Monday March 7 2005 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
(transcript of radio interview below)
"The Australian Prime Minister John Howard should accept adventurer Dick Smith's invite and join him on a visit of the Baxter detention centre, so he can inspect for himself 'the monstrosity' he and his government have created for asylum seekers who exercise their international right and arrive on our shores", WA Refugee lobby group Project SafeCom stated today.
Spokesman Jack Smit said that "politicians' spin in the systematic undermining of refugee rights, by calling those who arrive in Australia 'illegal', is falling apart in massive chunks, now that also Dick Smith lobbies for their rights and decent treatment and exposes the manipulative system as well as the 'appalling place' we have created in Baxter to lock people up forever.
"Politicians on both sides of politics are 'guilty as hell' of manipulating public opinion in grotesque ways, especially since the Tampa affair, by calling unannounced boat arrivals names such as "illegal entrants" - a manipulation that perhaps constitutes one of Australia's greatest scandals of our age, especially because on the basis of this false information politicians then sought to justify the construction of Gulags like Baxter", Mr Smit said.
Dick Smith's visit to Baxter and the PM comes as WA business woman and arts patron Ms Janet Holmes a Court has tearfully admitted she feels guilty about not having 'done more' for refugees after meeting with an Iraqi family on temporary protection visas.
Former Civil Aviation Authority Chief, Australian Geographic Magazine founder and adverturer Dick Smith has visited the PM John Howard and spoken to him about his deep concerns for the 'permanent detainees' in Baxter, including Peter Qasim, and he has invited John Howard to accompany him on a visit to the Baxter detention centre.
Dick Smith reported on ABC Radio yesterday that the PM "sort-of ummmed and arrred" and offered the suggestion he could not visit without the Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone, upon which Mr Smith suggested to take the Immigration Minister as well into Baxter. The adventurer reported on ABC's Australia's All Over he offered to the Prime Minister: "I said, wouldn't it be great if he would do that, come down with Amanda Vanstone and we meet some of these young people who are basically gonna be locked up forever.
Mr Smith has also suggested on ABC Radio (Sunday Profile) that in terms of case assessment, the Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone and her Department seem to manipulate the facts by suggesting that Mr Qasim 'is not telling the truth' - the Minister recently stated through the media that Mr Qasim is 'un-cooperative' - while when being challenged, DIMIA officials cannot confirm that Mr Qasim is not telling the truth"...Yes, I've written to her and I've spoken to people in her office and it's interesting because they just say well, "he's got to tell us the truth" and I've said, "Well what evidence have you got that he's not telling the truth?" They have no evidence and I can imagine a bureaucrat, they say, "Well look everyone must be able to be identified...
[transcript at http://www.abc.net.au/sundayprofile/stories/s1315235.htm ]
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Dick Smith report-back: Peter Qasim, Eidriss, and the PM
ABC Radio - Australia All Over
Broadcast 6 March 2005
Host: Ian MacNamara (Macca)
Guest: Dick Smith
8am to 9am AEST
MACCA: (taking the phone) G'day, this is Macca ...
DICK SMITH: Hi Macca, this is Dick Smith here.
MACCA: Ahh, how are you Dick?
DICK SMITH: Ah Macca, I'm good, I thought I'd give you a ring and just give you an update, I went and saw Peter Qasim in the jail, at Baxter out near Port Augusta ...
MACCA: Right -
DICK SMITH: ... and I also saw the Prime Minister so I thought I'd give you a bit of an update.
MACCA: Ahh sure, what did he say?
DICK SMITH: Ahh well, the Prime Minister is concerned. He asked me to explain what the jail was like and I said, Well, it's a terrible place. I mean you go in through security barrier after security barrier ... it looks as if everything is electrified, so I'd never seen such a more disspiriting place - and then I met Peter Qasim, who's this young bloke from Kashmir, he's only thirty, he's been now in jail for six years, and he's an incredible person, very impressive - and I explained to the Prime Minister that his difficulty is, that where he comes from in northern Kashmir, is right on the border, and there's no way the authorities can check the information he's given ... so the reason he's been locked up for - what, it's now seven years, is that because they can't confirm what he's telling them is the truth, they've said, ahhh well, there's nothing we can do with you. In fact he's agreed to go back to India, but the Indian government won't accept it, even though the authorities had a voice test done on him, a sort-of a dialect test, that he is one of 200,000 people who speak that Kashmiri language, but he's just in a completely impossible situation.
