Dear Wentworth Voters: Here’s 93 Things Our Government Did To Refugees


Yesterday, we brought you a list of 123 things the Liberal Government did to ‘tackle’ climate change. The list, compiled by Liam McLoughlin, was sparked by a ReachTel poll commissioned by Greenpeace Australia which found that for the voters of Wentworth – former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat – tackling climate change was their number one priority. The second priority for voters was immigration. As Wentworth voters head to the polls today, here’s a list (which reads like an International Criminal Court charge sheet) of what the Liberal Government has done to asylum seekers over the past five years, and in many cases is still doing.


Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott*

  1. Appoints Scott Morrison as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection – 18 September 2013
  2. Launches Operation Sovereign Borders, a military-led plan to turn back all asylum seeker boats – 18 September 2013
  3. Instructs public servants and detention centre staff to call asylum seekers “illegals” – 20 October 2013
  4. Separates a refugee mother from her newborn baby – 10 November 2013
  5. Hides information from the Parliament and the people about the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers – 13 November 2013
  6. Gifts two navy patrol boats to the Sri Lankan Government to stop asylum seekers fleeing the Sri Lankan Government – 17 November 2013
  7. Disbands the independent Immigration Health Advisory Group for asylum seekers – 16 December 2013
  8. Directs that people already found to be refugees who arrived by boat be given the lowest priority for family reunion – 8 January 2014
  9. Violates Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty while turning back asylum seeker boats – 17 January 2014
  10. Attempts to reintroduce temporary visas for asylum seekers found to be fleeing persecution preventing them ever settling in Australia and retrospectively applies them to 20,000 people. This is stopped in the Senate twice by the ALP and The Greens – 7 February 2014
  11. Reverses the previous government’s decision to care for refugee children who are without an adult family member (i.e. unaccompanied minors) in the community and sends them to detention centres in Nauru – 17 February 2014
  12. Fails to ensure the safety of asylum seekers in our care on Manus Island who were subjected to a vicious attack, which left one person dead and 77 injured – 18 February 2014
  13. Breaches the privacy of, and puts in danger, around 10,000 asylum seekers and their families by releasing their personal details on the Department of Immigration website – 19 February 2014
  14. Misleads the Australian public about what occurred on Manus Island when asylum seekers were attacked, killing one person and injuring 77. Once the information was known to be untrue, waited five days to correct the record – 25 February 2014
  15. Abbott responds to review into sexual assault allegations in offshore immigration centres with “occasionally…things happen” – 20 March 2015
  16. Ensures a human rights enquiry into the Manus Island detention centre is shut down and human rights lawyers are denied access to the centre – 23 March 2014
  17. Axes free legal assistance for asylum seekers – 31 March 2014
  18. Announces creation of Australian Border Force which “will pick up where Operation Sovereign Borders leaves off” – 9 May 2014
  19. Cuts funding to the peak refugee organisation the Refugee Council of Australia – 30 May 2014
  20. Seeks to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas after the High Court strikes down the Government’s attempt to limit the number of permanent visas available each year  – 22 June 2014.
  21. Revokes the residential determination of two asylum seekers from Vietnam in high school in Adelaide and removes them to a detention centre, resulting in up to 7 other children, also in school, running away for fear of the same fate – 28 June, 2014
  22. Refuses to confirm the existence of two boatloads of refugees reported to be on board customs vessels. The Government previously denied the vessels were in trouble and refuses to comment on whether the refugees will be landing in Australia – 30 June, 2014
  23. Grants the Immigration Minister power over the granting of permanent residence allowing him to personally decide the conditions of the test and his decisions will not be subject to appeal  – 03 July, 2014
  24. Hands over 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to the custody of Sri Lankan authorities after screening them at sea and transferring them while still on the water – 07 July, 2014 
  25. Detains 153 asylum seekers at sea on board a customs ship for a month, despite questions about the legality of this action – July 12, 2014
  26. Fails to provide adequate medical care to asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei who died after developing an infection from a cut on his foot – 5 September 2014
  27. Signs a deal with Cambodia to accept Australia’s refugees for a payment of $40 million over 4 years – 26 September, 2014
  28. Reintroduces Temporary Protection Visas for asylum seekers found to be refugees – 4 December 2014
  29. Hands the Immigration Minister unchecked and unappealable powers to prevent refugees arriving by boat from seeking protection and allows him to return people to the country from which they fled – 4 December 2014
  30. Dismisses a damning report into the impacts of mandatory detention of children seeking asylum as partisan and politicised, and says the Human Rights Commission “should be ashamed of themselves” – 12 February 2015
  31. Dismisses the inquiry into the treatment of children in immigration detention as a “political stitch up” and attacks Gillian Triggs the President of the Human Rights Commission – 24 February 2014
  32. Tries to induce the President of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs to resign before her report outlining the abuse of children in Australia’s immigration detention centres was released – 24 February 2015.
  33. Violates the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and has found to have done so multiple times by the UN – 9 March 2015
  34. Fails to act on allegations of physical and sexual abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru despite knowing about it for over a year – 9 April 2015
  35. Cuts $140,000 from the Refugee Council of Australia – 12 May 2015
  36. Refuses to join the international effort to resettle refugees in crisis, stating “nope, nope, nope” – 21 May 2015
  37. Closes off the possibility of High Court challenges to offshore detention – 25 June 2015
  38. The Border Force Act, which introduces a two-year prison sentence for someone who works in the detention system and discloses any fact while working in the system, comes into effect – 1 July 2015
  39. Announces Operation Fortitude, a multi-agency visa crackdown on the streets of Melbourne – 27 August 2015
  40. Abandons Operation Fortitude after public outcry – 28 August 2015
  41. Wastes $55 million, including $15 million on relocating four refugees to Cambodia before the deal to resettle refugees from Nauru collapses – 30 August 2015


Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

  1. Appoints Peter Dutton as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection – 21 September 2015
  2. Scott Morrison refuses to apologise following report which rejected his claims Save the Children staff “coached” asylum seekers to self-harm on Nauru – 22 January 2016
  3. Papua New Guinea Supreme Court rules the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal – 26 April 2016
  4. PM rejects New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees out of detention because it will be used by people smugglers as a “marketing opportunity” – 29 April 2016
  5. Peter Dutton accuses refugee advocates of encouraging suicide on Nauru – 3 May 2016
  6. Federal court rules Peter Dutton exposed asylum seeker who became pregnant after being raped on Nauru to serious medical and legal risks by flying her to Papua New Guinea for an abortion instead of Australia – 6 May 2016
  7. Investigates former detention centre psychiatrist and accesses his phone records due to his criticism of the Government’s asylum seeker policies – 24 May 2016
  8. Malcolm Turnbull says bringing the hundreds of refugees imprisoned on Manus and Nauru is “not an option” – 21 June 2016
  9. Nauru Files released by the Guardian Australia. They show 2,000 incident reports of “assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and living conditions endured by asylum seekers held by the Australian government, painting a picture of routine dysfunction and cruelty” – 10 August 2016
  10. Peter Dutton dismisses Nauru files as “hype” – 11 August 2016
  11. Peter Dutton accuses refugees of deliberately harming themselves and inventing claims of sexual assault to get to Australia – 11 August 2016
  12. UN says Australia must close its “dire and untenable” offshore detention centres – 13 August 2016
  13. Manus Island detention centre staff say refugees are being coerced to return to their home countries – places where they risk arrest, persecution, and torture – 29 September 2016
  14. UNHCR says it is “profoundly concerned” about Australia’s plan for lifetime bans of asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat – 1 November 2016
  15. Malcolm Turnbull condemns teachers wearing t-shirts with messages protesting the torture of refugees as “absolutely inappropriate” – 8 December 2016
  16. Announces Home Affairs super-ministry including Australian Federal Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the Australian Border Force, to be run by Peter Dutton – 18 July 2017
  17. UN claims Australia reneged on deal to settle some refugees in Australia – July 24 2017
  18. Transcript of Turnbull-Trump phone call released. It shows Turnbull said Australia’s hard-line approach meant not even a “Nobel prize-winning genius” would be let in if they came by boat. Trump replied “That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am” – 4 August 2017
  19. Peter Dutton says lawyers doing pro bono work to defend asylum seekers are “un-Australian” – 29 August 2017
  20. Government admits to offering financial incentives to Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar – 21 September 2017
  21. Peter Dutton disputes UN determination that Manus Island accommodation was uninhabitable and dismisses the “lies” of refugee advocates – 9 November 2017
  22. Government encourages refugees held on Nauru to sever ties with family members in Australia when applying for resettlement in the United States – 6 December 2017
  23. PM says Manus prisoners are not scared just manipulated by “activists in Australia” – 7 November 2017
  24. Peter Dutton says refugee claims of feeling threatened by locals on Manus Island are “complete nonsense”, despite video evidence to the contrary – 11 December 2017
  25. Refugee Advice and Casework Service says Scott Morrison’s direction to ASIO as Immigration Minister in 2013 to delay the security clearances of refugees entitled to permanent protection showed “utter disregard for the law” – 30 January 2018
  26. 128 children still in detention on Nauru – 26 February 2018
  27. PM praises Australia’s ‘non-discriminatory’ refugee policies – 16 March 2018
  28. Government fights a court order to move a 10-year-old boy who had repeatedly tried to kill himself from Nauru to Australia – 21 March 2018.
  29. Peter Dutton attacks refugees for being unemployed and taking Australian jobs at the same time – 18 May 2018
  30. Peter Dutton says “the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone by a single act of compassion in bringing 20 people from Manus to Australia” – 23 June 2018
  31. Government loses court battle to prevent two-year-old girl born in detention on Nauru, feared to be dying from encephalitis, from coming to Australia for medical treatment – 3 July 2018
  32. Government rejects recommendations to bring suicidal 14-year-old girl who set herself on fire to Australia from Nauru – 7 July 2018
  33. Government loses legal battle to prevent Iranian refugee and her 17-year-son, both of whom were acutely physically and mentally ill, from coming to Australia – 13 July 2018
  34. Reported that the Government’s practice has been to have its customs ships intercept asylum seeker boats and sail them for days to Ashmore Reef so they could be sent for offshore processing – 24 July 2018
  35. Government loses latest in a series of more than a dozen attempts to block the medical transfer of asylum seeker children – 1 August 2018
  36. 1,534 asylum seekers and refugees still held on Nauru and Manus Island – 3 August 2018
  37. Government retrospectively amends asylum legislation to ensure detention of up to 1,600 asylum seekers was lawful – 16 August 2018


