There are five core Australian Public Service Values. Here are three of them.

Accountable — The APS is open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of Ministerial responsibility.

Respectful — The APS respects all people, including their rights and their heritage.

Ethical — The APS demonstrates leadership, is trustworthy, and acts with integrity, in all that it does.

The Department of Immigration, and in particular the area that oversees offshore “processing” (as it is wrongly called) is in complete and systematic breach of these values in relation to the abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru.

The public servants in the Australian Border Force get to go home every night, many to their comfortable Canberra residences, while presiding over a policy of wilful neglect toward asylum seekers who have been raped, physically abused, harassed, intimidated and bullied in offshore detention. These asylum seekers’ health needs have been ignored.

Needless to say, none of these outcomes are necessary parts of, or inevitable consequences of, the successful implementation of offshore processing and the deterrence of asylum seekers from trying to reach Australia by boat.

The behaviour of these public servants might be legal, and they might blame their political masters for the policies they are required to implement, but the policies are unethical and wholly inconsistent with APS values. They are not open and accountable — instead they use outsourcing, bans on journalists and human rights bodies, police investigations and threats to whistleblowers to curb scrutiny of what happens on Nauru. They are contemptuous, not respectful, of the asylum seekers in our care. And they are not acting with integrity.

These public servants should not be able to hide behind claiming they are just implementing government policy. They should be held directly accountable for their actions. And, one day, we hope they will.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey