New immigration laws have effectively gagged anyone who works at immigration detention facilities from speaking out against them, or else they face two years imprisonment.
Under the Border Force Act, it is now a criminal act for doctors, teachers, counsellors, social workers, or anyone working directly or indirectly for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to provide information about detention centres to either the media or any other individual or group.
This has prevented anyone working at Nauru or Manus Island detention facilities from providing information about them, further blocking the flow of information to the Australian public.
While not confirmed, it could even extend to organisations such as the Red Cross or Amnesty International.
One such person who is now effectively gagged is Dr David Isaacs, who last month spoke out at a State Inquiry about the horrific conditions at Nauru, including recounting a story his patient had told him about being raped while going to the toilet at night.
Speaking to Fairfax about this new law, he said:
“It is an extremely draconian law, giving a department like Immigration ASIO-like secrecy powers.”
“There is no justification for this iron curtain who has been placed around immigration detention other than that the Commonwealth doesn’t want Australians and the rest of the world to know about the abominations that are taking place under their watch.”
“This is all about the minister wanting to cover up the government’s mistakes, which go as far as murder and social abuse, including child sex abuse.”
The Border Force Act passed on May 14 with support from both Liberal and Labor, with only The Greens opposing it. The law allows people to speak only to the Immigration Deparment, other Commonwealth agencies, the police, and coroners. While officials and contractors are allowed to report maladministration, it might not allow doctors to disclose inadequate health care of their patients.
In a joint op-ed for the ABC, barrister and spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance Greg Barns and Special Council with Shine Lawyers Social Justice Department George Newhouse said:
“The legislation is anti-ethical to a society that professes to be a liberal democracy where the independent scrutiny of, and protection for those who lift the veil on human rights abuses ought to be the norm.”
According to a press release from Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, it’s all part of a bid to strengthen the government’s ability to protect Australia’s border.