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Federal

Feb 8, 2016

Shush your bleeding-heart 'moral lecturing', Immigration tells doctors, state premiers, lawyers

Doctors, premiers and the Human Rights Commission all begged the government to allow 267 asylum seekers bound for Nauru to stay. But the government is not for turning.

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Michael Pezzullo

Department of Immigration secretary Michael Pezzullo has said the government will not give in to “moral lecturing” from doctors, lawyers, churches and state governments that have pleaded to allow 267 asylum seekers bound for Nauru to stay in Australia.

Last week’s High Court decision upholding the government’s framework for offshore detention for asylum seekers who seek to get to Australia by boat means that 267 asylum seekers, including 37 babies and 54 other children, currently in Australia for medical treatment could be sent back to Nauru any day now.

Refugee advocates, churches, doctors and the Human Rights Commission are just some of those pleading with the government to allow the asylum seekers to stay in Australia. Over the weekend, the Labor premiers of Victoria and South Australia, Daniel Andrews and Jay Weatherill, both told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that their states would be willing to accommodate and pay the costs for the asylum seekers to stay in Australia. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Liberal premiers Mike Baird (NSW) and Will Hodgman (Tasmania) have also called for the asylum seekers to stay.

The federal government does not appear to be for turning, however. In a Senate estimates hearing this morning, Pezzullo reiterated that asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat would never be settled in Australia, and if a boat is not turned back, the best its passengers can hope for is to be taken to Papua New Guinea or Nauru. He said this was a “durable solution” that would not be compromised by public campaigns like the #letthemstay movement:

“No amount of moral lecturing from those who seem unable to comprehend the negative consequences of an open borders policy will bring forth those solutions. There is no compassion in giving people false hope.”

Pezzullo said the government was now engaged in “quiet diplomacy” including possibly resettling the asylum seekers in a third country, or persuading them to go back to their country of origin. There would be no “bulk” return of asylum seekers to Nauru as it would not be appropriate, he said. The secretary said the handling of the 267 asylum seekers needed to be done quietly and on a case-by-case basis, so as to not give people smugglers a belief that there was a way to get around Australia’s strict border protection policy. Pezzullo told estimates:

“Yielding to emotional gestures in this area of public administration simply reduces the margin for discretionary action which is able to be employed by those people who are actually charged with dealing with the problem.”

Pezzullo later clarified that his comments were not directed specifically at the state premiers, but were more “general”. He said the department did not have a view on letters sent from state premiers to the Prime Minister.

Pezzullo said no asylum seekers had been transferred back to Nauru yet as a result of the High Court decision.

He also took aim at “advocacy parading as journalism”, which often led to incorrect reporting, such as that of the claims of a five-year-old allegedly raped on Nauru. He said the department had investigated the claim, and the incident was related to a child much older than five. He said the alleged assailant was another child two years older than the complainant.

On ABC’s Insiders program yesterday, Turnbull said that the government needed to choose its words carefully around the case of the 267 asylum seekers because people smugglers could twist the words to make other asylum seekers believe that there was a way to Australia by boat:

“What I’m not going to do is give one skerrick of encouragement to those criminals, those people smugglers, who are preying on vulnerable people and seeking to take their money, put them on the high seas in boats where like as not, they will drown.”

Last week Lateline reported on a leaked cabinet document that suggested the government was looking to make it tougher for asylum seekers to get permanent residency in Australia, and an increase in the monitoring of migrants to Australia. Pezzullo told the estimates hearing the leak had been referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation on Friday, but said the document had been prepared by the department for cabinet and had yet to be sent to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, or Turnbull.

Pezzullo said he had only been made aware of the leak when Lateline  began making inquiries about the document. Fairfax also reported it had “obtained” the document, but Pezzullo said it was unclear whether Fairfax had also received a copy, or had just “obtained” a copy of the document from the Lateline website. “I can’t be sure … but it appears to be a singular document that has regrettably been disclosed in an unauthorised fashion,” he said. 

Crikey is live-blogging estimates updates as they happen. Follow our live blog for up-to-the-minute news from the latest round of Senate estimates.

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28 comments

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28 thoughts on “Shush your bleeding-heart ‘moral lecturing’, Immigration tells doctors, state premiers, lawyers

  1. klewso

    And so he should. Who’s running these dungeons?

  2. paddy

    The sheer bastardry is breathtaking.
    Hypocrisy and cruelty above and beyond the call of duty.
    Thanks to the fact that the Internet never forgets, some years down the track, Pezzullo will probably regret today’s performance.
    I certainly hope so!

