The Australian government would like you to believe that the Australian Border Force Act is about establishing and protecting the legal framework for our offshore detention system, but court documents reveal it is really about protecting its own back.

As we reveal in Crikey today, while Australians were quite rightly alarmed that secrecy provisions in the law could stop detention centre workers from blowing the whistle on the mistreatment of asylum seekers to the media, in reality, the government is using the law to prevent these same workers from giving evidence against the government in court — in cases where the Commonwealth is being sued by asylum seekers for alleged abuse and mistreatment.

The government has also used the controversial new law to broaden its existing power to chase whistleblowers under existing law. Now, almost anyone the government wants to declare an “Immigration and Border Protection Worker” — nurses, doctors, cleaners, IT people — can be charged under section 70 of the Crimes Act, and face the threat of two years jail.

Rather than letting the truth come out about what is actually happening in detention centres, in our name, and paid for by Australian taxpayers, the government is seeking to ensure everyone who could be in a position to talk about it at all is now prevented from doing so — even in court.

The extent to which this government will go to protect its punitive offshore detention regime — at the expense of the health and security of vulnerable people — is shocking and reprehensible.

Peter Fray

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