An email to Scott Morrison

Café Whispers

Yesterday, AIMN reader Mark McCallum sent this email to Scott Morrison, which he has shared with us.

Dear Mr Morrison,

I have a question of you in your capacity as Shadow Minister for Immigration.

Part of your policy in regard to people claiming to be asylum seekers approaching Austalia by boat from the general direction of Indonesia, is to “turn the boats around where safe to do so”, I have been trying to envisage how this might be done, and have imagined being present at the discovery of one of the many over-loaded boats off Christmas Island.

As I think it highly unlikely you would suggest that the boat be simply taken in tow with all remaining on board, I presume the occupants would have to be off-loaded on to a suitable vessel, probably an Australian naval ship, and the empty boat tied to said ship for towing. Could you…

View original post 111 more words

An open letter to Scott Morrison

Champions of Change logo

An open letter to Scott Morrison

Posted by Vince

On Monday this week reports began circulating regarding two recently arrived detainees on Christmas Island who had been diagnosed with typhoid.

Media outlets such as The Australian jumped on these reports and played into inaccurate perceptions of asylum seekers and migrants as dirty, diseased and generally posing a threat to the wellbeing of other Australians.

The most egregious example of this media beat-up was the press release issued by Shadow Minister for Immigration & Citizenship Scott Morrison. In an extreme case of hyperbole, Morrison wrote about the ‘threat’ to Australians – including children – of ‘illegal boat arrivals’ carrying ‘serious communicable diseases’.

Morrison went as far as listing how many asylum seekers in detention on Christmas Island had been diagnosed with a disease and the type of each disease as ‘evidence’ of this threat.

As pointed out by infectious diseases physician, Trent Yarwood, this was not evidence at all but a ‘crass piece of political opportunism’ that demonstrated Morrison’s obvious ‘limited understanding of communicable disease’.

Yarwood wrote an open letter to help inform the public of the facts of the matter.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has re-published this letter below and is in complete agreement with Yarwood’s conclusion that Morrison’s statement has ‘no merit either political or scientific and should be withdrawn’.

Tuesday, 28th February, 2012
Mr Scott Morrison
Member for Cook
House of Representatives
Parliament House
PO Box Canberra ACT 2001
Dear Mr Morrison,

I am writing to you regarding your press release dated February 27, 2012, entitled “Typhoid cases on latest boats highlight the risk of Labor’s border failures”.

I believe it was a crass piece of political opportunism and was not only using the plight of asylum seekers for point-scoring, but plumbed new depths by making the health conditions suffered by these unfortunate people a further reason for the Australian population to fear them. Even worse than this, however is the gross misrepresentation you committed through your obviously limited understanding of communicable disease and the methods for describing its frequency.

The number of cases of communicable disease are of little utility in interpreting health statistics unless a comparison figure is given — for example, the rates/100,000 population or the number of cases in a given area. Reviewing the numbers of cases of diseases in the Christmas Island asylum seekers compared to the total number of cases reported in Australia for 2011 is instructive:

Disease rates

Even without any medical knowledge, it can be seen from these figures that the number of cases suffered by asylum seekers make up a tiny fraction of the total number of cases in Australia each year, and the tone of your press release vastly over-emphasises the risk to the Australian population from the extremely small number of cases introduced by asylum seekers each year.

Secondly, the risk of transmission of these diseases is extremely small. Tetanus is not transmissible from person to person. Shingles only poses a risk to other people if there is close contact with open lesions.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea require sexual contact. Most cases of syphilis reported will not be infectious syphilis, and those that are require sexual contact. Hepatitis C requires blood-blood contact and sexual transmission is rare. The main mode of transmission of Hepatitis B in asylum-seeker source countries is mother-to-child transmission; transmission to others requires blood (or less likely sexual) contact and most Australians are vaccinated.

Dengue and malaria both require the presence of appropriate mosquito vectors which would need to bite the infected asylum seekers at the time which the organism is circulating in their blood. Therefore, it can be said that these diseases pose very little threat to the health of any Australians — due to the small number of cases and their poor infectivity.

Finally, your singling out of asylum seekers to Christmas Island as a source of these diseases is unfair. Most of the diseases are endemic in Australia, so the disease could not, by definition be introduced to Australia.

Typhoid is a frequent infection in returned travellers, but the risk of becoming endemic in a country like Australia with good sanitation and a robust public health system is negligible. The notification data presented above shows there is a large number of cases of these notifiable diseases that occur each year in Australia. The vast majority of these are in Australia citizens; in some cases in returned travellers and in some cases in people who have not left Australia. It is certain that the number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhoea in visa-overstayers who come by plane far exceeds the number seen in these boat people.

Certain groups of overseas tourists on holiday visas almost certainly have higher rates of some of these infections than these asylum seekers. I expect that tourism organisations would have been outspoken in criticism if you had made a similar statement about backpackers — who are far more likely to fraternise with Australian citizens.

