Australia’s immigration policies ‘profoundly discriminatory and racist’ toward Māori and Pasifika – former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs
A former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission is calling out her country’s “illegal and inhumane” treatment of New Zealanders in detention.
A law change in 2014 has seen more than 1200 Kiwis deported from Australia, 60 percent of whom are Māori or Pasifika.
Prof Gillian Triggs is in New Zealand this week on a speaking tour. Asked by Newshub Nation whether institutional racism was at play, she replied: “I’d hesitate to go quite that far – I don’t believe it’s intended to have a racist purpose but there’s no doubt at all… that the impact of this deportation policy is profoundly discriminatory and racist.
“Fifty percent of detainees from Australia are New Zealanders and 60 percent of those are Māori or Pacific Islanders.”
Prof Triggs wants Australia to adopt a charter of human rights, along the lines of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights.
“Australia is the only democracy in the world that does not have a charter and there are very, very few protections for common law freedoms in the constitution.”
She believes a constitutional amendment would be near impossible to achieve, but a charter is doable.
“[Charters] are weak, but they do have an impact on the way in which civil servants, Government officials and lawmakers apply laws.
“They’re inclined to say, ‘We have a charter, does this law comply with that charter? Or does what we’re proposing comply with common law freedoms?’ And I think that is the impact it has on the lives of ordinary people.”
Kiwis kept like ‘caged animals’ in Australian detention centres
Prof Triggs told Newshub Nation what she saw at the high-security Blaxland compound was one of the most disturbing moments in her five years in the role.
“I saw six men to a bunk room, cramped quarters, in a concrete compound with 14-foot wire walls. They were quite literally like caged animals.
“Big, strong men – some with mental illness – clearly deeply distressed with virtually nothing to do except a billiard table and a TV set.
“They were distraught beyond measure, with virtually no hope for their futures… all without a charge or a trial by a court or jury.”
Since 2014, the Australian Immigration Minister has had the power to deport people, without judicial review, that are deemed “not of good character” or who “may be a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”.
More than 1200 New Zealanders have been deported from Australia in the past three years, 60 percent of whom are Māori or Pasifika.
“Most [of those in Blaxwood] were New Zealanders and most in fact were Māori or islanders,” said Prof Triggs.
Last month, New Zealand’s Justice Minister Andrew Little said Australia’s deportation policies “lacked humanitarian ideals” and had a “venal political strain” to them.