Letters to Eureka Street

Held in balance

I enjoyed reading Andrew Hamilton’s thoughtful reflection on Marion Maddox’s God under Howard: The Rise of the Religious Right in Australian Politics in Eureka Street (May 2005). Fr Hamilton has been very even-handed in his response and has looked at the other side of the coin with an equally critical approach. I especially appreciated the picture he drew of the atheism/idolatry continuum. I can see other relevant continuums here: certainty and pluralism; traditional and radical; spiritual and worldly.

The fact is that all of us are somewhere between the extreme ends of these continuums, and during life our position changes.  It is helpful to see it like this because then there is a relationship between both sides, and not mutual exclusion. If so, there is no need to demonise those who belong to one side or the other. In politics, as in religion, the trick is to live somewhere towards the centre where there is a balance of both extremes. The trouble is that we never know where the balance is, because it is dynamic rather than static.

Jenny  Close
via email

A voice from within

We can now consider the late Pontiff’s repression of women. Scores, and I suspect millions, of women raised in the Catholic faith have just drifted away from it for this reason. We don’t speak out on the subject, but try to embrace Christian values, and let the church numbers dwindle until its leadership realises it must change or become entirely obsolete. Alternatively we occupy the pews of churches whose pastors are reprimanded by the Vatican for minor breaches of protocol. Like the fathers of other rigid authoritarian families, the late pontiff was much kinder to those outside his flock than to many members within. It is ironic to think that those in the developing world must endure the shroud we shrugged off decades ago. The Vatican must remember that Jesus was a poor, tolerant political prisoner who upset the authorities and was outcast for empowering the vulnerable.

Dr Marianne Cannon
Ashgrove, QLD

Unbeatable odds

Thank you, Steven Churches, for your very telling article, ‘Selective evidence’, in the April edition of Eureka Street which detailed some of the complexities in establishing the genuineness of the?Bakhtiyari family’s claims for refugee status.

Those supporting long-term detainees still in Baxter know all too well the flaws of the determination process.

The limited English of most asylum seekers, and the inquisitorial approach often adopted by interviewers, make it difficult for clear, accurate information to be elicited.

Fear for the safety of their families and fear of authorities means that the full facts of a case are often not told at a first or even second interview, leading to seeming ‘inconsistencies’ which then cast doubts on credibility.

Information supplied by human rights groups and Australian government departments is often at variance, while the fact that interviewers and members of the Refugee Review Tribunal are all employed by DIMIA does not foster a process that is objective, independent or transparent.

What is of serious concern is that decisions made in this process are binding.

As Dr Churches points out, subsequent court proceedings cannot re-examine the merits of the facts of a case, but are restricted only to establishing if due legal process has been followed.

When all legal avenues have been exhausted, the only recourse open to ‘failed asylum seekers’ is to appeal to the minister to use her discretion and allow the detainee the right to have their case reviewed or to be granted a humanitarian visa.

Since the recently announced Removals Pending Bridging Visa requires detainees to relinquish these rights and to agree to return home when asked, it is unlikely to find many takers.

It is indeed a ‘no-hope’ visa, as Bob Brown, leader of the Greens, has described it. In such a system hope is a hard quality to sustain.

Beth Flenley
Daw Park, SA

Sleepless nights

I am tempted to ask you not to publish any more articles on the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers. I read them, and that night I lie awake for hours seething with anger and contempt. The article by Steven Churches (April 2005) was no exception.

The following motion was passed unanimously at the business meeting of the International Association of Forensic Linguists, held on 12 July 2003 at the University of Sydney:

This conference notes that the Australian government is currently engaging several European companies to provide ‘language analysis’ in the determination of the nationality of refugee claimants.

A preliminary examination of this process by a group of five Australian linguists has raised serious concerns about the underlying assumptions as well as the methods being used in this so-called ‘language analysis’.

Delegates at the conference of the International Association of Forensic Linguists
unanimously reject this so-called ‘language analysis’ as unprofessional and unreliable. We call on the Australian government to refrain from using this process, unless and until its reliability has been independently established.

The report ‘Linguistic identification in the determination of nationality: a preliminary report’ is by Diana Eades, Helen Fraser, Jeff Siegel, Tim McNamara and Brett Baker, February 2003. It is available at www.iafl.org. The text of the above resolution is at the same address.

Gavan Breen
Alice Springs, NT



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