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Back to Bilo for a Tamil family

  • 02 June 2022
On the outback Queensland website, it describes Biloela in very positive terms: Everyone says ‘G’day’ with a smile and a nod as you walk down the wide streets of Biloela. It’s friendly, warm and welcoming. Buildings wear the tell-tale signs of progress through the decades. … Today, Biloela is a busy commercial and tourist hub, though it still retains that relaxed, country feeling.

On Friday 27 May, interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers announced: Today, in my capacity as interim Minister for Home Affairs, I exercised my power under section 195A of the Migration Act 1958 to intervene in the case of the Murugappan family. The effect of my intervention enables the family to return to Biloela, where they can reside lawfully in the community on bridging visas while they work towards the resolution of their immigration status, in accordance with Australian law. I have spoken to the family and wished them well for their return. This decision will allow them to get ‘home to Bilo’, a big-hearted and welcoming Queensland town that has embraced this beautiful family.

This decision by newly elected ALP Government was in stark contrast to the statement of former Prime Minister Morrison about the same family on 19 May: ‘There is no protection owed. They have not been found to be refugees,’ Mr Morrison said. ‘And also Australia's rules do not permit permanent visas for people who have not been found to be refugees. That is the government's policy. It hasn't changed.’

This was followed on election day of a text message to some voters that Border Force has intercepted an ‘illegal boat’ so vote Liberal; to keep the borders secure. Such a message flew in the face of Morrison’s strict policy of ‘not discussing on water matters’. when asked by journalists about arrivals of boats or ‘turnbacks’ after the 2013 election.

The case of the Murugappan family illustrates the punitive and puritanical approach of the previous government towards human beings arriving in Australia by boat and then seeking asylum. The tone of each message clearly reflects totally different attitudes towards the people affected. Even the fact that Minister Chalmers rang the family to tell them, and then rang people in Biloela to pass on the news. This humanity and respect would never have occurred under the previous regime.

'The costs of flying this family by chartered plane to Christmas Island, then detaining this family for so long in Christmas Island