Wednesday July 24, 2013 9:00am WST
For Immediate Release
MORE THAN THREE DECADES OVERDUE:
IT'S TIME FOR a ROYAL COMMISSION into the IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT
"Following a television night where both the ABC and SBS presented no less than four whistleblowers who testified about what happens behind closed doors, both on Nauru and at PNG's Manus Island, it's more than time that the new Immigration Minister Tony Burke grabs that bull by both horns and immediately establishes an independent and full inquiry into what happens in the Immigration Department, and that such an inquiry fully completes its work before we fly anyone into these apparent hellholes."
Following the TV coverage, Salvation Army worker Mark Isaacs issued a 'Statement by Past and Present Salvation Army Staff Members':
"It's these days a little known fact that Kevin Rudd's childhood hero and political guru Prime Minister Gough Whitlam not only ended the White Australia Policy, but - without mercy or hesitation - also closed down the Immigration Department in 1974, because, as he put it, its entrenched culture of racism and xenophobia were "beyond redemption". At the time no Cabinet Minister was willing to run the department, so its functions were devolved to other sections of the public service," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said today.
"Yet when Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser, just a year later, lined up Governor-General John Kerr to kick Whitlam out of office, the furious and devastated Senior Immigration Officers who had been unofficially meeting and keeping in touch in the interim got their jobs back without any sort of clean-up or investigation. Neither did Fraser order a wholesale re-setting of its racist culture or institute a reformulation of its cultural boundaries, rules and governing principles."
"During my academic research in the last three years," spokesman Jack H Smit said, "it has become overwhelmingly evident that the Immigration Department simply replaced its fanatic focus on excluding 'Non-Europeans' from coming to Australia with another population group - shifting that focus away to unauthorised maritime asylum seekers and starting to target "boat people", applying the same racist punishment measures, telling all their subsequent Immigration Ministers "how things should be done", and demanding, in a vigorous campaign, a range of extreme punishment measures for those who arrived "without their permission" by boat, while deeply resenting the 'interference' of the UN Refugee Convention with their 'Immigration Rules and Principles'."
"Fittingly in this context, former PM Malcolm Fraser, speaking in support of Greens Senator Sara Hanson-Young's re-election campaign less than two weeks ago, called his total failure to deal in a more resolute way with the Immigration Department (upon coming to government in 1975 he simply re-opened the old department without inquiry or question) one of his "greatest regrets".
"Before Whitlam the Immigration Department, in the name of the Australian Commonwealth, tortured thousands of people who were unwanted in this country - without ever touching them with a single finger - by subjecting them to its notorious and manipulative 'Dictation Test' and kicking them out of the country," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"Since Whitlam and Fraser there has been a wholesale failure by all subsequent Immigration Ministers to change the culture and replace that racism and culture of control and punishment with professional standards of non-discrimination and public service accountability and top-quality administration - too caught up as those Immigration Ministers and their political masters were in belching at their electorates and the wider Australian public about the "evils" of coming to Australia by boat without prior permission. All governments and administrations have only sung the same old Immigration Department song first composed by the racists, control freaks and xenophobes in the Immigration Department. They may well think they have been fantastic governments, but they are all wrong - they were willing servants of a sick, racist, dysfunctional and lousy culture that embraces ill-performing public servants."
"These are not fanciful claims. The most recent public service review, published six months ago, concludes that ALL sections of the Immigration Department run on "training wheels" and is incapable of performing to a minimum operational standard required in the public service."
• Markus Mannheim, Immigration's young talent drowning in a sea of finger-pointing. Canberra Times, January 5, 2013.
• Russell Skelton, Gatekeepers in disarray. Canberra Times, January 7, 2013
"Gough Whitlam's election slogan "It's Time" is more than appropriate, right now, for Tony Burke, to roll up his armsleeves and stick his hand into the stinking and rotting excrement that still pervades the Immigration Department. Burke needs to clean the Augean stable, now, fully, once and good enough, to forever clean up the god-almighty mess subsequent governments have created and have been too afraid to touch."
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]