CALL me the Grinch but this Christmas, I’ll find it hard to fully unwind – comfortably devouring Christmas dinner surrounded by my family and unwrapping last-minute-idea, consumerist presents. There are two things that I just can’t shake from my mind: refugees and climate change, two separate but inherently related issues. Neither of which our Government seems to care about – discarding both like torn Christmas wrapping, tossed into the bin at the end of a long year.
This week a Tamil asylum seeker, Rajah (name has been changed for privacy), was placed in handcuffs and deported back to Sri Lanka. Why? He failed to make the October 1 ministerial deadline to apply for protection, an arbitrary deadline imposed by an uncompassionate Government and its new ‘Home Affairs’ Minister, Peter Dutton.
Under the ‘fast-track’ process, which limits procedural rights and safeguards, Rajah struggled to fill out a 41-page application form in English, unassisted. Why unassisted? Because 7000 other refugees were also attempting to navigate the fast-track system, stretching legal resources to the limit and resulting in 71 asylum seekers failing to meet the deadline.
That means, in addition to Rajah, 70 other people face deportation under this policy. Seventy humans. Humans. The fact that Rajah’s lawyers believe he has a credible case for protection and that deporting him could lead to his arrest and torture by Sri Lankan authorities truly proves how arbitrary the fast-track deadline is.
The refoulement of Rajah is in contravention of Australia’s obligations under the Refugee Convention. Australia has failed Rajah.
Another policy front that we’re truly failing on is climate change action. The Government has just (very quietly) released Australia’s 2016-17 emissions data.
It reveals emissions have risen three years in a row now, with projections showing that emissions will keep growing until 2030. The Climate Council has rightfully attacked the Government’s 12-month climate policy review, which serves only to defend the Government’s climate policies and does not provide any new ones.
Climate change is serious and we desperately need a Government serious about it. The Turnbull government is failing miserably in its national and global responsibilities.
Dutton once joked about Pacific Island nations being threatened by rising seas. Given how un-funny and moronic this is, it could nearly be a joke in a Christmas bon-bon. Nearly, if it weren’t so deeply, deeply depressing.