Guest post by thefrollickingmole – A different view of detention centres

By Legal Eagle

[Note by LE: We invited thefrollickingmole, a contributor at The Tizona Group, to write a post for us about his experiences as a officer at a detention centre after the discussion he initiated on the Marcus Einfeld thread.]

I was a detention officer from around 1998 through to 2002 at Port Hedland. This coincided with the largest influx of boat people seen since the Vietnam era.

When I was in training we had the first and second boatloads of Afghanis arrive. The majority of the center’s occupants were Chinese with a wide variety of others. The numbers held at that time as somewhere around 300, possibly less.

Part way through our training we saw a breakout of some detainees due for deportation. They overpowered 2 officers and tied them up. Quite stressful for the officers involved, and rather sobering for us involved in training. (6 weeks training from memory).

We were the last training group (30 or so) to run for the next year and a half, when detainees (usually referred to as residents by staff) rose to over 900 at times.

By the time I left 4 years later there were about 5 left from my training group; the rest had burnt out or quit.

The image most people have of the centers is of the big fences. When I started, the fencing consisted of 2 sets of chain link fencing topped with 3 strand barbed wire, not much different to tennis court fencing; this was upgraded after a number of breakouts and a couple of mass walkouts. In addition there was no internal fencing at all and no restrictions on detainees’ movements (although we did keep single men out of the family blocks as much as possible).

The increase in fencing was as a result of incidents, not a ratcheting up of pressure on detainees. In particular internal fencing was implemented to limit the speed at which incidents could escalate, however it did add to the prison atmosphere later arrivals disliked.

I was a terrible officer and rather clueless for my first year on the job. Some people learnt quicker, others never did. Great mounts of time are spent de-escalating incidents, often between detainees. Unfortunately racism isn’t only a “white” problem, as many groups considered others “unclean” or open to abuse. We started by assigning people rooms, but in the end it was much easier to allow then to pick their own. Iranians in particular had an unreasoning hatred of our Africans.

Here’s a few details which I’ve never seen touched on by the media. A couple were kept quiet for obvious reasons.

Departure lounge

There was one particular section of the centre known as the “departure lounge”. It was for people who had been screened out of the refugee system by advice received from Australia’s intelligence community. They were specifically excluded from making any claims at all. This was a depressing block to work in; the detainees weren’t allowed any contact with the outside at all beyond their exercise yard, no TV, no radio, nothing.

Officers weren’t told the reasons these people had been singled out, however there is one group I am fairly certain about. That was a unit of about 15 Afghanis. It was fairly obvious they were a military unit. My guess after spending quite some time with them was they scored big on an operation (they were anti-Taliban) and decided that was their opportunity to leave the fighting behind. So I didn’t consider them a terrorist threat at all. The departure lounge was depressing as no-one, detainees or staff knew what was being done with these blokes. One of the hangings I attended (unsuccessful) was in this block, and another detainee nearly starved himself to death (it was fortunate I checked his paperwork and followed up as he had caused himself internal injuries he was that far along) in this block.

I believe it was another officer who went semi public/contacted a lawyer, for these chaps and eventually got changes to happen. I thought at the time he had been irresponsible, however now I believe it was the right thing to do.

The block (Juliet) was visited by politicians shortly after who made a big fuss about it, but it was an officer operating under his own conscience who got the change happening. When I left I believe nearly every resident who had been in Juliet had either been successful in their asylum claim, or deported.

Another area not reported to the best of my knowledge was the boatload of Indonesian Christians we received. This occurred during the time of the heightened tensions between Indonesia and Australia over East Timor’s independence. A small group of officers were assigned to look after them in ‘India’ block in an attempt to keep it as quiet as possible. From memory the majority were from Aceh, a hot spot for Muslim/Christian violence. Not one word leaked out to the media, and to the best of my knowledge all were resettled as quietly as possible. It may have led to a small war if Australia had been seen to be accepting these people and destabilizing Indonesia at the same time we were assisting in separating East Timor from Indonesia.

Another weakness of the Australian system is its appeal as a source of funding for some rather nasty organizations. A case in point was the Sri Lankan Tamils. Almost without exception they were young men, sent by the Tamil Tigers military to provide funding for further operations. Pretty well every one of them was hard working, friendly and quite nice blokes so this is not a slur on them personally. However the Tamil movement paid for, and sent them over as an investment. These boys were expected to send funds back to the Tamil movement, and if they had any second thoughts, their families were effectively hostages. That’s a downside to immigration protection I haven’t seen acknowledged by any refugee advocate, though many profess to be well informed. The doing of a good deed (offering protection) has been helping fund a guerrilla movement which causes much suffering.

