Trust me, I’m Scott Morrison …

We can be confident that Tony isn't demonstrating the size of Scott's heart, or his brain for that matter ...

We can be confident that Tony isn’t demonstrating the size of Scott’s heart, or his brain for that matter …

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago which inter alia condemned the drastic breach of Australia’s fundamental human rights obligations perpetrated by the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 (currently being considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee; Report due 27/11/2014).

The Bill has also been roundly condemned by numerous commentators far more eminent than me, including University of Sydney’s migration and refugee law guru Mary Crock, who referred to it as an “affront to the rule of law”.   However, perhaps the most devastating if unintended condemnation comes from Minister Scott Morrison himself, as quoted in the relevant bills digest prepared by the Parliamentary Library to inform MPs:

This Bill raises a number of human rights implications. Arguably, the most significant and with potentially the most serious consequences, would be Australia’s non-refoulement (non-return) obligations under international law when exercising powers under the MPA and when removing non-citizens from Australia under existing section 198 of the Migration Act. While in effect acknowledging that both measures appear to authorise actions which may be inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under international law, the Government is nonetheless of the view that:

While on the face of the legislation as proposed to be amended, these provisions are capable of authorising actions which may not be consistent with Australia‘s non-refoulement obligations, the Government intends to continue to comply with these obligations and Australia remains bound by them as a matter of international law. They will not, however, be capable as a matter of domestic law of forming the basis of an invalidation of the exercise of the affected powers. It is the Government‘s position that the interpretation and application of such obligations is, in this context, a matter for the executive government.

With respect to Australia’s non-refoulement obligations when removing non-citizens from Australia, the Government is similarly of the view that:

Whilst on its face the measure may appear to be inconsistent with non-refoulement obligations under the CAT [the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment] and the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], as set out in the overview to this Statement, anyone who is found through visa or ministerial intervention processes to engage Australia‘s non-refoulement obligations will not be removed in breach of those obligations. There are a number of personal non compellable powers available for the Minister to allow a visa application or grant a visa where this is in the public interest. The form of administrative arrangements in place to support Australia meeting its non-refoulement obligations is a matter for the Government. This consideration is separate from the duty established by the removal power.

So in essence the Minister’s defence is: “Well yes, we may have removed just about all legal protections preventing us from breaching just about every basic human rights treaty known to the human race.  But don’t you worry about that.  Just trust me.  I’m Scott Morrison.”

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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22 Responses to Trust me, I’m Scott Morrison …

  1. paul frijters says:

    yes, a very scary development. We have been used to this kind of thing in Queensland for a bit longer (take your pick of our recent horrors: the bikie laws, the partisan appointment of the head of the CMC, the removal of ‘misconduct’ from the CMC duties, or the new supreme court justice appointment) and it is a worrying trend that the same disregard for the separation of powers and the importance of basic human rights is now so prevalent in Canberra.

  2. I used to be and still am Not Trampis says:


    you are on fire this week.

  3. john Walker says:

    If we take Morrison at his word, “the Government intends to continue to comply with these obligations” then why introduce these changes to the act?

  4. Crocodile Chuck says:

    May they both burn in hell.

  5. Kevin Murray says:

    So you prefer to drown ‘little brown people’ in job lots. Nice.

    What is it with racists like you lot?

    What did that bastard Rudd claim in September 2013? That for every 12 who arrived he managed to kill one? That’s what, 4300 people he thinks his policy killed.

    let me guess, you don’t care about that – as you don’t care becuase they were only what you think of as ‘darkies’.

  6. Pappinbarra Fox says:

    Wow, that Kevin Murray is a piece of work. Yeh I know we should scroll the troll.

  7. Teneg says:

    *** Rudd claim in September 2013? That for every 12 who arrived he managed to kill one? That’s what, 4300 people***


    Going to check this

    • Ken Parish says:

      Blogging wisdom with a troll is to treat them with the contempt they deserve and completely ignore them. On the few occasions when I have ignored this received wisdom I have ended up regretting it!

  8. Teneg says:

    Damn. I had hoped to prove him wrong in fact.

    From teh ABC transcript, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Q&A on Monday 2 September 2013:

    KEVIN RUDD: I stand for a fair go for all. I stand for a fair go for all Australians and let me just go through the points that you’ve just raised. Number one, you spoke about the question of people smugglers and asylum seekers. This is a question which faces every government in the world and there is no perfect landing point. So what have we tried to do: wrestle with two dilemmas. Number one is how do you take people from around the world who are refugees languishing in camps and provide them with safe haven in Australia? Through the humanitarian program. And how do you act to prevent more and more people drowning at sea? One in 13 people who come to this country on a boat end up drowning. That is the dilemma.

