Peter Dutton

After the defeat in the Federal Court of his bid to ban mobile phones in offshore immigration detention centres, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) Peter Dutton is trying another strategy to subvert the court’s August ruling.

Mobile phones are already prohibited in onshore immigration detention centres and on Christmas Island for refugees who tried to come to Australia by boat.

The men in Manus Island detention began their 59th day of protest on September 29, days after a handful of their friends left for the US. They held their tired arms above their heads in a cross, a gesture that has become symbolic of refugee protests in detention.

About 25 of the several hundred men on Manus Island have being offered settlement in the US.

I think it was anthropologist Ghassan Hage who once said that Australians are in constant fear of their country being stolen — again. Australia has a history of policy-making based on the fear of the outsider. But of all the acts of government based on that fear the new Home Affairs portfolio of Peter Dutton will rank as one of the most dangerous.

The status quo in this country is ... interesting. Take the man who deliberately chased down 14-year-old Elijah Doughty in a four wheel drive, killing the Aboriginal teenager in Kalgoorlie, yet was acquitted of manslaughter by a jury without any Aboriginal people on it.

But don’t worry, he was found guilty of “dangerous driving”, which makes me wonder if the judge gave him a stern lecture about taking more care on the roads or next time he might kill someone whose life matters.

A hallmark of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was responding to falling opinion polls by holding press conferences full of totalitarian imagery, announcing moves to weaken civil liberties or intensify persecution of refugees in the name of keeping Australians safe from the apparent existential threat of terrorism. His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, is trying to out-do him.

Refugee activists from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) hung a banner off the Channel 7 building in Melbourne’s Docklands on June 23.

The Channel 7 building is in direct line of sight of the Border Force headquarters in Customs House, where operational matters in Manus Island and Nauru refugee detention camps are managed.

The Australian Refugee Action Network (ARAN) held its inaugural conference on May 20-21 at the Australian National University in Canberra. It brought together more than 150 activists and representatives of 48 refugee advocacy and activist groups from around the country. 

Participants included a large number of activists from Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) groups. RAR held its own national meeting over the conference, and elected a new leadership. The proposal to form ARAN came out of discussion at last year’s RAR conference.

As the embers cooled in the debris of US President Donald Trump’s 59 Tomahawk missiles fired at Syria, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered an immigration crackdown that includes a new US-style patriot test for those seeking Australian citizenship and the scrapping of 457 foreign worker visas.

The refugee rights movement is gaining momentum, but the establishment is looking for ways to placate and demobilise it.

The growing breadth of the campaign is evident in the response to the Guardian's release of the Nauru Files, which contained more than 2000 reports detailing sexual assault, child abuse and acts of self-harm in Nauru detention centre.

Almost immediately, "Love Makes A Way" actions were organised, involving a diversity of organisations protesting outside more than 40 Coalition and Labor MP's offices across the country on August 15.

When the Census website crashed and was taken offline on August 9, the ABS was quick to blame overseas hackers. And in its defence, blaming foreigners has worked pretty well for authorities in this country on pretty much every other issue up till now.

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