Visitors

Another topic harped on by the media. In general visitors were allowed for 4 hours a day at PH. However if we were short staffed (deliberately by upper management) it became extremely difficult to manage. If a security incident occurred (called a CERT 1) visitors would be bundled out with little explanation. In addition many visitors were turned away because detainees didn’t want to see them. The detainee would then claim he hadn’t been told they were there, thus generating a bit more drama and (hopefully) publicity.

I will touch on the conduct of certain of the visitors. Nearly every group of uni ladies that visited ended up screwing a detainee in the visitor’s yard. You weren’t ‘fooling the man’. We just left you at it as long as you were reasonably subtle about it. I still think you were naive and stupid, but that’s all. In addition smuggling drugs in is so extraordinarily stupid I shouldn’t have to mention it, but it still happened.

The media

I’m singling out the ABC for odium on this issue. There is a group calling themselves “project safecom” which is basically one crank and a website. The ABC used this man as a source of stories with regard to detention issues, printing and reporting any allegation he cared to make. This allowed them the luxury of a ‘cut out’ so when stories were unreliable it was the source’s fault not theirs.

They were never reporters but advocates. They saw fit to send up a media crew to cover a protest by 15 individuals, but never panned the camera back to show how few were there. If we had a riot, the ABC was the first organization to be called. When we finally obtained the ability to switch off the phones remotely, residents just phoned before the riot started instead.

I will never believe any story by the ABC any longer; it’s damaged goods for me. I’ve been present at incidents reported on the ABC and it’s been 99% lies or propaganda.

Families

There were two types of families, those who genuinely loved and protected their children, and those who used them. The vast majority of parents looked after their kids, and detainees did the right thing by them as well. However there was a small minority that sought to use their kids as tools.

One family in particular was involved in a major riot. During this riot one of our pregnant female officers was struck, and lost her child, shattering her mentally. Mum was breaking up pavers, the 2 younger kids were running them forward, and dad and the 2 oldest boys were throwing them. A nice day’s outing.

The active rioters were rounded up and placed in lockdown. That was when the manipulation and using of the kids started. The parents refused to allow the kids to be separated and placed with another family, therefore keeping the whole family in lockdown. Management were left with the option of either releasing them as a group or keeping them locked down as a group. Management chose to keep them locked down, for which they were criticized by pollies again.

This same family was involved in multiple incidents, usually by dad sending the kids off to smash/damage things. That was a challenge to deal with, and I was amused to note the same family receiving a lot of “poor victim” coverage in a book which was released.

Another incident was the witnessed molestation of a small girl. The father refused to lay charges, and it was my strong belief he was pimping her out. As the family refused to lay charges the matter was dropped.

Internal discipline inside Port Hedland

I have had the advantage of seeing very good management and some of the worst.

However when I was seeing the good management, I didn’t realize how effective it was till it was gone. In fact I thought it was unjust and overly harsh, but it saved massive amounts of suffering, both by officers and detainees.

The standard response for an act of violence or vandalism was a week in the “chokey”. Chokey was a small constantly lit high security room located near the control room. Residents in chokey weren’t allowed visitors, phone calls (except lawyers), and spent the remaining 23 hours out of 24 in the room. It was unpleasant; detainees hated it.

It didn’t matter if the window breaking (the most common damage) was in response to bad news, a justified complaint or malicious, a week in chokey was the response. That’s why I originally thought it was overly harsh.

Boy was I wrong. We lost the 2 managers who had enforced this discipline and replaced them with a revolving door of clowns and fuckwits. They tried appeasement to control the troublemakers.

Some examples: A group of Iranian thugs decided they wanted to pinch the TVs from the common rooms (2 in each block) and place them in their own. This left the detainees behaving responsibly with no TVs. Management let them keep them and brought more each time they were stolen/broken.

Fire alarms were deliberately disabled as they went off when people smoked in their rooms. Toothpaste was squirted into sensors and the sensors were torn from ceilings. Nothing was done.

Windows were smashed regularly. This led to the central air con for the block being unable to cool the block effectively, causing discomfort to detainees. Nothing was done, other than to ask the detainee why they had done it, and what they could be given so it didn’t happen again.