  3. Grumpy Old Sod

    Our own little Eichmann. We can hold our heads high knowing that now we are mixing it with the big boys.

  4. cairns50

    is this man a public servant who is there to follow what an elected govt dictates or does he see himself acting as a politician carry out public policy as he seems fit?

    if hes doing that he should resign

    his day will come anyway when hes charged with crimes against humanity

  5. Fiona Brooke

    Trying to force refugees back to where they came from is despicable. They fled because they feared for their lives. We should hang our heads in shame at what we are doing. And Pezzullo and his like should be before teh Hague to answer for crimes against humanity

  6. drsmithy

    “No amount of moral lecturing from those who seem unable to comprehend the negative consequences of an open borders policy will bring forth those solutions. There is no compassion in giving people false hope.”

    Why are officials making these sorts of deceitful comments not immediately sanctioned ?

    Nobody is asking for “an open borders policy”.

  7. tonyfunnywalker

    This is an unelected public servant not a dictator — the culture of the Department is known to be doctrinaire but this outburst Pezullo has overstepped the mark. It would appear that Morrison has created a monster which has now moved beyond the realms of good and responsible governance into some sort of a wartime footing autocracy. This will not make public opinion go away –all that it has done is to galvanise the thought that cruelty and illegality is acceptable. At the end of day they are a public servants and public opinion counts — in a democracy anyway if not in Canberra.

  8. Jaybuoy

    Once we let these Ministers and their apparatchiks hide the truth behind “On water matters” we were always headed to the position we now find ourselves..ill informed accessories to whatever crimes are being committed..

  9. John Newton

    Oh it’s alright then it was only a seven year old who raped a five year old.

    My God. Who are these people? Public servants or public slaves?

  10. Dogs breakfast

    Would it be too cynical of me to imagine that the leak came from very high up and may have been just another part of the theatre, and approved with a nod or a wink from the higher ups?

    Would it be too naive of me to think that they are already re-settling refugees from Nauru at a reasonable clip, and won’t be returning these refugees, and also not disclosing it on the basis of ‘operational matters’?

    Both are possible, but perhaps not equally likely.

  11. JMNO

    I have been reading a few books recently despairing (me and those writing the essays) of Australia’s capacity to develop good public policy, the thought-provoking Griffith Review’ ‘Fixing the System’ and Laura Tingle’s excellent quarterly essay among them.

    Pezullo’s statements at Senate Estimate’s and the gist of the leaked draft policy document exemplify the problems with public policy development at the Federal level – ignorant, prejudiced, simplistic statements and recommendations which demonstrate a very thin understanding of the complexity of migration and settlement and an unwarranted obsession with terrorism.

    Pezullo didn’t even blush with embarrassment at the awfulness of the draft policy or at unfairly singling out one community for ill-informed prejudicial treatment.

    The sooner he and Dutton go and they put people in charge of immmigration who know what they are talking about, the better.

  12. Tired Old Queenslander

    If they (Immigration) rescinded their omerta they might get a better understanding from the wider community.

  13. Di Keller

    “What I’m not going to do is give one skerrick of encouragement to those criminals, those people smugglers, who are preying on vulnerable people and seeking to take their money, put them on the high seas in boats where like as not, they will drown.”

    What a mealy mouthed piece of utter garbage. This guy is the original gutless wonder. !!!

    So proud of Daniel Andrews at the moment , and Kudos to the premiers of the other states, no matter their political status, that are following in his footsteps.

  14. AnisaS

    Drsmithy: The quote you highlighted is the one that jumped out at me too. The comment has more than a whiff of misdirection, imo. I don’t remember anyone saying that we should hang up a sign that says, ‘free for all’. It is shameless all round. As JNMO notes, Pezullo et al can’t even be bothered to blush when they simply by-pass anything inconvenient such as international conventions, or their own findings on the status and circumstances of individual applicants.

  15. AnisaS

    Furthermore, in terms of blithely looking the other way, today’s Decoder is sooooo spot-on.

  16. Lee Tinson

    Just adding my voice to those above. What a flat-footed clown this public servant is. It turns out we have another psycopath running Immigration, along with Dead-eye Dutton.

    The hypocrisy of this man is breathtaking.

  17. bushby jane

    Especially since with a name like his, he has to be a fairly recent arrival probably on a boat and not receiving a lot of scrutiny. Escaping a country that was not going that well at the time.

  18. Bill Hilliger

    And it’s not as if the MSM churnalists, stenographers, muppets and puppets really care about all criminal activity by the government.

