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Scott Morrison meeting James Marape to agree that offshore detention doesn’t exist is beyond poor politics, it’s closer to a contrived joke.
Scott Morrison’s meeting with PNG Prime Minister James Marape reads like some antiquated (and oft-repeated) comedy tandem from the golden days of radio. Something akin to Abbott & Costello’s legendary ‘Who’s on first?’ bit, where both figures are trying to convince the other that offshore detention doesn’t exist, continually passing the buck as while the audience rolls their eyes in the aisles, clearly in on the joke.
Here’s the full transcript:
Scott Morrison: “The detention centre on Manus Island is closed, has been closed for some time. There is no detention centre on Manus Island. I think it’s important that Australians are no longer told that somehow there is a detention centre that’s operating on Manus Island. That is a process we’ve been working through for some time. The accommodation facility which now accommodates about 300 people on Manus Island currently and that is down from 1,353, at the peak when Labor were in power. So the detention centre…is closed and we’re working closely with the PNG Government in sure of the service arrangements for those who continue to be resident on Manus Island, and that includes a tender process for someone who had a lot of attention on it here, which we mutually agreed would be put in place and the existing contract extended until the tender process was there until a new service stepped up. Prime Minister?”
James Marape: “Yes, as confirmed by Prime Minister Morrison, there is no more detention. People are living freely in Manus, and also some have moved to Port Moresby for medical, and moving around freely. And I’ve expressed clearly to Minister Dutton that we need to establish a schedule and timetable towards full closure of the entire asylum processes. As PNG has always stood in to assist Australia in times of need, as it has done for us also, we will ensure that we have a mutually workable timetable and closer program that is healthy for all of us, but more importantly, healthy for those people who have been part of us in Manus and PNG. Some are classified as refugees. Those classified as a final refugee, the international convention of refugees will apply. Those who aren’t classified as refugees, we’ll see where they’re given encouragement to move back to their home of origin or where they’d like to move. Those are works in process that both governments have agreed to. And for us, to find some closure in the Manus area. But let me agree with Prime Minister Morrison, there is no more detention. We’re in the process of resettling the entire people out from PNG, within PNG, and common decency will apply to the people who are with us in Port Moresby and Manus now.”
You can scrape all of the above into the nearest bin, as the material is tired, as the detention centre remains open in everything but name. While the refugees have been relocated to a different site, everything remains the same. According to one of the three hundred that remain on the island, nothing has changed. The surrounds have slightly changed, their situation has not. Those that Scott Morrison qualifies as victims of past policy, noting “…we’re dealing with the problem of people who found themselves on Manus Island because of the failed border protection policies of the previous government. That’s who is on Manus Island. That’s who is there. So we’re still dealing with the legacy of the policy failures of the previous government.”
The Big Smoke has been in close contact with those on Manus, with our source repeatedly noting that the freedom that Marape has oft-referenced does not exist, and that hopelessness as taken grip of the remaining 300 with many choosing suicide a reaction to being reduced from refugees to a commodity, from something to nothing. Regarding their freedom, James Marape recently stated that “asylum seekers have since been given the opportunity to move to alternate accommodations…since the Supreme Court decision, all refugees are no longer in detention and are moving freely around.”
According to one of the refugees in question, they are subject to a curfew and are “restricted from leaving the camp between 6 pm until 6 am.”
Regarding their commodification, a “free” resident of Manus’ “closed” detention centre said that “we know both the PNG government and Australian government contractors are making many millions of dollars from our suffering…therefore it is very apparent that both governments see us as nothing more than a commercial commodity.”
In his usual pomp, Morrison closed the above conversation with the hope that his football team will win on the weekend. Which is bitterly disappointing, considering the uniform demonstration that strode streets around the nation, goosed by the sixth anniversary of offshore detention. Clearly, the greater scope is not welcome, and his eyes are focused on the punchline, regarding who is set to financially benefit from their suffering.
So, who’s on first (tender)?