Howard yields to rebels Print E-mail
Written by Michelle Grattan   

By Michelle Grattan
Political Editor, Canberra
June 18, 2005

The man who stared down his Prime Minister, Petro Georgiou, says he will now withdraw his private member's bills that threatened a Liberal split.

Families will be freed into the community and long-term detainees' cases reviewed after the Prime Minister headed off a backbench revolt and agreed to broad changes to the system of mandatory detention.

After several hours of intense negotiations yesterday with four Liberal rebels who had threatened to cross the floor, a deal described by Mr Howard as "a mandatory detention system with a softer edge" was reached.

He admitted changes to accelerate cases were "long overdue".

The Liberal rebels, led by Victorian Petro Georgiou, say the concessions meet most of their demands, at least in the practical way they will operate.

Mr Georgiou, who had been set to introduce private member's bills on Monday to drastically reform the system, said the deal would bring improvements for families, making the implementation of policy more transparent and compassionate.

He said he would withdraw the bills, which have been backed by colleagues Judi Moylan, Russell Broadbent and Bruce Baird.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone's discretionary powers have been widened, giving her flexibility to free people into the community and to grant visas to people in detention.

A limit of six months - three months for each stage - has been put on the processing of protection visa applications and reviews by the Refugee Review Tribunal.

The Immigration Department will have to report six-monthly to the Ombudsman on people who have been in detention for more than two years. The Ombudsman will make recommendations to the minister, who will not be bound to follow them but must table them in Parliament.

The Ombudsman will have full access to Immigration Department records to investigate cases.

He will be able to recommend release into the community, permanent residency, or continued detention.

Mr Howard refused the rebels' demand for those on temporary protection visas to be given permanency, but says about 4000 outstanding applications are to be finalised by the end of October. These applicants will not be re-interviewed unless there are special circumstances. Almost all of them are expected to get permanent residence.

All women, children and families currently in detention centres and residential housing projects will be freed into the community with reporting arrangements.

When families are detained in future - usually when they breach orders to leave the country - they will be put in residential housing projects and assessed. This will have to be done within a month.

The changes will be put into legislation, amending the Migration Act, and overseen by an interdepartmental committee headed by the head of Mr Howard's department, Peter Shergold.

The rebel Liberals have been dealt into the process - the committee will review progress with Mr Georgiou and his colleagues fortnightly.

The Prime Minister refused to meet the rebels' demand to scrap indefinite detention.

He said this was difficult to do away with "because sometimes people can be indefinitely detained through no fault of the Government" when they arrived unauthorised and did not provide adequate responses to questions. "I don't want anyone indefinitely detained, but you either have a mandatory detention system or you don't," he said.

Ms Moylan said she would have preferred to see the end of indefinite mandatory detention. "But I think we will see a practical end to indefinite detention," she said, because there must be parliamentary reports on those detained for more than two years.

Mr Broadbent said the deal was "a good result for everybody". Mr Baird said he was "delighted to have reached a resolution for the sake of the many people who've experienced all the negatives of Australia's detention system".

Mr Howard said he regarded the changes, which took about nine hours and several sessions over a week to negotiate, as "certainly meeting the wishes of my colleagues in the party room". He said the deal was a "good outcome for the Liberal Party".

The result had been "respectful" of the view of the minority but "also in the end the majority view, in a sensitive way, of the party room has prevailed. And that is how it should be."

Mr Howard declined to speculate what the changes would mean for Australia's longest detainee, Peter Qasim, who has been incarcerated for seven years, but he is believed to have assured the backbenchers that he would ensure the Qasim case was fixed. It would be immediately reviewed under the Ombudsman's general scrutiny of long-term detainees.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley attacked expanding the powers of "an incompetent minister" and a "dysfunctional" department and renewed his call for a royal commission.


Jarvis Walker     Arlec

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Featured Articles

The 'Forgotten People'

by Anna Malbon from the Progress Press October 22, 1996

WHEN nine-year-old "Tom" was asked to draw a picture of himself with his mother be drew her trying to strangle him.

Tom entered the world of adults too early. If he was ever immune to the complications and pain of life that adults try to shelter from children, he says he can't remember.

Bulletin Board

I had to struggle extra hard

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I.

They only listened to her stories ”

“ I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know.”

Hi, I had a mentally ill mother. She passed away last year. I literally grew up hanging around mental hospitals because my Mom's condition was a cycle that always ends in a mental hospital. When I was younger, there was a long period when I cried my eyes out every time I was separated from my mentally ill mother because she had to stay in a mental hospital. After I grew older, my Mom's mental illness became impossible for me to bear.

Literally, my Mom's mental illness ruined my life. I think. I had to struggle extra hard for everything because of my big handicap at home. There was no support at all from anyone other than my father. Nobody else wanted to know about it. My mother's own cousin even said to my father not to bring my Mom to their place. I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know. My mother's own sister has been complaining since 2000 and her last complain was on 5 July 2014. This particular aunt keeps complaining about the same thing. That she had to take my Mom for her weekly injections and complained that my father and I was not around to do it. Then, she goes on to say that she saw my Mom beat me up with a cane. When she said that, I asked my Aunt, you saw my Mom beat me up with a cane? She said yes and than, she walked away.

