Monday, November 19, 2007

Avendanos versus Andrews

Another distressing story from the dark corners of the immigration department. After everything - the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau, the deportation of Vivian Alvarez, the impassive response to hunger strikes by Baxter detainees, the cancellation of Mohammed Haneef's visa on 'character' grounds, the seven-year limbo of the stateless asylum seeker Ahmed Al-Kateb, and so on, and so on - it should come as no surprise to anyone to discover yet another instance of merciless bureaucratic stonewalling. But it angers nonetheless. This family has lived here for 23 years. Their son, Rainiel, an Australian resident, is a 19-year-old with an intellectual disability. Because of the refusal of immigration ministers - first Vanstone, then Andrews - to intervene on behalf of the Avendanos, Rainiel faces the choice of moving to the Philippines with his family, or staying in his country of birth without them.

This is profoundly wrong. Whatever interest Australia has in securing its borders, however strong a 'message' it wants to send out to would-be illegal immigrants, there is no justification for such cavalier treatment of any human being – let alone a family that has resided here peacefully for almost as long as I have been alive.

Kevin Andrews hasn't had long as Minister for Immigration, but in his short tenure he has proven himself quite Amanda Vanstone's equal as far as embarrassing Immigration portfolio incidents are concerned. My friends and I sometimes play a sort of parlour game: which Howard cabinet member would you get rid of, given the chance? I've always been an Abbott girl myself, and Abbott's performance of the last few weeks hasn’t done a great deal to dissuade me. But if I were playing the game with a completely open mind, minister for minister, Andrews is as good a reason as any to vote the Howard government out on Saturday. Unfortunately, his is a safe Liberal seat - but an Andrews on the Opposition benches is infinitely preferable to Andrews as Immigration Minister.

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