The Guardian 7 September, 2005

Dingo bytes

The inhumane nature of the mandatory detention of asylum seekers is highlighted by the fact that those who are locked up are forced to pay for the cost of their detention. The Daily Telegraph claimed a little scoop last week when it revealed that many of these dastardly asylum seekers are ducking their repayments and that Australian taxpayers have forked out $30 million in the past year. Those who overstay their visas and those who are deemed not to be refugees are charged $125.40 per night of detention in the prison camps here in Australia, and those locked up on Nauru $482.90 per night. The article doesn’t even mention the fact that these centres of repression and torture are run for profit by a private prison outfit based in the USA.

The work of the University of Newcastle Legal Centre is based on an ethos that everyone should have access to legal services regardless of their ability to pay i.e. they do pro bono work, with the help of volunteer students. Probably the best known recent case the Centre took on — and won — was that of Cornelia Rau, the person locked up by the Immigration Department under the assumption that she was an asylum seeker, which she wasn’t. Now the Centre faces closure because of the federal government slashing university funding, which has imposed staff cuts. More than 100 students volunteer each year — most as part of a Public Interest Advocacy course. Says the university’s law school founder Ray Watterson, "If we can’t continue to run public interest advocacy cases then the course will effectively die".

The ACTU is challenging the government’s spending of $20 million on a propaganda campaign to promote its anti-worker industrial relations laws, claiming it breaches the constitution because its hasn’t been approved by Parliament. The government had claimed it was facing an "emergency" because of the union movement’s campaign exposing the objectives of the new laws i.e. that they give bosses absolute power over workers. It appears the Court agrees with Justice Michael McHugh saying, "It seems to have everything to do with the government’s standing in the polls".

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is the CIA’s man in Australia, Greg Sheridan. Greg, who is the foreign editor for the Australian newspaper, is excited. He reported last week — on the front page no less — that "US president George W Bush has issued a decree upgrading Australia to the highest rank of intelligence partner that the US has in the world". Wow! Greg informs us that "Australia’s new status is equalled only by Britain …" How appropriate that it includes three countries perpetrating the biggest crime against humanity so far this century. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the public will be better informed or the government more accountable. Just the opposite.

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