    Emphasis added to highlight those words.

    And the record of it (above is the ABC transcript) is here:

    PM Rudd really did say this.

    ABC also reported here that: (

    “there are calls for the Government to keep count of asylum seekers deaths as the number of those who have died trying to reach Australia in the last decade moves closer to the grim milestone of 1,000 people.Researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University believe the actual number of deaths could be up to three times higher, but say it is impossible to know because no official record is kept by any government agency.”

    Best source I can find is 44,317 asylum seekers arrived from PM Rudd’s election to to 30 June 2013. verifiable numbers after that are hard to find but around 2000-3000 a month is agreed by most of our better sources (ABC, Guardian, Age etc).

    I can see no reason that PM Rudd would have misspoken on Q&A or repeated that the next day. Prima facie (and assuming he spoke correctly) then he effectively stated that 3,693 people had died to 30 June 2013. I am seriously shocked by this entire thing.

    There are now many things I have to re-think.

    I have a contact at Immigration I can talk to. Perhaps she can shed more light on this.

    • Ken Parish says:

      Thanks for a great contribution Teneg. I’ll look forward to the results of your further research.

      Mind you, returning to the assertion by the original troll for a moment, irrespective of whether there were 1000 or 3000 boat people drowned trying to get to Australia, that doesn’t make it “racist” to express concern about the Abbott government’s boat turn back policy and point out the obvious fact that it potentially creates a situation where genuine refugees may be “refouled” to face imprisonment, torture and death in their homeland.

      As long-time readers of this blog will be aware, I don’t have a problem with measured policies designed to reduce/deter the flow of boat-borne asylum seekers. But I do have a major problem with the turn back policy, although it might be possible to construct safeguards that would mitigate those concerns. For example, if Australia had a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia similar to the one that the Gillard government negotiated with Malaysia, specifying among other things that basic human rights would be protected and refoulement would not take place, I think that would render the turnback policy acceptable at least as far as turning back boats to that country is concerned. No doubt Australia would need to provide Indonesia with significant funds to allow it to babysit the asylum seekers who would end up marooned in that country in limbo. However, formalising the practice in that way and ensuring basic safeguards would make it more sustainable, and would probably mean we wouldn’t need to keep pouring vast amounts of money into Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia.

    • John walker says:

      Thanks keep digging.
      Can we be sure that Kevin was not making it up?
      Is there some secret list of deaths at sea that was the basis of Kevin’s statement

  9. Teneg says:

    I have no interest in this ‘Kevin Murray’. I have had one conversation with someone inside Immi during the period 08-13 and that has been very disturbing. So much so I wish to confirm some things that were said.

    What is already confirmed thru a conversation with someone at PM&C in that period is that they actually believed no traffic would resume, were repeatedly told that it would, and were repeatedly told that large numbers of people would die if they went ahead with the policy change. They ignored all that advice from Immi, AFP, Navy and Customs. And certain foreign countries.

  10. john Walker says:

    The APH library page on boat arrival numbers
    References this on deaths at sea , this doc gives total deaths as about 1,500 and that includes deaths in 2001 although most are post 2007.

  11. Teneg says:

    I am too upset with what I have learned to say much. And much of the detail I have been told I can’t publicize at all. At the request of those who told me.

    The bare facts are this.

    1. Rudd’s figure is correct. It’s the “supply chain figure”, a proven rule of thumb for total losses from payment to a people smuggler to arrival in Australia by boat. It’s a shorthand for eight percent “attrition” in that “supply chain”. Loss on the boats was only part of it.
    Not less than 3,500 died all up. Not more than 5,000.
    Rudd and his advisers were told it would happen. They refused to believe any advice from anyone because they knew better.

    2. AFP, the Crime Commission, the Navy, the Sri Lankan, Singapore, Malaysian, Indonesian and Pakistani police and governments all told them that the “transnational criminal groups” were already setting up the “supply chain” weeks before the election in anticipation. They ignored all of that.

    3. When the boats started up again they refused to believe it. Then the first ones arrived and they refused to believe they could not handle it.

