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The Cost, the Carnage and The Bill

Perth, 27-28 September 2003

a weekend symposium on asylum seeker policies, issues and implications

Quick links

Day 1 - Sat 27 September 2003
The Exposé: Counting the damage

Social Sciences Lecture Theatre, University of Western Australia
10:30am to 9:00pm

time documentary or film title speaker(s)
10:30am to 12:15 Exhibit ONE: Port Hedland - medical negligence, vanishing records
  SBS INSIGHT: Blind Justice (Sarah Ferguson) Dr Carmen Lawrence MP (Fremantle)
Dr Louise Newman, psychiatrist (RANZCP)
  SBS INSIGHT: Mohammed and Juliet (Sophie McNeill) Elizabeth Lacey
12:15 - 2:00 Lunch: Food stall outside Lecture Theatre by Govinda's Hare Krishna Restaurant.
2:00pm to 3:20pm Exhibit TWO: Baxter - squandering millions to control and hide
  AZADI, Journey towards Freedom (Lorraine Johnston) Senator Kerry Nettle
Perth RRAN refugee activists
3:40pm to 5:20pm Exhibit THREE: Woomera - cowering, collusion, corruption of public servants
  ABC FOUR CORNERS: "...about Woomera" (Debbie Whitmont) Dr Louise Newman (RANZCP)
Bruce Haigh, retired diplomat
7:30pm to 9:00pm Exhibit FOUR: Nauru - crimes against humanity
  BBC's Australia's Pacific Solution (Sarah McDonald, Kate Durham) Julian Burnside QC
Senator Andrew Bartlett
note: views and opinions expressed in audio-visual material and during the event
do not necessarily reflect the views of the broadcasting services.
some aspects of this program may be subject to change.

Day 2 - Sun 28 September 2003
The Bill: Restorative Justice post Howard

a forum about restoring Australia

with Julian Burnside QC
Psychiatrist Dr Louise Newman (RANZCP)
Senator Andrew Bartlett (Australian Democrats)
Dr Carmen Lawrence (Federal Labor, Member for Fremantle)
Tom Mann (author and former Woomera teacher)
Hassan Ghulam (President, Hazara Ethnic Society) and
Senator Kerry Nettle (The Greens)

Moderator: retired Diplomat Bruce Haigh

Day 2 - Sun 28 September 2003
The Bill: Restorative Justice post Howard

Octagon Theatre, University of Western Australia
11:00am to 2:30pm

It is December 2004. Labor would have lost office were it not for the preferences from The Greens under Bob Brown, who have almost doubled their Federal primary vote to stand at 19%. The Democrats have retained their powerful presence in The Senate - which includes their leader, Andrew Bartlett. The Greens ran on a social justice and no-nonsense equity platform with a strong voice for asylum seekers and refugees, and because of their role to help Labor in office, they have been able to force a Royal Commission into the treatment of asylum seekers.

This forum looks at the social, national and personal cost of the Howard-Ruddock asylum seeker policies as well as at the possible formulation of direct and indirect strategies for redress to those affected.

Forum participants address the following questions:

• What is the cost to Australia as a nation, and what needs to be done to redress any problems associated with this situation?

• What is the cost to the asylum seekers still in detention centres on the mainland and what should be done immediately, in the short term as well as the long term?

• What is the cost to the asylum seekers still in detention centres in The Pacific Solution and what should be done immediately, in the short term as well as the long term?

• What is the cost to those living in the Australian community and what should be done immediately, in the short term as well as the long term?

• What is the cost to those who have been deported, both those who signed "repatriation agreements" and those who were forcibly removed from Australia and what should be done immediately, in the short term as well as the long term?

• What is the cost to Australian refugee advocates, friends, supporters, lawyers and other parties in the refugee lobby and what should be done immediately, in the short term as well as the long term?

• What is the cost to the Migration Act and other related legislation and what should be done immediately, in the short term as well as the long term?

All participants prepare a seven-minute presentation. After the presentations the public are invited to ask questions through a roving microphone to enable a discussion and debate.

