The life and crimes of Scott Morrison
The life and crimes of Scott Morrison)

Minister for immigration and border protection Scott Morrison – better described as minister for torture and cruelty – has, in the few short months since he took office, brought Australia’s already miserable treatment of refugees to new lows.

In September, after the Coalition won government, Tony Abbott put three-star General Angus Campbell in charge of “securing” Australia’s borders from the threat of traumatised asylum seekers. Under “Operation Sovereign Borders”, all government agencies involved in border protection are under the command of the general and report directly to the immigration minister.

On Friday 11 October at an Operation Sovereign Borders weekly briefing in Sydney, Morrison announced that he would not reveal incidents of self-harm in detention centres because that is an “operational matter” that could encourage “copycat” behaviour among detainees. (Are we supposed to believe that Morrison has ordered that Australian newspapers be delivered daily to detainees?)

In a deal signed on 17 November, the Australian government agreed to assist the Sri Lankan government to recapture people fleeing persecution. Australia will give Sri Lanka two patrol boats – the better to return asylum seekers to danger.

In November, Amnesty International visited Manus Island. Its report, “This is Breaking People: Human Rights Violations at Australia’s Asylum Seeker Processing Centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea”, found that the conditions on the island breach the UN Convention against Torture.

“The compounds are extremely cramped, leave no room for privacy and provide no shade or shelter from the oppressive tropical heat, humidity and heavy rain. Detainees spend several hours a day queuing in the sun for their meals. Foxtrot’s P Dorm is particularly concerning and violates obligations under the UN Convention against Torture. It has a corrugated iron roof, no windows and only two small working fans to be shared between 112 men in overcrowded conditions.”

In early December, the Coalition unsuccessfully attempted to reintroduce temporary protection visas. The measure would ensure that no one who arrived by boat in Australia would ever gain permanent protection.

In mid-December, Morrison introduced a new “code of behaviour” for more than 20,000 “irregular” immigrants living in the community on bridging visas. This code doesn’t extend only to illegal behaviour but also includes being “disrespectful”, “inconsiderate” or even, in the minister’s words, a “nuisance”.

Morrison cited asylum seekers congregating in large numbers in apartments as the type of “antisocial” behaviour that could get them thrown into detention. “Currently there’s no provision to really manage that behaviour”, he said. If this code were applied to politicians, we would have to deport the lot of them and keep them under lock and key for life – but currently there is no provision to deal with their outrageous behaviour.

On 21 December, Morrison claimed never to have seen a damning letter from 15 doctors about the medical procedures on Christmas Island. His department had been in possession of it for a fortnight. The letter detailed “gross departures” from standard medical practices.

Gillian Triggs, president of the Human Rights Commission, said the 92-page document was “chilling in its scientific clarity” in describing the inhumane conditions on the island. Among the litany of degrading practices, the doctors listed antenatal care as one of the most serious.

Elham, an asylum seeker from Iran who was 13 weeks pregnant, miscarried after she begged for, but was refused, an ultrasound. Her husband was later told by hospital staff that the baby might have been saved had his wife been brought in earlier.

In January, Morrison dismissed allegations that asylum seekers were tortured by being told to hold onto hot parts of a boat’s engine while it was towed back to Indonesia. The accusations were “sledging” the navy, he claimed. ABC News obtained footage of the asylum seekers being treated for burns after they were picked up in Indonesian waters on 6 January.

On 8 January, Indonesian villagers pulled a number of asylum seekers out of the water. A local police commissioner told the Guardian after speaking with people on the failed trip to Christmas Island that the Australian navy “shot into the air just to scare them”. The boat was carrying 25 people, including four children. It is difficult to image how the situation could be more callous short of shooting directly at refugees.

These incidents and responses capture only a small part of Morrison’s crimes. According to the doctors who wrote the report into conditions on Christmas Island, an International Health and Medical Services manager told them in September: “There will one day be a royal commission into what is taking place on Christmas Island. He suggested we document well.”

A royal commission is too good for the likes of Morrison. He, along with his gang of military thugs and private prison operators, should be tried and locked up for their crimes against humanity.

Follow Kim on Twitter @kim_doyle1

Read more
McGowan’s real legacy
Nick Everett

“I’m exhausted”, declared West Australian Premier Mark McGowan when announcing his resignation at a press conference on 29 May. So too are the state’s 40,000 nurses, who, under McGowan’s government, have confronted daily staff shortages, declining real wages and attacks on their union.

Canada's fossil fuelled catastrophe
Zak Borzovoy

Wildfires are tearing through the Canadian province of Alberta, the heart of Canada’s lucrative oil and gas industry. The images of orange and black skies from the thick smoke—which is now billowing across the US border, causing air quality warnings in several northern states—are dystopian yet familiar.

Jacky shines a light on racism and exploitation
Jacky shines a light
Sarah Garnham

You’re just a performing fucking monkey”. A racist barb, and one of many pointed moments in Jacky, a Melbourne Theatre Company production currently playing at the Arts Centre. Jacky is about the politics of performing monkeys. It is about racism and exploitation, hypocrisy and resistance.

Historic US university strike wins
Alexis Vassiley

Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.

Why I’m voting No to Sydney Uni EA
Alma Torlakovic

NTEU Fightback, a rank-and-file union group of the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney, is calling on staff to vote No in the upcoming ballot on the proposed enterprise agreement. The campaign was launched at a forum on 25 May, attended by over 50 people. A members’ meeting on 13 June will consider the agreement. This week will probably be the first time that members are provided with a full list of proposed changes to our working conditions.