Mar 6, 2014

Training, lifeboats and asylum seekers in the ‘battle space’

The legal and operational framework for forcing asylum seekers into lifeboats and towing them back to Indonesia has become a little clearer, despite the government's secrecy efforts.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

While the Coalition and sections of the media were last week vilifying Labor Senator Stephen Conroy for pointing out the government’s use of the military to hide information, thanks to his efforts the legal and operational framework for forcing asylum seekers into boats to be towed back to Indonesia became just a little clearer.

A key element of the framework was put in place on December 19 last year, when Chief of the Defence Force David Hurley issued a direction under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 that excluded personnel involved in Operation Sovereign Borders from sections 28, 29 and 39 of the act. Fairfax and The Guardian spotted it and reported it in early January, and its importance to the effort to tow back asylum seeker boats has only become clearer since then.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

18 thoughts on “Training, lifeboats and asylum seekers in the ‘battle space’

  1. Tamas Calderwood

    I suppose this is all part of the government’s message to people smugglers that it is absolutely determined to stop the boats.

    And you have to hand it to Abbott and his team – they have stopped the boats.

  2. Ronson Dalby

    Tamas, they may have stopped the boats arriving in Australia (how do we really know?)but have they ‘stopped the boats’?

  3. Chris Hartwell

    Tamas is just reaffirming that the priorities of this government are arse-about-face when it comes to actually decreasing illegal immigration. You know, that thing that is overwhelmingly the result of folks flying here and then staying past their visa conditions.

  4. zut alors

    In the matters of boat towing & asylum seekers generally, it appears the government is employing a mixture of cover up &/or ignorance.

    Neither is to their credit & exposes them as duplicitous &/or incompetent. History will be unkind to this ugly chapter.

  5. MarilynJS

    No they haven’t Tamas you moron, they are illegally trafficking refugees to a place of danger in orange tubs that are designed to save lives in short term situations and dragging them 1100 km across international waters in breach of every law in the world.

    There is no rational reason to stop any vessel on the high seas, nor is there any legal one. It’s called piracy and hijacking and doesn’t punish anyone except the refugees who are then left for dead.

    In the time Morrison claims no boats 2.4 million new refugees have been created, 1.3 million kids under 5 have starved to death and we have now started murdering refugees in our illegal racist prisons.

    Who are you morons who think Australia alone in the world are allowed to be such savages to appease you?

  6. a_swann

    This article is like another breath of fresh air, thank you Bernard. The truth will all come out one day, and it will be ugly ugly ugly.

  7. graybul

    “OPERATION SOVEREIGN BORDERS” Maybe time to review definition. Specifically, “supreme in rank or authority.” Such definition clearly excellent choice reflecting full intent of Minister’s suspension/withdrawal of people’s need or right to know; and Minister’s Imperial Right to forgo accountability! DEMOCRACY ie “Govt. by the people or, their elected representatives.” The People, deprived of right to know! Elected representatives of Govt. enforce secrecy, claim unaccountability ie indemnity; Persons held without charge, in custody of elected representatives, are found killed, raped, suffering psychological “warfare” under military status of O.S.B.; Public Servants withhold pertinent information about O.S.B. from Parliamentary Committees. Good ship ‘Australia’ , truly on High Seas . . but under what flag!

  8. Ronson Dalby

    Do these orange boats have motors in them like the ones on Captain Phillips? If so, can they be re-used by people smugglers or refugees?

  9. David Hand

    Well done Bernard for exploiting the grey area between the occupational safety laws and warlike situations.

    It is awkward to define the operation sovereign borders as warlike because it gives opponents of the policy, such as Crikey, most of its subscribers and the Greens, opportunity to have a great time in the media about OSB and its place within the definition of war.

    On the other hand, if its not a warlike environment, normal occupational safety laws could reasonably be expected to apply so asylum seekers could then succeed by simply refusing to return to Indonesia and a sympathetic lawyer in say Melbourne could help them get here.

    So well done to The Guardian, Fairfax and Crikey for exploiting this gap. You can all talk among yourselves for another few weeks about how evil the Abbott government is until one of you thinks up the next angle for your anti-coalition campaign.

    In the meantime, the rest of us are happy that no asylum seeker has arrived by boat in 2014 and this interesting side issue regarding the gap between OSH rules and warlike conditions can be rightly ignored by the vast majority of the population.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details