It is a marker of the lack of compassion the Coalition and the Labor party hold for asylum seekers that in addition to the hardship of their journey and the documented harms of mandatory detention that you now feel it appropriate to further vilify these poor unfortunates on the basis of medical illnesses that pose almost no threat to the health of Australians.

In short, your media release is ill-informed, not supported by publicly accessible health data, discriminatory and seems to have been intended to prey on fears of the foreigner and fear of pestilence. It has no merit either political or scientific and should be withdrawn.

I will be openly publishing this letter to ensure as many people as possible can be informed of the reality of the situation as opposed to your propaganda. I thank you in advance with not replying with a form letter from your staff informing me that your figures are correct and the straw man defence that the blame lies with the Labor party for not introducing the Coalition’s policy of detention on Nauru.

Yours faithfully,
Trent Yarwood
Infectious Diseases Physician and Public Health Registrar


Media Watch: TT’s false facts fuel fear

Episode 37, 24 October 2011

With the government’s policy in chaos, a hundred and thirty-eight more asylum-seekers arrived at Christmas Island over the weekend. But why is it such a huge political issue?

Partly, at least, because many Australians believe that boat-people are being treated far too generously.

If you’ve just watched Sarah Ferguson’s 4 Corners report on the effects of detention, you might find that hard to believe. But far more people watch Seven’s Today Tonight. And get a very different picture.

According to TT, asylum-seekers and refugees live in luxury, costing the taxpayer squillions. Two weeks ago, they served up this:

Kylie Gillies: First tonight our investigation into how the Government is putting out the welcome mat for refugees. We’ve gone inside the so called ‘refugee resort’ where there’s no wire fencing, there’s no bars, and the inmates live in four star luxury…

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

See that? $400 a week. What was that figure based on? We aren’t told. But later in the report, we’ll see this:

Secret camera: how much do you get?

Refugee: Same as all the people. About $400.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

We’ve talked to that person. Media Watch has blurred his face. Today Tonight didn’t. As we’ll see later, he has good reasons not to want to be identified. But he told us:

I was talking about Centrelink payment. I get $400 a fortnight .

Mohammed, Statement to Media Watch, 21st October, 2011

A fortnight. Not a week. Today Tonight have now told us that the graphic was

An error in the editing.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

In the editing? Pull the other one. As we’ll see later, one of your interviewees says the false information was given to her too.

David Ecclestone’s report supposedly dealt with how asylum-seekers and refugees are treated. Yet it barely mentioned the detention centres where most unauthorised arrivals are locked up for months and years. Instead, we got this:

Voice: this is a two-bedroom apartment

David Ecclestone: Today Tonight has found asylum seekers put up in a four star hotel like this one, awaiting judgment on their immigration status.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Today Tonight ‘found asylum seekers’ at the Virginia Palms Motel in Brisbane in July last year.

It hasn’t been used to house them since June this year. No motels are currently being used as detention centres anywhere in Australia…

Which isn’t to say that they won’t be soon, now that the Malaysia solution has collapsed. The Department of Immigration’s Sandi Logan told us…

A place of alternative detention is selected based on what is readily available, readily accessible and suits the department’s needs at the time for long-term accommodation for families and unaccompanied minors.

Sandi Logan, Department of Immigration, 14th October, 2011

It’s all about families with kids. It’s not about luxury. But on with the show…

David Ecclestone: they even have a Facebook page. What better way to spread the word about the land of plenty to those back home?

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Like the motel footage, this is old stuff. When Today Tonight showed that refugee’s Facebook page, in July last year, we got in touch with him.

We’ve concealed his identity. Today Tonight did not.

He told us that the photos on the beach at the Gold Coast were taken during an excursion while he was in detention. But most were not…

David Ecclestone: Others are taken to Sydney Olympic Park, Luna Park, and the Melbourne Aquarium.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Those pictures of him, said the owner of the Facebook page, were taken

when i realesed from detention. like sydney olympic park and aroun opera house.

Email to Media Watch, 8 July, 2010

Today Tonight has told Media Watch that its

contacts in the immigration department … maintain they were all taken while in detention.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

As if ‘contacts in immigration’ would know better than the subject of the photographs.

But the most damaging misinformation was still to come.

David Ecclestone: The Australian government don’t want you to know the locations of their makeshift detention centres. Manned by 24hour security, they’re in permanent lockdown.

Secret camera: I didn’t tell you but they’re those refugees. Ohh right, from? Boat people.

Reporter: But we spoke to them.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Really David? I seriously doubt it. That mysterious figure was filmed outside the Virginia Palms Motel last year. The interview was first broadcast in July 2010.

Secret camera: I didn’t tell you but they’re those refugees. Ohh right, from? Boat people.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 7th July, 2010

As we said, that motel no longer houses asylum-seekers. This man was filmed in the last month or so, in an entirely different location in Brisbane

Secret camera: Are you a refugee are you?

