Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The Government's delusory tolerance rhetoric Kerry Murphy Eureka Street March 2, 2015
‘Those who come here must be as open and accepting or their adopted country, as we are of them. Those who live here must be as tolerant of others as we are of them.’
Prime Minister Abbott’s National Security Statement last week quite rightly spoke of threats to Australia and the need to address them.
………….These statements of the Prime Minister would seem uncontroversial and it would be hard to think of someone who might disagree with these values. However, what about the situation where we treat people ‘who come here’ quite unfairly, vilify them and punish them just because of how they come to our country. We would not like them to reciprocate the attitude towards us!
One point in particular is the language used to describe people arriving by boat without a visa. There are several different levels of language used, from legal to populist. Whilst for some, criticism of populist language may be seen as being ‘political correctness’, there are times it is appropriate to be technically correct because the populist language maybe offensive, or vilifying…….
……….In the Migration Act people who are not citizens are either ‘lawful non-citizens’ (s13) or ‘unlawful non-citizens’ (s14). The term ‘illegal’ has not been used in Migration Law since 30 August 1994 when the Act was changed to repeal the term. However the term has survived in common use, and was revived by the former Immigration Minister to the extent that it appears in official Departmental publications………..
Curiously, the term is mainly used in the context of people arriving by boat without a visa, not for those who overstay their visa. People who arrive by boat without a visa are referred to in Migration Law as ‘unauthorised maritime arrivals’ or UMAs. The previous (and current) Immigration Minister uses the term ‘Illegal Maritime Arrivals’ (IMA) and this is what is used in all Departmental correspondence or in public statements.
Some might say, illegal, unlawful, what is the difference. Well, firstly, if there were no difference, then the Minister and Prime Minister would not have insisted on such usage. Even Phillip Ruddock referred to people as ‘unlawful’, never as ‘illegal’. So for the politicians, there is some value in the word illegal, which they do not see in the legalistic term unlawful…………
It is useful to remember that there is no offence in arriving in Australia without a visa…….
By regular repetition of the term ‘illegal’ certain politicians have reinforced a view that there is some ‘criminal’ or ‘nefarious’ element or aspect to the people involved……..
We prevent them from working when released into the community (as the Labor Government did)……
Kerry Murphy is a partner with the specialist immigration law firm D'Ambra Murphy Lawyers and member of the boards of the IARC and JRS.
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