Speakers / Forum participants

Quick Jump links:

Moderator: Bruce Haigh

Retired diplomat turned farmer Bruce Haigh is a former head of the Indonesian Desk at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and he held diplomatic postings in Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and South Africa.

Mr Haigh is the author of The Great Australian Blight and Pillars of Fear, and recently he wrote about Australia/Indonesian relations in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Bruce Haigh is also a former member of the Refugee Review Tribunal, and has been a spokesperson of Rural Australians for Refugees. At Project SafeCom we regularly work together with Mr Haigh, and we regard him as a friend. He lives in Mudgee where he grows olives and grapes. Recently he became part of Project SafeCom as an adviser to the steering committee, especially on political directions.

"Going into East Timor was never just a matter of peacekeeping, it was also a matter of taking on the TNI and fronting them down and Cosgrove did this successfully. He demonstrated that he wasn't prepared to stand for any nonsense - a thing which Australian politicians and their representatives overseas had failed to do for 25 years." (Pillars of Fear, Ch 6)

3 September 2003: Bruce Haigh: Target Your Enemy - This short article by retired diplomat Bruce Haigh puts the attention and focus back on to "Ruddock's puppet master": Australia's PM 'Honest John' - John Winston Howard, and it was written with the hope that many human rights advocates would take note.

Dr Louise Newman

Dr Louise Newman is the Director of the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with expertise in the area of infancy and early childhood. She is undertaking research into the prevention of child maltreatment and interventions for parents who have experienced early abuse.

Prior to studying medicine, Dr Newman completed undergraduate degrees in Psychology, Philosophy and Gender Studies and she has a longstanding commitment to the promotion of women's mental health.

Dr Newman is currently the Chair of the New South Wales Branch of the College of Psychiatrists and Chair of the College Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

She is the college spokesperson on asylum seekers and child mental health issues. Currently she holds the positions of Director (NSW Institute of Psychiatry), Chair, (NSW Branch, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists - RANZCP) and Chair (Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, RANZCP)

Julian Burnside QC

"Our fundamental democratic institutions are threatened by the present government: they have repeatedly attacked the courts; they have politicized the Defence forces, the Public Service and the office of Governor-General; they won an election on a lie and they are impervious to moral considerations. They campaign on a platform of family values, but lock up children in detention centres." [from the Monash University Alumni website]

Mr Julian Burnside completed his Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Laws at Monash University. He has worked as a barrister since 1976 and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1989.

Well known for his work supporting asylum seekers, Julian serves as Patron for AfJRP and has acted as legal counsel for the Woomera escapees and for Liberty Victoria in relation to the Tampa asylum seekers.

Julian' acted as counsel for the MUA, Alan Bond, the Ok Tedi [indigenous community against BHP in their claim over river pollution in Papua New Guinea] and Rose Porteous. Julian also pursues an active interest in computers and the law. He has published several articles on the topic and chaired various committees on computer law. He was a founder of the Victorian Society for Computers and the Law where he served as president from 1980 to 1985.

Julian is a keen supporter of Australian music and art. His active involvement includes serving as Chair of 45 Downstairs Inc., Deputy Chair of Musica Viva Australia and as a member of the boards of the Mietta Foundation and the Victorian College of the Arts. His collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures is complemented by his own hobbies of photography and making sculpture using found objects.

Julian is also an active writer and has published several articles on language and etymology and famous court cases. In 1991, he published the children's book Matilda and the Dragon (Allen and Unwin).

9 July 2003: Julian Burnside QC: Refugees: Australia's moral failure - A speech at a dinner launching 'Just and Fair Asylum' in Sydney on June 11 2002. "We diminish ourselves by the way we treat [refugees and asylum seekers]. Once we recognise that these people are human beings, we will see that the problem is in truth a moral problem and that we have made a profound mistake in the way we have handled it."

9 July 2003: Australia's Treatment Of Asylum Seekers: The View From Outside - A careful analysis of the criminal code therefore suggests that Mr Ruddock and Mr Howard are guilty of crimes against humanity by virtue of their imprisonment of asylum seekers, says Julian Burnside QC.

Andrew Bartlett

"I have seen the distress, hopelessness and despair of these people. This epidemic of wretched misery and sickness is being deliberately inflicted by the Howard Government and their policies."

