrison certainly would have agreed with before he was elected and decided to rewrite the rules.
Thanks for being part of it,
The GetUp team
PS: On this day 60 years ago, Australia became one of the first countries to sign onto the UN Refugee Convention, created after the second World War to ensure that people fleeing war and persecution would never be turned away again. Australia honoured that spirit until relatively recently, and no matter how cynical our politics gets, we can do so again. Chip in to be part of this groundbreaking citizen-sponsored campaign here and now.