The PM, you can tell he's concerned, I mean, we've got a tough Prime Minister, and I think emmm, that's why he's our leader, but to lock someone up for seven years, especially someone the same age as his own sons, is not good - he's asked me to talk to Amanda Vanstone next week, which I will, and to explain, you know, my views that I believe that Peter is totally genuine.
MACCA: Yes, ehhh, ehhh, I didn't go to Baxter, you went over to Baxter and I did other things, ehh - ladies and gentlemen I went with Dick ehh, and he dropped me into lots of places, we had a lovely time, meeting people from all around Australia, it was hot and dry, but ehhh, what ehhh, did you see any other people who were in Baxter?
DICK SMITH: Yes I saw - I mean it's a very sad place, something I can't believe. They've designed it so you can't see out horizontally any- you can only see up, and it's out in an arid zone - so it's there to completely take the spirit away from people and it's a - it is a terrible place. But ehhh, I met - and I imagine this first of all, there's a couple of Iranian blokes who are Christians and say they'll be in fear of their lives if they go back; but more importantly I met a beautiful bloke from Sudan, I think he must have been about 28, and he had somehow got here - they're extraordinary adventures to get here - but finally they decided to ship him back home and so they flew him to Tanzania, and then he was supposed to go back to Sudan, but in the end something went wrong and they put him in jail in Tanzania for three days and then shipped him back to Australia again, so he's now back in jail in Baxter.
DICK SMITH: Now, what I said to the Prime Minister, I said, look, most Aussies I believe support very tough laws in relation to people who come in here, but these people have come in to claim ehhh, asylum, and that's quite legal, and that's why none of them have been charged with any offence, none of them have actually ever gone to court, had a hearing or anything, and I think the PM agreed; that's probably acceptable for a couple of years until you sort it out, but you can't lock someone up for the rest of their life. All of these young people are basically gonna be locked up for the rest of their lives without a trial and without a charge, and that's just not acceptable.
MACCA: So, you're going to talk to Amanda Vanstone during the week?
DICK SMITH: Yes, I'm going to talk to Amanda, and, and, I think - and I'm sure they will do something, because Amanda would agree that - see what the bureaucracy said is, is that, Ohh look, we can't confirm the information that Peter Qasim is giving us, now, they're implying that they can't confirm it because he's not telling the truth. More likely - I've said to the Prime Minister, that if they can't let him out here, I'm gonna go up to Kashmir, and in doing my research, the area of the little towns that he lives in, that you - it's really dangerous - and I said, Ohh if you're really probably won't allow you in there, because it's too dangerous, it's right on the border. Now can you imagine, I'm not gonna be allowed in there - but we're saying that Peter Qasim should go back and his life is not at risk. Well, that's crazy!
DICK SMITH: So the PM has asked me to talk to Amanda, and the fact - I asked the PM actually, I said, would he come down to Baxter with me, and he sort-of ummmed and arrred, and well, he couldn't do that without the Minister anyway, and I said, wouldn't it be great if he would do that, come down with Amanda Vanstone and we meet some of these young people who are basically gonna be locked up forever. We just need to break the nexus, we need to have a thing that says look, that after three years you're allowed out. Peter Qasim is happy to go fruit picking, he's happy to do anything, and he would be a really useful person in our society.
MACCA: Dick - it ehh, was ehh, thanks for taking us on your trip, I wouldn't have ehhh, got to meet those people unless I had - ehhh, that was ehhh, a real eye-opener for me, it was wonderful. Thank you.
DICK SMITH: What a great country we've got.
MACCA: I'll say.
DICK SMITH: Thank you.
MACCA: Dick - nice to talk to you.
DICK SMITH: Good on yer.
Transcript 6/3/2005 by Project SafeCom, posted at http://www.safecom.org.au/peter-qasim2.htm
ABC RADIO: Sunday Profile
[Delta Goodrem and] Dick Smith
Sunday, 6 March 2005