Senator Andrew Bartlett is the Australian Democrats Parliamentary Leader & a Senator for Queensland. He was born in Brisbane in 1964, and he's never left. Currently he lives in Windsor with wife Julie and daughter Lillith. He completed a BA (Sociology) and a Social Work degree at Queensland Uni. He's been a singer and drummer in bands such as 'I am Vertical' and 'The Cutters', and was a radio announcer at 4zZzFM.

As the leader of The Australian Democrats, Andrew has spoken out about many issues. Recently he was interviewed on Sunday Sunrise on foreign policy and intelligence issues, but he also has been vocal on social justice issues as well as on cruelty to animals; but even more than that, we deeply respect Andrew for his relentless engagement of the Howard government over asylum seeker policies and issues.

In January this year Bartlett was one of Project SafeCom's keynote speakers at our Fremantle FTI Event. There is a rumour, that when something takes place in the area of asylum seeker issues in Australia, that Bartlett 'almost feels guilty' when he does not speak out or issues a Press Release on the issue.

On his Home page, Bartlett states: "No policy that steals the futures of children, forces people to return to unsafe places and forcibly keeps families apart could seriously be called a success, regardless of what other outcomes it may have achieved. It is the lack of hope, the separation from families, the children with an uncertain future that is creating the torment for the 400 people still on Nauru."

27 February 2008: The Senate debates Australia's 'Excision Zone' - There's no reason in 2008 for anyone in Labor to argue that the issue of John Howard's extraordinary excision zone 'has not been discussed'. When the former government pushed through changes to that exclusion zone for refugees in 2005, Labor supported a Disallowance motion put by Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett.

26 November 2003: Andrew Bartlett's October 2003 SIEV X Senate Motion - Speech in the Senate accompanying the Motion of Condolance for the victims of SIEVX. "...that the Senate ... calls on the Commonwealth Government to immediately establish a comprehensive, independent judicial inquiry into all aspects of the People Smuggling Disruption Program..."

24 November 2003: The Melville Island incident: Australia's New Low - UNHCR regional representative Michel Gaubadan called it "a new low" for Australian refugee treatment. Fourteen Kurdish asylum seekers sought refuge in Australia. In an extraordinary move the Howard government retrospectively excised thousands of islands, including Melville Island - but Senator Andrew Bartlett intervenes.

Carmen Lawrence

Those on TPV's are forced to live in limbo, denied hope and the opportunity to begin new lives. They are also denied basic resettlement services and prevented from bringing their families to join them, if they have been separated. The denial of family reunion is the reason why there were so many women and children among the 352 asylum seekers who drowned when the boat, which became known at the SIEVX, sank or was deliberately scuttled in late 2001. [Source]

Dr Carmen Lawrence is the Federal member for Fremantle, and as such a bit 'our own' member. She was a keynote speaker at our February FTI Film event, and we're proud to say that Carmen is an alley of Project SafeCom. At the time of our Film event, Carmen helped break the story of Fatima Erfani's death in Perth - we worked on getting the story out in liaison with her. Carmen is a frequent contributor to Margo Kingston's SMH web diary.

Carmen consistently presents a more senior and always balanced viewpoint, always combined with the highest standard of analysis of issues relevant in Australia's political climate. Whether it is about women in Australian politics, the invasion of Iraq by the 'coalition of the willing', or about refugee issues, Carmen always demands our attention and respect.

On the 5th of December 2002 Carmen resigned from the Labor front bench in Federal Parliament. With this courageous step she became the first - and as yet the only - Federal Labor MP to publicly express her dismay with Labor's asylum seeker policies, launched in October by Simon Crean and the then Immigration Shadow minister Julia Gillard. And with a speech at University of WA in August this year, where she graduated in 1968 (Bachelor of Psychology with First Class Honours - receiving five prizes including the prize for the most outstanding graduate throughout the faculties of arts, economics and commerce, law, architecture and education) she affirmed her decision to stand for the Labor Party presidency. We congratulate Dr Lawrence with that decision, because we know that the policies she espouses for Labor, are about more compassion and a better social justice platform.