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

  1. Re-appoints Peter Dutton as Minister for Home Affairs – August 26 2018
  2. Tamil asylum seeker, father of four, dies after a suicide attempt in a Brisbane hospital. He had his protection claim rejected shortly beforehand – 29 August 2018
  3. Deports at least 12 Sri Lankan asylum seekers exposing them to risk of torture – 11 September 2018
  4. United Nations working group condemns Australia’s arbitrary detention of three asylum seekers including one held without charge for nearly nine years – 15 September 2018
  5. Displays “I Stopped These” boat trophy in office – 19 September 2018
  6. Rejects plea from Australian Medical Association to bring families and children to Australia, saying he will not “put at risk any element of Australia’s border protection policy” – 20 September 2018
  7. Gives Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quadvlieg a “We Stopped These” boat trophy as a thank-you gift – 22 September 2018
  8. Federal Court judge rules Australian Government responsible for Nauru’s blocking of court-ordered medical evacuations of refugees – 25 September 2018
  9. It is uncovered that the Government spent $320,000 in the previous financial year challenging urgent medical transfer requests of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru. This amount is predicted to be much larger in 2018 due to the increased number of requests – 29 September 2018.
  10. Government cancels evacuations against court orders and medical advice to avoid affecting “working relationship” with Nauru – 30 September 2018
  11. It is revealed that the Australian Government shares responsibility for Nauru’s restrictive media access policy despite repeated statements to the contrary – 4 October 2018.
  12. Describes the decision to force MSF workers to leave Nauru amidst a mental health crisis as a matter for Nauru. Peter Dutton incorrectly states MSF were not contracted to care for the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers . This follows a statement in which he said he would bring refugees from Nauru to Australia “in a heartbeat” if he could – 10 October 2018.
  13. UNHCR demands closure of offshore detention centres amidst “health crisis” – 13 October 2018.
  14. Rejects calls from 6,000 doctors for the immediate evacuation of refugee and asylum seeker children and families on Nauru – 15 October 2018
  15. UN rules Australia has breached several international human rights laws and takes “extraordinary step” of calling for a review of Australia’s domestic laws – 16 October 2018

To be continued…

* Full credit to Sally McManus for this section thanks to her work on Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage


Liam McLoughlin teaches English, politics, and media, and writes a bit. You can find his stuff at Situation Theatre or on Facebook and Twitter. He still can’t decide which quote is more profound: Karl Marx’s “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness” or Stewart Lee’s “David Cameron and Ed Milliband are about as different as two rats fighting over a courgette that has fallen into a urinal. The main difference being that the David Cameron rat is wearing chinos, in an attempt to win over the youth voter”.