I feel very sore with this aunt. Number one, the period she was complaining about was when I was still schooling and my father's and my mental health had deteriorated so badly that we had to leave the state for our own sanity. Before joining my father, I had to live alone with my Mom and my baby sister for almost a year. My aunt who lived a few minutes drive away did nothing when my Mom beat me up every day for months until my father managed to cut the red tape to remove me. My body was full of bruises and I was terrified to go home after school. Nobody helped. Not the neighbours who can hear all my mom's shouting at me, nor my aunt, nor my grandparents, nor my school's teachers. Someone should had intervened for a 12+ little girl. No adult helped. My father was trying his best to get me away to stay with him. Nobody helped him.

On XXXXXXXXXXXX, my Mom's sister let slip she saw my Mom beat me with a cane. And yet she did nothing! My aunt even had the cheek to say that my Mom beat me up because I said I wanted to go live with my father. The way my aunt said it was like the beatings were wholly my fault. What is wrong with the picture? You have a 12+ girl being beaten up daily, you are an aunt who knows something is going on and did nothing. Yet for years later you complain about having to take your own blood sister for her injections. And, I do not think she did it for longer than my own experiences. Probably only a few times because my father and I had to travel frequently to see to my mother. Due to the cyclic nature of her illness.

I have been going with my father when he took my mother for her weekly injections as a little girl, knee high, ever since I can remember. My own aunt is so calculative. There was a nurse that visits my Mom to give her her injections. But, the problem is my Mom will not let the nurse into her house that is why the intervention is needed. I have lost count on the number of times I had to go with my Mom for her injections as a little girl.

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I. They only listened to her stories and full stop. I think my Mom's doctors are the most heartless people I have ever met in my life. Until today, I do not like anyone who officially practices psychology because those doctors etc... contributed to my life being ruined. That is how I feel. I have been scolded by my Mom's medical team and they even dumped my Mom on me after I just turn 18 and there was no other adult around. And, they knew the situation. I was terrified because my Mom was a very violent. My Mom has pitched me, beaten me up, she has biten me with her teeth, she has smashed my head against the table and threatened to beat me with a piece of hard wood. I experienced all these as a little girl at the tender age of 12+ I had to learn karate to protect myself from her violent ways. And, when my Mom was home, I would lock my room's door and place a chair against it. I was that terrified of her.

All our belongings can go missing because my Mom is good at that sort of thing. You never know what is what with my Mom. It is like having a criminal live under the same roof as you.

My aunt kept repeating to me that on my mother's death anniversary I will have go visit her cemetery. I live in a different state from where my mother's cemetery is located. And, my aunt knows that very well. However she repeated her question to me until I said yes. I hate being forced to do something against my will because I have been forced to do things against my will my whole life.

My life is in ruins because of my mother's mental illness and people like my aunt is perpetuating the troubles for me after my mother's death. When I was 12+, my mother's mother said to me that it is my father's job to take care of my mother. In other words, my father's job and mine. And, they never lifted a finger to help. Just helping a little, my aunt has been complaining about the same thing for more than a decade. Unbelievable. Shameful.

Even though my father and I lived in a different state from my mother, we had to travel up and down every weekend because that is demanded of my mother. Sometimes, we had to travel after school and upon our arrival, she won't let us in and we had to travel all the way back. And, my father will not let me sleep at home as it is a school day, I had to go to school. My education was very important to my father. My mother could not be bothered if I succeeded or not.

I have seen more than any of my Mom's relatives have seen with regards her mental illness but people whom I just met behave like I have no idea about my Mom like they are the authority on her behaviour and her illness. Goodness gracious.

Despite this huge handicap in my life I persevered with my studies. My Mom did not give me any moral or emotional support at all. In fact her mental illness cycle will peak just or during my important exams. In other words, I had to deal with my exams and on top of them a mentally ill mother. By my final year in university, I could not take the pressure of exams and a mentally ill mother's break downs anymore.

When I was in my teenage years and early adult years, I was suicidal. I had to call Befrienders a lot. Thank God for Befrienders.

Before XXXXXXXXXXdate, I do not wish my experience to be experienced by anyone else because it is torture. However, after feeling how hard hearted my aunt is. A so called holy person, a church goer, rich person who has successful kids and grand kids. And, she can talk like it is my fault that my Mom beat me up and she (my aunt) had to take her (her own sister) for her injections when I was a kid. I really wish that my aunt must reincarnate as my father (a few lifes) so that she can eat her own words. If my aunt reincarnates and is put in my father's shoes, she would really deserve it. Hope she learns compassion through it all.

Why can't the world give children of the mentally ill a break? I am so fed up with all this troubles that stem from my mother's sister's attitude towards my father and I. After all shel lives a great lives. Rich live. What is wrong with these people? I really cannot stand them. This is my story.

After I wrote the above - I am more myself now, and I totally forgive my aunt and everybody who did nothing to help my father and I. And, everybody else who were heartless towards my father and I. However, I still think that by living a few life times as my father (my aunt) - would do her some good. But, knowing her character, she might become a psychopath and pose a threat to humanity. My father is a very, very kind soul. My aunt is a hard hearted, prejudiced, narrow minded, one tracked mind person.

How I cope? Trying my best to keep out of their way, and hang out with positive people. There are plenty of great people out there. Nnaami is included :)


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