He may have been rather conservative during his time as a Liberal leader — but Malcolm Fraser just come out swinging against the current Liberal government.
The former PM has issued a powerful statement condemning the government’s response to the Human Rights Commission’s report about children in detention, which was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.
The shocking report found that more than one third of children who were in detention in the first half of last year were found to have serious mental health disorders — and the Abbott government’s response was to politicise the report, attacking the Australian Human Rights Commission and saying the “Commission should be ashamed of itself”.
But as Mr Fraser’s statement makes clear, it’s the Federal government that should be ashamed.
Here’s the full text of the press release, titled “enough is enough”.
The government had the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on children in detention on 11 November last year. They have tabled it on the last possible day. It is now clear that the attacks made on the Commission, especially by senior ministers, has been designed to make it easier for the government to ignore the Commission’s report.
The government’s response is a disgrace. It is based on a lie. They claim to have saved lives by stopping the boats and that the trauma inflicted on children by detaining them, is a small price to pay. They deliberately chose an inhumane way of stopping the boats.
If the Australian Government worked with our regional neighbours and the UNHCR, to process people humanely in offshore processing centres in Malaysia or Indonesia, then there would be no market for people smugglers. Refugees would be flown to their final destination. This is not supposition or hearsay. This was the policy model adopted during the exodus of refugees fleeing Indochina following the Vietnam War. It would work again.
The real question for the government is why did they choose to do this, despite the trauma and harm done to hundreds of children, when there was a decent and proven way of achieving a much better result.
The attack on the integrity of the Human Rights Commission and its President is only to be expected of this government, who uses bullying as their default tactic. The attack is consistent with the way the government has approached legal decisions that have gone against it. This government has also refused to listen to our highest Court, undermining the rule of law and ignoring International Law.
The only conclusion we can really draw is that the inhumanity inflicted on these children is part of a policy of deterrence, which the government has pursued relentlessly.
Australians needs to understand that this government has chosen an inhumane path when a compassionate path was available to it.
Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH