I feel like the case of the ten aid workers wrongfully sent home from Nauru should be raising more concern than it is. I have said elsewhere that I am against the policy of offshore detention for a number of reasons, but I am not even talking about that aspect of what is going on.
In 2014, Save The Children Australia (SCA) aid workers were sent back from Nauru amid accusations that they were encouraging and coaching detainees to fabricate stories of abuse by their captors. Two independent reviews have found that there was little evidence for these claims and essentially Scott Morrison was wrong to either act on them the way they did, or trumpet them to the media, in what seems a pretty transparent strategy of controlling the public narrative around offshore detention. The most recent Doogan report has even recommended financial restitution be paid to SCA by the government which is a pretty damning indication of where fault lies.
If this was a scandal in another policy area the ministers in question would be under significant pressure, from the opposition parties and public scrutiny. Let’s be clear, he made unsubstantiated public accusations that were found to be false and followed improper procedure to wrongfully remove the aid workers. The few questions that have been put to the former minister have been brushed off with Morrison’s customary disdain for the public’s right to be informed.
Because it is related to the problematic issue of Border Protection, there seems a strange reluctance to pass judgement. It is almost as if we don’t want to delve too deeply into what goes on there or are accepting that unpalatable things are happening and that is just the way it has to be, because we don’t see simple solutions. I don’t accept that though.
If a government minister can make unsubstantiated public accusations against private citizens and terminate their positions, then be found to be wrong, without any real fallout for the minister, that bothers me. It should bother other people too. Firstly we are accepting a culture of complete unaccountability in our offshore detention centres and it has been proved time and time again that when you have a vacuum of accountability, abuse of power is more frequent. Moreover, if there is no consequence for ministers for exploiting their privileged position of power in this way, the next time they do it, it might not be against aid workers in Nauru. It could be you or me.