    4. There are boats which vanished. There was a boat picked up by an air force plane west of Cocos Island and heading due south. They did not know how to navigate and had little fuel left they were heading towards Antarctica. At least four other boats vanished from Sri Lanka alone. No-one knows how many there were.

    5. The Sri Lankan government stopped boats from leaving when they found out “Liberation Tigers of Tammil Elam” were organising them to escape. I was told that “at least 120 terrorists wanted for terrorism, torture and crimes against humanity got here”. They are still here. AFP has told Immi they are running drugs now.

    6. After they knew all of this Rudd still refused to admit to any mistakes or that there were problems. “His ego would not let him admit he was wrong and he did not care anyway”. I got that from a senior ex-Albanese staffer and from two people in PM&C. Three people I know well and trust.

    7. Immigration was ordered to lie. Their senior intelligence person resigned over that. He refused to do it. He was replaced and the information concealed or ignored. They were ordered not to keep records of how many died. So was Border Protection Command according to my Immi contacts and Customs contacts.

    Worse for me is that they could have stopped the deaths as fast as Morrison did and they knew it all along. It was a deliberate choice not to. And they lied about it all along. Everything Rudd and Gillard said on this was a lie and they knew it.

    I have been an ALP member since I was a kid and a PSU/CPSU member all my working life. I have held union positions.

    I am so angry and upset about this, the lies and the deliberate willingness to let people die rather than admit a mistake that I am writing out my letter of resignation from the Party now. I cannot and I will not be part of an organisation that acts this way. I am doing that for many reasons. Not the least is that my wife’s an escapee from Cambodia who got out by boat and a lot of them did not make it. Years in a UN camp before coming here.

    To find out that my ALP did what I now know they did is something I cannot forgive.

    Thank you for the kind words and the links. I will be getting a new hotmail account now and not further discussing this appalling thing.


    • Paul Frijters says:

      Robert, Teneg,

      Man up. A man with your access running away and hiding in a corner, who is that going to help?

      • John walker says:

        Paul with all respect , Shut the F up, you have not been there- lived truth is haptic not theoretical

        • Ken Parish says:

          I hadn’t struck that word “haptic” before. How do Teneg’s experiences in dealing with the Immigration bureaucracy involve communication through physical touching?

          I must say my reaction is a bit similar to Paul’s. Teneg’s shtick here is an example of the old “If we told you we’d have to kill you” one-liner. Moreover, I can’t help thinking that if DIMI really HAD given the Rudd government the sort of stark advice about the consequences of dismantling the Pacific Solution that Teneg claims, that fact would certainly have been brought to Abbott and Morrison’s attention long before now and they would have used it to flay the ALP publicly.

          Is “Teneg” just a sophisticated RWDB troll having a bit of fun with the effete lefties at Troppo? Colour me suspicious.

        • John walker says:


        • john Walker says:

          Ken (and Paul )
          Sincere apologies.
          The idea that 3500-5,000 people died in a few short years, and that all reporting of this was efficiently censored by government should have triggered my BS detector.
          However Rudd’s Q&A statement and a visceral response to all the deaths implicit in that statement overwhelmed me.

          According to the APH library data , 25,173 asylum seekers arrived in the 2012-13 fin year. If Rudd’s “one in 13” statement was really true that would mean about 2000 deaths in that 12 month period alone.
          The Australian Border Deaths Database ( which seems very thorough) shows a total of 1969 deaths over the past 14 years ( that figure includes deaths in detention). If that 14 year figure was doubled to 4,000, that is still nothing like 3,500 to 5,000 in just a few years.

          That Rudd on that Q&A was just spinning, is much more believable.

        • Paul Frijters says:


          Yes, coward or troll, probably the latter. Notice how easily he talks about people being dismissed because they wouldn’t lie to the public? Also, a life-long member of the ALP with access to top people in PM&C and the ministries being completely surprised that politicians might tell lies? Either this guy is a coward who has somehow managed to stay naive and has suddenly flipped to a level of realism he cannot cope with, or he is a sophisticated troll. My money is on the latter.


          no worries, apologies accepted. This is what true theory in social science is all about: you have to keep looking at the nitty gritty and analyse the situation precisely when it gets emotional. That’s when you learn the most.

        • john Walker says:

          The one thing that does still sound believable is that in 2008 that there were creditable warnings. And that these warnings were either – not passed on- ‘waste of time’ or they were labeled as ‘ travel intention advice’ filed in the wrong folder, in the wrong data directory.

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