Refugee: I came to Australia by boat yes.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

He is not in detention at all. He’s been accepted as a genuine refugee, given a permanent visa, and is free to live wherever he can find a place he can afford.

How do we know? We tracked him down. He told us…

I was sitting outside the place where I live waiting for a friend and I was approached by a man. He said he was waiting for a taxi. He did not tell me he was a reporter. …He asked me ‘are you a refugee and how long have you been in this country’? I told him I am from Iran

‘Mohammed’, 21st October, 2011

So the man was being secretly filmed and recorded by a Today Tonight producer – in any other state than Queensland, that would be illegal.

He says he wasn’t told he was talking to a journalist. That would be against the journalists’ code of ethics.

Then his face was shown on national television, without his permission. That is grossly irresponsible.

It is not right for them to put me on television and show my face because it could cause a problem with the Government in my country in Iran. … When I was in Iran I was shot in my chest, a bullet went in my chest …I am very scared and am worried for my family.

Mohammed, 21st October, 2011

Today Tonight‘s Executive Producer, Craig McPherson, assured us…

Naturally we don’t want to put anyone’s safety in jeopardy.

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer, Today Tonight, 17th October, 2011

Really Craig? Then how about asking them before you put their faces on the screen? Or are you too busy showing what a luxurious life they lead?

Voice: how much do you get?

Refugee: Same as all the people. About $400.

Voice: Have you been here for long? How long?

Refugee: 5 months. It’s not too bad. But it could be better.

Margaret Thomas: Pensioners would be disgusted if they knew. I’m sure they don’t know what’s going on with all these boat people and what this government’s giving them.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

Hullo? That refugee actually gets a bit over two hundred and forty dollars a week Newstart allowance and just under sixty dollars a week rental allowance – normal benefits available through Centrelink to any Australian resident. Almost half his total income goes in rent.

I pay $140 a week for a room. We have shared bathroom, shared kitchen and shared toilet. There are 14 other refugees living on the same floor.

Mahommed, 21st October, 2011

The lap of luxury, eh?

But Today Tonight‘s entire report was aimed at fuelling the myth that refugees are given extraordinary treatment.

Margaret Thomas: Well what have they contributed to our country? Nothing. And they’re giving them more money than we get.

Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 10th October, 2011

And where did Margaret Thomas get that idea? Well, she says, from Today Tonight. She told us that the reporter had …

…showed me on his phone the video of that bloke saying he got $400 a week. Now that just got me very angry. …

I didn’t know he was getting $400 a fortnight. I think that’s very sad and Channel 7 should not do that…I would have preferred to have been told the truth

Margaret Thomas, 15th October, 2011

Gee, so would we.

Here’s the truth. Asylum-seekers in detention get no cash benefits. Once given visas, refugees, whether or not they arrived by boat, get the same Centrelink benefits as everyone else.

Is it surprising that so many people are concerned about boat people, when they’re fed inflammatory nonsense like this by one of the most popular programs in Australia?

Creative Commons Licence

Content in this work by TAB  is ©Media Watch Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC – TV) and  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

UPDATE by Jonathan Holmes at ABC’s The Drum

Is This Guy A Racist? You Decide…


So: Let the debate begin. Is this clown a racist? Or someone who judges people on their individual actions, as opposed to the actions of those who look like them?










Cheering For Dead Boat People




Less than a week after innocent people lost their lives after fleeing inhumanity and persecution in their home countries, ‘true blue’ Aussies are laughing about their deaths. Never mind the fact how many children were left as orphans after this tragedy, no. Never mind how many of these men and women had jobs and education back in their home country, no. Never mind that these people don’t actually have the opportunity to stroll up to an airport with their passport and ask to leave the country that persecutes them, no.

These people were believed to be from Iraq. A place apparently improved by our armed forces. A suicide bomber killed over 20 civilians the day after they left their shores. This is an almost daily occurrence.

If this shit was happening in Australia, you can be sure that brave, family-minded Australians would be thinking of what was best for their families and looking for any possible way of leaving and heading to a safer country. But all we can do is sit back and laugh at these people who have never known what it’s like to be free, to eat at nice restaurants, to walk their dog in the park, to take their kids to the beach and to go on a roller coaster. These people have never had rights and their opportunities have been limited. They live every day in fear, assuming it will be their last. These people have never had religious freedom, nor have they had social security.

But sure, let’s laugh at them when they search for a better life. Let’s criticise their decision to risk their lives and the lives of their wives and children because it is a lesser risk than staying in their home country. Let’s call them terrorists even though terrorists generally have money and contacts and arrive in planes. Let’s talk about shooting them as they arrive and then let’s go to church and talk about living a life in the so called image of God. Let’s sit on Facebook and talk about things we have absolutely no clue about and then brag about ‘standing up for our country’.