By Andrew Bolt
Rudd’s border protection policies are leaking worse than ever:
It comes after a boat with 54 asylum seekers was stopped on Thursday night, just 25 hours after a vessel with 28 people was intercepted in the same area.
In the afternoon, a Customs boat responded to calls for help from another vessel that had engine problems north of Scott Reef. It is believed there were 46 passengers and three crew onboard the second ship.
What on earth made these people think Rudd was soft? Well, perhaps one clue is the sacking last week of many of the tougher members of the Refugee Review Tribunal, which now has on its selection panel the president of the Refugee Council of Australia.
Former RRT member Peter Katsambanis describes what has happened:
In his press release, the Minister makes no mention at all that 21 members were not reappointed. Now 2 or 3 of the 21 did not reapply as they were retiring but the rest were dumped. 46 members were up for reappointment – 25 were reappointed and 21 were not. This includes a number of very senior, very experienced members who have worked on the Tribunals for over 10 years.
Why gut the Tribunal in this way of you are not looking for a softer, more facilitative approach? The sacked members were highly competent individuals who did their jobs well without fear or favour. If it really was a merit-based selection process the only reason you would sack over 40% of the members due for appointment is because of lack of competence. If these people were incompetent then our federal courts would be full of appeals that would succeed. They are not.
No matter how the government dresses this up, it is simply another element of its softer approach on asylum seekers. The people smugglers will be celebrating all over south east Asia.
I’ve looked up just a few of the new appointments to the RRT, and think Katsambanis is not exaggerating at all:
Charlie Powles – Solicitor for RILC (Refugee and Immigration Law Centre) in Melbourne
Anthony Krone – Melbourne barrister who proclaims that he has appeared for hundreds of asylum seekers in Australia and who used to work for the Refugee Advice and Casework Service.
Clyde Cosentino – director of the Brisbane Catholic Archdiocese’s Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care
Vanessa Moss – Solicitor for SCALES Community Legal Centre (Southern Communities Advocacy Legal Education Service), one of the leading refugee advocacy groups in WA.
Rowena Irish – solicitor for the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre Inc in Sydney
I’m sure these new people will decide each case on the facts – as did those they replace. Yet it seems beyond doubt to me that the message has gone out to be quicker to let in asylum seekers. I’ve already interviewed several serving and former RRT members who say they are in no doubt of this, and work in a “culture of fear”. And that was before this latest news of the appointment of new RRT members who have been previously worked to break down the doors for their clients.