|Monday, 17 September 2001
|NSWCCL media release: 6/2001
|Liberty Victoria recognises that there is a range of views in the Australian community about the
rights of asylum seekers, and in particular about the Federal Government’s action in
intercepting the ship Tampa.
As the judgments of Justice North and now of the Full Federal Court demonstrate, the issues
in this proceeding are of profound importance to all Australians.
Fundamentally, this proceeding has been a victory for the rule of law. Our democracy
depends on individuals having access to the Courts to ensure that government is held
accountable. No government can be allowed to operate outside the law, and we rely on
having a fearlessly independent judiciary to enforce that principle.
Particular questions have arisen about the lawfulness of the Federal Government’s detention
of the asylum seekers on the Tampa, about the use of the Australian military to prevent them
from taking the lawful steps open to them, and about Australia’s obligations under the Refugee
Convention to protect people with a well-founded fear of persecution.
It is entirely proper – and in the national interest – that these issues have been ventilated
before the Federal Court.
Moves to diminish rights under Australian law are troubling at any time. The recent moves by
the Federal Government are especially troubling, as they seek to diminish further the limited
rights afforded to vulnerable people, and signal a retreat from long-standing Australian
traditions of providing assistance and succour to those escaping tyranny and oppression.
Liberty Victoria deplores attempts by the Federal Government to engender hostility towards
the asylum seekers by linking the issues in this case with the tragic events in the United
States. At best, such attempts are misleading. At worst, the Government is deliberately
inciting hatred for political purposes.
Liberty acknowledges the extraordinary voluntary work undertaken by its legal team and the
other volunteers who have rallied to support the legal action. It is the voluntary actions of
people such as these which make our democracy great, and which preserve the democratic
traditions of this country for future generations.
Vice-President (0407 934 935)
Liberty Victoria (Victorian Council for Civil Liberties Inc.)
17 September 2001
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