Monday, May 16, 2005

Vanstone be-smudges Liberal party

Beazley wants Vanstone to resign. Good. That means I can dig out that note I wrote last week and still post it.

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Original note much longer but trimmed provocative language for gentle readers. (Written with left hand).

For anyone not know what talking about (ie not know Australia, not read Sydney Morning Herald") ~ Amanda Vanstone is the minister of Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs otherwise known as DIMA. Amidst it's other duties, DIMA oversees the detention of refugees in Australian detention centres (formerly known as immigration centres, now known as camps surrounded by 9000 volt electric fences topped with razor wire). It has recently emerged that DIMA has also been using these facilities to hide stray mentally ill Australian citizens, should one accidentally wander and fall into the clutches of DIMA.

Most recent scandal (of which there are a number) ~ in July 2001 an Australian Philippino women with Australian citizenship who had been living in Australia for 18 years was deported after an alleged car accident. In a daze after the accident and perhaps suffering mild amnesia, she apparently gave her mother's maiden name rather then her own former married name to a stranger who supposedly found her (this may or may not have complicated matters). And unfortunately, the poor women wasn't traveling with her passport at the time, which it seems may have been a pivotal factor in her deportation (I remember when I received my passport, it came with a recommendation to "keep it in a safe place" not "keep it on you at all times". Mental note to self to catch train with passport tomorrow). At this point it's also worth noting the woman had two sons, the younger of whom she'd been on the way to pick up from a day care centre prior the accident. And she cared for these two sons herself, being a solo mum. Which might explain why she might have resumed using her mothers maiden name, but doesn't explain how DIMA apparently never thought to try and find out her home address (perhaps by asking?) and were unable to link her with local family members by first name (there can't be that many Vivian's in Lismore).

Ordinarily you might expect an injured car-accident survivor (she required neck and spinal surgery after the accident) might be taken to hospital and efforts made to find and contact her family. However not in this case. It seems DIMA are predisposed to ridding Australia of it's solo mums, because although the car accident survivor was taken to hospital, she was shortly afterwards deported to the Philippines. Meanwhile the deportees siblings in Australia allegedly patiently waited for news after having filed a missing person report on the disappearance of their sister. And they could still be waiting, if the previous case of Cornelia Rau hadn't shone a dim light on the dimmer recesses of DIMA and stirred up a list of more then 100 other mistakenly detained Australians, one of whom was recognised, on satellite tv, east of Manila, by a priest at the hospice where the accident survivor was being cared for by Catholic nuns.

And that's where it ended, with the Catholic nuns at the St Teresa Missionaries of Charity. Ironically. It's always the nuns who are picking up the shattered pieces of government policy. And I do mean irony. And I do mean shattered.

It's an improbable story I know, not least that four years absence seems to have opened up a beaurocratic memory gap, in which the deportee's account, the nuns and priests account in the Philippines, and the deportee's family, hospital records and DIMA account back in Australia are all still trying to jiggle themselves into one cohesive picture. People are reporting the poor woman was mentally unstable before the accident, and people are reporting that she is very very sane but understandably traumatised after the deportation. And all this filtered through the media. Either way, it's a major stuff-up and it should never have happened.

So how did it happen? Well, they can hold all the enquiries they like, but I'm betting my beaded slippers it's going to boil down to staff "just doing their job" with overzealous verve and a certain amount of paranoia. I know, I live here, I've seen it and I sadly do not think it's going to change so long as the Howard government is mailing everybody fridge magnets printed with 1800 numbers to report suspicious activities too.

Australia still has a long way to travel, just for a wee taste of what Australia is trying to move away from (if only it's government would let it) here's a link to an extract from a hideous little book published in 1956.

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