1 January 2007: The Gifts of Carmen Lawrence - The number of contributions from Carmen to the national debate, also but not only about Australia's treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, has kept growing, also on our website - this was the reason we constructed this page to bring all pages, all gifts from Dr Carmen Lawrence together.

1 August 2003: Carmen and the Issues that matter - WA Member of Parliament Dr Carmen Lawrence quit the Labor front bench in December 2002 'in disgust' with the ALP's asylum seeker policy. In a speech delivered to the ACT Labor Club she speaks out, voicing her concerns about the Iraq war, refugees and Labor's response to the Howard government.

5 December 2002: Carmen's cry from the heart - Everyone knew it at the time, when Dr Carmen Lawrence, ALP member for Fremantle, resigned from the ALP front bench: it was over her dismay with ALP policies on asylum seekers and refugees. This is the text of the December 5 2002 press conference called to announce her resignation from the Labor frontbench.

Hassan Ghulam

"I'm witnessing the impact of a policy which makes people crash internally, and become emotionally and physically ill."

Hassan Ghulam is a member of the Hazara ethnic minority group from Afghanistan - now living in Brisbane. He came to Australia as a migrant in 1985 and is the president of the Hazara Ethnic Society in Australia. The Hazara Ethnic Society assists Hazara refugees in detention centres and in the community providing information about legal issues and helping with applications for permanent residency.

Hassan is coach of the Tiger-11s soccer team, whose members are all refugees, mostly Hazara.

Previously he spoke on Radio National Breakfast and commented on the ABC 7.30 Report on ethnicity of some of the Woomera escapees and on returning asylum seekers to Afghanistan.

Mr Ghulam argues "that translators used by the immigration department have often resulted in Hazara people being incorrectly identified as Iranian or Pakistani. The translators are mainly Tajiks and their understanding of the Hazara dialect is minimal", he said."

"According to Ghulam, traditional hostility towards the Hazaras by other ethnic Afghan groups in Australia has sometimes led to interpreters deliberately misinforming the department of immigration." (from Green Left Weekly)

Mr Ghulam spoke at screenings in Brisbane of 'Afghan Alphabet', a documentary from Iran about the efforts of teachers to educate Afghan children who have known nothing but Taliban rule and religious indoctrination.

20 April 2004: Afghani Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the Republic of Indonesia - Hassan Ghulam, who went to Indonesian holding camps such as the one on Lombok, states that UNHCR needs to consider revising its approach and methods, to bring them into line with contemporary expectations and technology.

Kerry Nettle

"Environmental protection without social justice is not sustainable. If we continue with our current lifestyles, the outlook for the planet in an ecological sense is bleak. As is the outlook for many disadvantaged groups within our society. A positive outcome for the future of the planet and the people on it, relies on humanity organising ourselves in such a way that we shows our care and respect the planet. The only sustainable way for this societal organisation to happen is if it is based on fundamental principles of equity. This is how our goals for the nurturing of the planet are inextricably linked to our goals for the nurturing of society. We need an equitable social structure to ensure that the planets resources are not plundered for corporate profit." [Source]

Kerry Nettle was born in 1973 and grew up in Marsfield in the north west of Sydney. She first got involved in campaigning during protests to stop the M2 private tollway from being built in her local area.

Her Transport activism focus continued while Environment Officer at the UNSW Student Guild, where she was involved in campaigning to protect the Eastern Suburbs light-rail corridor, and against the Eastern Distributor. After completing her Environmental Science degree, Kerry co-ordinated a state wide conference on public transport, and was involved in Reclaim The Streets activities. She then joined the Jabiluka Uranium Mine Blockade, acting as a media spokesperson for four months.

Kerry joined The Greens in 1998, and was part of the campaign team for the successful election of Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon. She hes contributed to refugee rallies as a speaker, and, as we did at Project SafeCom at the time, has spoken out about the need for Human Rights observers to be part of the Easter protests at the Baxter detention centre. Currently Kerry is the Greens' Federal Senator for New South Wales.

