Friday, October 14, 2011

Racism fails in Australia (temporarily)

Last month, in a victory for human rights, the Australian High Court ruled that the Australian government's plans to transfer refugees to Malaysia in order to exclude them from the protections of the Refugee Convention were unlawful. In response, the Australian government drafted legislation which would have reversed by decision, by effectively repudiating the Refugee Convention, removing any trace of it from Australian law. The bill was meant to be voted on yesterday, but it was clear that it did not have the numbers to pass the House (and would have been rejected in the Senate in any case). As a result, Julia Gillard has now been forced to abandon the plan and accept that refugees must be processed in Australia.

But while this is a good result, its not victory. Its clear from the government's response that they are still committed to using racism and fearmongering over refugees as a political weapon, as is the opposition. Which means we will likely see this law, or something very much like it, passed the moment someone has the numbers to do so - likely after the next election. Still, a two-year window of court-enforced decency is better than none at all.