(The Age, 13 February 2015)
The Human Rights Commission’s report is a call to all Australians – not only to reconsider immigration policy, but to understand the value of an independent watchdog.
The Abbott government's response to the Australian Human Rights Commission's Forgotten Children report is a matter of national disgrace. It is shameful enough that the government sat for three whole months on evidence of how Australia has irreparably damaged the lives of children who sought its help. It is even more shameful that, during this time, it failed to develop any kind of considered response – or simply to correct the problem by acting on its commitment to release all children in immigration detention into the community, a commitment which seemed to have stalled with no explanation.
The final insult to the Australian people and those children in detention alike, however, is that the government then chose to go on a scurrilous attack – throwing a tantrum, rather than engaging in any way with the findings of the report. In fact, all the ingredients of the classic toddler meltdown were there – "there were more children in detention under Labor" (they started it, we weren't the only one); "we let some into the community" (We didn't do it that much); and "why didn't this inquiry start under Labor" (Triggs dobbed, she's picking on us).
Rob Hulls is director, Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University.