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Scott Morrison's foul bet on torture

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Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew Meares

Bookies, as everyone on the wrong end of a losing bet knows, are a heartless lot.

But even the most hardboiled of bag-swingers, even those not averse to hiring large tattooed gentlemen to collect unpaid debts, would baulk at framing the odds on a punter having her toenails ripped out or his genitals clipped to a truck battery.

The current Australian government has no such benevolent hesitation. The Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, is planning to increase the stakes dramatically in deciding whether his nation should send an asylum seeker away to the dungeons and the hands of brutes.

And he wants to put a figure on the ghastly business. Yes. He’s offering an each-way bet, set a bit shy of 50-50.

Applicants for asylum on the basis of fear of torture must establish, under his proposal, that there is more than a 50 per cent probability that they will be subjected to agony or even death if returned to the country they have fled.

In short, if there is a mere 49 to 50 per cent chance of escaping being hung by one’s thumbs from meathooks while being thrashed by a length of electrical flex, that’s good enough for Mr Morrison. They can be sent to whatever fate might await them.

Precisely who will determine what unfortunate souls get the losing end of such a bet, or how it might be possible to calculate the percentage chance of torture being applied in a soundproofed cell far, far away is not laid out in Morrison’s benignly titled Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2014.

What is laid out, however, is the mighty plunge in Australia’s willingness to protect seekers of asylum from torture.

Until now, asylum has been available to those who can establish there is a 10 per cent chance they will be tortured if sent home. A one-in-10 probability of being reduced to a whimpering bloodied mess might not sound particularly attractive to those possessing a heart, but it was deemed to constitute a ‘‘real chance’’.

Not enough for Mr Morrison. His Bill replaces a ‘‘real chance’’ with ‘‘more likely than not’’, which he deems to mean that there needs to be a greater than 50 percent chance that a person would suffer significant harm in the country they are returned to.

A halfway sensible punter would walk away from a bookie offering odds like that. Asylum seekers, of course, have no choice about taking the bet.

There is a choice name for a nation returning an individual to a country where there is a risk of him or her being tortured. It is ‘‘refoulement’’, and it is prohibited under the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Morrison, of course, argues his Bill does not constitute refoulement, and anyway says Labor was using the same calculation and he's simply putting it into legislation. So let’s shorten the word and call it for what it sounds: plain foul.

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109 comments

  • Australia as a whole seem satisfied with Operation Sovereign Borders in so far as stopping the boats is concerned. The broader issues though remain contentious. Offshore processing is an issue of grave concern to the broader community and the latest initiative to allow the repatriation of refugees who may experience torture on their return is a bridge to far. Stoping the boats was simply a matter of committing the combined resources of the ADF and Customs against a handful of leaky fishing boats and while it was a victory of sorts it was hardly the triumph of the Battle of Trafalgar as trumpeted by Lord Horatio Morrison, Admiral of the fleet. Surely a more compassionate solution involving regional cooperation and processing should be explored.

    Commenter
    JohnC
    Location
    Gosford NSW
    Date and time
    June 26, 2014, 9:26AM
    • compassionate?? Morribund??? Supposedly a "committed Catholic". There'll be a lot of aggrieved souls lining up to condemn this man on Judgment Day

      Commenter
      rod steiger
      Location
      toukley
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 9:47AM
    • John, Just wondering whether you have read the article or heard of the new low the Govt has gone to. I imagine you've seen some footage of the latest crises in Iraq and Syria. Out Govt now proposes to send people back to a country where the asylum seeker has a 50% chance of being tortured. I also presume you understand what happens when a person is being tortured, it's a barbaric process where the person suffers extreme pain, depravation, disfigurement , mental and physical, often resulting in death. It's not exactly a walk in the park.
      This is a shocking development and a terrible reflection on our country.
      How much lower can we go?

      Commenter
      A country gal
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 10:09AM
    • A highly emotive and unbalanced piece by Tony Wright which highlights why the politically correct cannot deal with asylum seekers pragmatically. Despite the hysteria the Government has done well to stem the flow of boats (and drownings) and Scott Morrison has endured the the vicious personal insults and attacks directed against him. If stopping the boats was so easy why couldn't Labor achieve it?

      Commenter
      Rex
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 10:11AM
    • Right Rex, so poor old Scott Morrison is actually the victim here, not the people he cares so little about that he considers a 50/50 chance of torture, persecution and or death ok? And that's over and above the appalling, 'unAustralian' detention camps.
      Get real mate. He clearly couldn't care less as to the welfare or safety of those for he is legally responsible and please, he hardly deserves a medal for stopping leaky wooden boats full of men, women and children by utilising the might of our military might. Any idiot can point a gun and scare and cajole the unarmed and innocent. It takes a greatness well beyond Morrison's grasp to develop and implement humane, long term responses. Responses that don't reduce us to the level of heavily armed xenophobes for whom humanity is reserved and rationed to those humans we prefer, not those who are in desperate need.

      Commenter
      Warwick
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 10:35AM
    • Labor doesn't have its heart in stopping the boats. That's why they demonized and cancelled the Pacific Solution. Now we have Pacific Solution Mark II, and how well it works.

      Commenter
      Josephus
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 10:35AM
    • This government, and Morrison in particular, have a truly twisted, bizarre and decidedly pathologically unhealthy obsession with asylum seekers. In my view, this obsession has morphed into the realm of the unlawful, in terms of abrogation and wilful disregard of lawful responsibilities.

      Morrison and others in Abbott's government (not to forget the ALP) shed tears and pulled at their hair regarding deaths of asylum seekers at sea. It must have been tears and hair pulling at such deaths being on our TV screens however, not the deaths per se, for if they did indeed care for their plight and welfare it would be anathema to them to treat fellow human beings in the many and varied despicable, inhumane ways they have and continue to do.

      A person or government with an ounce of decency and humanity could never countenance returning a person to the place they have fled for fear of torture, persecution and or death, let alone when such an outcome has been determined as a 50/50 chance. A person or government with any sense of humanity or decency could never countenance setting up places of detention designed specifically to be so torturous an asylum seeker might be tempted to return to the place they fled in preference.

      Perhaps the rationale is that if it is possible to create detention conditions so appalling, 100% of the time, that a 50/50 chance of persecution, torture or death is preferable to the person asking for our help? And why not add a few thousand dollars to the equation. Big stick and big carrot wielded without care or consideration of our responsibilities.
      I truly wonder what motivates this band of elected criminals. It isn't compassion or care for deaths at sea, that is no longer in any doubt.
      So why?

      Commenter
      Warwick
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 10:41AM
    • ACG. How much lower can we go? We won't know the answer to that until a Green/Labor coalition is re-elected some time in the future.

      Commenter
      The Bujoo
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 10:48AM
    • @ Rex June 26, 2014, 10:11AM

      Now let's gain the benefit of your wisdom in actually addressing the points raised by Tony Wright, without the ad hominem labels.

      Commenter
      BillR
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 11:02AM
    • ACG, the Govt. is offering them a choice. Take it or Leave it. You might not like the option presented, but nonetheless, it's an option. It's not evil to offer an alternative.

      Commenter
      Kingstondude
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 26, 2014, 11:12AM

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