31 January 2006: Free West Papua, Let Them Stay! - A forum in Fremantle about the West Papuan asylum seekers and their reasons for the trip from Merauke to Weipa in Queensland with Senator Kerry Nettle, advocate Kaye Bernard, Project SafeCom's Jack Smit and Australian West Papua Association supporter Ned Byrne.

1 July 2004: An Activist in Parliament: Kerry Nettle of The Greens - Kerry Nettle is The Greens' Senator for New South Wales. Senator Nettle has been instrumental in developing The Greens response to the Howard government's anti-terrorism, 'security', and War-related legislation - and has been working relentlessly in her diverse portfolio, not afraid to oppose the major parties when it needed to be done. This is her politician's page on our website.

Elizabeth Lacey

Lawyer Elizabeth Lacey practises in the areas of constitutional and administrative law, regulatory issues, native title negotiations and legislation and planning and environment. Previously Elizabeth worked for Minter Ellison's legal practice in Perth, and currently she works at the Kimberley Land Council in Kunnunnurra, Western Australia.

Elizabeth Lacey worked on asylum seeker Mohammed Saleh's Coronial Inquest as the instructing solicitor. The Inquest into Mohammed Saleh's death was also reported on Radio National. Journalist Elisabeth Wynhausen in "A deadly shock to our system" reported Saleh's story in The Weekend Australian, 12 October 2002.

"The first thing I want to ask you is, if I told you that Mohammed Saleh had been kept in a small cell, 2m x 2m, where the windows had been blacked out, with two other men for 13 days, and that he hadn't been convicted by any court of a crime, or sentenced to any kind of term in prison, he had to ask a guard if he could go to the toilet. So they were forced to go to the toilet in their cells. What country do you think I might be talking about that happening in?"

2 June 2009: Mohammed and Juliet: A Modern Tragedy - Finally, here's the full 2003 text transcript of SBS reporter Sophie McNeill's Award-winning documentary, as screened on SBS Insight Television on 8 May, 2003. The transcript was posted to this website because its original version has been deleted from the SBS website.

Tom Mann

Tom Mann migrated to Australia in 1964 after graduating in Science at Aberdeen University. His agricultural and teaching career included two years as a high school teacher and twenty years as a lecturer at the Roseworthy Campus (formerly Roseworthy Agricultural College) of the University of Adelaide. He also worked with the Department of Agriculture, the CSIRO Division of Nutrition and Biochemistry in South Australia and on agricultural projects as a consultant in Algeria, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and China.

After leaving Roseworthy in 1994, Tom completed a PhD on a rural development study in West Timor, as well as a certificate for teaching English to speakers of other languages. He commenced as an education officer with the Woomera detention centre in October 2000. From his personal experiences he wrote the book Desert Sorrow to help promote a better understanding of asylum seekers. Tom spoke on Julie McCrossin's Life Matters and Radio National's 'Breakfast' about Desert Sorrow. He will bring copies of the book to our Symposium for autographing.

21 February 2004: Tom Mann: Australia's Culture of Despair for Children in Detention - "The symptoms of the failure of the detention system are obvious by now. I know, from my experiences at Woomera, that if we are going to have a system of mandatory detention, three months is the limit. Otherwise we will irreparably damage children's lives."


Thanks to the sponsorship of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Western Australia, we are able to offer the Symposium at the University. All Saturday sessions will be in the Social Sciences Lecture Theatre, and the Forum will be at UWA's Octagon Theatre.

The University's Crawley Campus is usually accessed from Stirling Highway (that is, if you're not arriving by boat on the Swan River!) - and the address is 35 Stirling Highway, CRAWLEY WA 6009.

See the maps below for more details. The entire UWA Campus Map is here, if you wish to explore the wider area, for example to prepare your parking plans.

Social Sciences Lecture Theatre
Social Sciences Lecture Theatre
UWA's Octagon Theatre
UWA's Octagon Theatre

Event Sponsors:

Click to visit the Institute of Advanced Studies
The Greens of WA
Institute of Advanced Studies at UWA The Greens of WA
West Australians for Racial Equality
Australian Democrats of WA
West Australians for Racial Equality (WARE) Australian Democrats of WA