  19. Graeski

    I think it’s worth recalling the Nuremberg Principles (ref Wikipedia). Once upon a time our entire nation ascribed to them:

    Principle I

    “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”

    Principle II

    “The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.”

    Principle III

    “The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.”

    Principle IV

    “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him”.

    Principle V
    “Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.”

    Principle VI
    “The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

    (a) Crimes against peace:
    (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
    (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
    (b) War crimes:
    Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
    (c) Crimes against humanity:
    Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.”

    Principle VII

    “Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.”

    I reckon the last covers both Houses of our parliament and a fair swag of our public service.

  20. Venise Alstergren

    Department of immigration secretary Michael Pezzullo is quite right. Why should Oz put up with baby terrorists? Rumour has it the Kalashnikov factory has perfected their latest design for miniature guns-we just cant be too careful!

  21. AR

    Pezzullo is a truly nasty piece of work, the ultimate man-without-a-navel, prepared to say or do anything for his political master/s to ensure advancement.
    No shame, honour or integrity.
    During his rise without trace, when Controller of Customs, he jumped up & down about the corruption (re)exposed as rife, esp at Sydney airport of long notoriety, in 2012 and set up a farcical Enquiry.(A job for an intern might be to find out what happened to that Trio of Wise(ned) Men, how much they were paid and such minutiae.
    He then bravely dared convicted Customs whistleblower Kessing to give evidence, graciously allowing him immunity from the Crimes Act – which was not within his power to dispense.
    When Kessing sought to attend with Senator Nick Xenophon he was prohibited on the grounds that the Senator was deemed a security risk.
    And in other news, Australia has just had its Tom Lehrer/Kissinger “satire is dead” moment.
    Philip “the Cadaver” Ruddock is retiring from Parliament to become… wait for it, our UN Human Rights Envoy.

  22. AR

    Pezzullo is a truly nasty piece of work, the ultimate man-without-a-navel, prepared to say or do anything for his political master/s to ensure advancement.
    No shame, honour or integrity.
    During his rise without trace, when Controller of Customs, he jumped up & down about the corruption (re)exposed as rife, esp at Sydney airport of long notoriety, in 2012 and set up a farcical Enquiry.(A job for an intern might be to find out what happened to that Trio of Wise(ned) Men, how much they were paid and such minutiae.
    He then, on ABC News, bravely dared convicted Customs whistleblower Kessing to give evidence, graciously allowing him immunity from the Crimes Act – which was not within his power to dispense.
    When Kessing sought to attend with Senator Nick Xenophon he was prohibited on the grounds that the Senator was deemed a security risk.
    And in other news, Australia has just had its Tom Lehrer/Kissinger “satire is dead” moment.
    Philip “the Cadaver” Ruddock is retiring from Parliament to become… wait for it, our UN Human Rights Envoy.

  23. AR

    …oops, the site is slow today. Fury of the Crowd?

  24. joyjan

    The overreach by Michael Pezzullo, in his role as Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is not only astounding but truly frightening. Here is a man who appears to have forgotten that, as a senior public servant, his duty is to advise government and to implement government policy. As neither the Minister nor a member of Cabinet, he lacks any authority to determine what that policy will be. We were given warning in his speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in December 2014 that Pezzullo was a man that saw the world as a dark place populated by evil forces that could only be controlled by a comprehensive and totally integrated national security system. His speech to the Senate Estimates hearing shows a man completely lacking in any moral imagination and with the bully’s fear of anything he can‘t control. With a buffoon as his master, Pezzullo feels no restraint in expressing his own nasty world view.

  25. MikeM

    It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that the real “hard liners” behind the drive to gag whistleblowers an enforce draconian conditions on helpless refugees are (so-called) Public Servants such as Pezzullo. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. Actually this man is somewhere just below the tail. I am so looking forward to the day when Pezzullo will be arraigned on charges of crimes against humanity. Where are decent, quality journalists when you need them?

  26. graybul

    The Secretary and Head of Department of Immigration is a Blackshirt . . and behaves as one!

  27. Blair Martin

    Drag this vile piece of human excrement off to The Hague. Do not pass Kiribilli House, do not collect a golden handshake and immunity from prosecution

  28. Rena Zurawel

    Is Michael Pazzulo a native of this land?

    Why does he think he does not have to respect the professional opinion of of Australian citizens whose primary obligation is duty of care and legal representation of the kids and adults who turned to us for help?
    Is he trying to overthrow the system in Australia?

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