All this culminated in a fairly obvious way. Detainees who were well-behaved got less than troublemakers. I actually had reasonable detainees apologize to me for what they had done or were about to do, as they learnt that the only way to get something was to act negatively. We went from having random incidents occasionally with individuals, to having large scale vandalism and violence by hundreds of detainees at a time.

Management taught them to act like that.

Australasian Correctional Management was the worst organized/run company in Australia. However I will accuse the LMHU of being firmly in bed with them to the detriment of employees.

We raised a large log of claims which we attempted to place before the LMHU. They refused to assist as they didn’t have one of their people near Port Hedland. They had many paying members but refused to assist us. We contacted the AWU who successfully fought and won our log of claims in the Industrial Relations Commission. The commissioner was absolutely scathing of ACM’s conduct and made a number of orders.

The LMHU sued to have this overturned as the AWU wasn’t our official union. They won and never followed up the log of claims, many of which would have seen improvements for both staff and detainees.

Staff behaviour

Staff behaviour was generally good. Port Hedland was run and staffed by detention officers, with a completely different culture from prisons. Bad officers were weeded out pretty quick, with only a few “care bears” (soft officers) the only cause for concern.

I know of at least one escape facilitated by a female “care bear” officer who had allowed herself to be seduced by a male detainee. In addition to that we had one kitchen staff member and a male officer who both quit, then carried on relationships with detainees they had become attracted to. I consider that appropriate (in that the staff members quite before they entered into a relationship).

None of the people I went through training with were thugs. There were few at PH, and again they were weeded out/forced out pretty quickly.

However, a couple of the sites to which I was seconded were extremely badly staffed. ACM got permission to use prison staff as detention officers (Ruddock’s biggest mistake). 90% of them were absolutely terrible at dealing with detainees without treating them like criminals. We managed to keep long term detainees quiet and (reasonably) content for years at a time. Due to the piggish, arrogant and at times brutal mistreatment of detainees at prison-staffed centers, they had major riots and disturbances within 6 months.

A little example: I was seconded to Curtin detention centre for 6 weeks. I saw men crying in the dirt due to lack of support from staff/management. On one occasion I was manning the gate when a delegation approached me. There was a man who spoke English well, and one of the older well-respected men in the compound. The interpreter explained the older man had only received some paperwork a day ago and it had to be sent off today. I asked permission to look, and saw it was an application for his appeal, which had been sent the day before, despite his lawyer having had it for over 2 weeks. His lawyer should have been shot for this. I asked the (prisons) supervisor for relief while I got this sorted and sent. It was refused.

I explained that by spending 5 minutes sorting this I would save a large amount of trouble later on, as the old fellow was well liked and respected. Again I was refused.

I eventually told him to get fucked and went and sent the fax myself, only to have him front up and take a swing at me that night at the guard’s quarters. However, I saw no better example of their mindset, they’d rather fuck someone around and cause a great deal of grief for detainees (and officers, when the riot started) than do the right thing and defuse the situation.

Finally, what do I think of the directions of the Immigration debate?

This will shock many, but Ruddock did the most humane thing in the world.

  • He stopped the boats.
  • He stopped more SIEVXs.
  • He stopped the trafficking of people by criminal gangs.
  • He stopped people being thrown overboard mid-voyage (not kids, this was murders)
  • He stopped the criteria for refugee protection being who could pay a smuggler.

I sent a submission to the new immigration minister when it was called for last year, offering advice and answers to any questions he and his staff might have on immigration detention issues. I received back a terse reply along the lines of “your experiences are out of date and irrelevant and won’t be considered.”

I have great confidence the new minister has already signaled to smugglers that their business is back open. When this leads to deaths, it will be as a result of people who are acting with the best of intentions to prevent a number of smaller evils (mandatory detention) which are easily visible, while not being aware of the much greater evils they are helping facilitate.

The single greatest stopper of the boats wasn’t the excision of parts of Australia or the Pacific Solution. It was the introduction of the temporary protection visa. Mr Sidotis’ Evans’ first action as immigration minister was to reverse that decision. In addition he has overturned a couple of other minor deterrents the only function of which was to prevent failed asylum seekers from re-entering Australia on a legal visa and re-applying.

I can only pray he can sleep when the next SEIVX comes to grief. There is a direct line between doing what appears to be right, and causing the deaths of people.

If anyone has specific questions about incidents/rumors they’d like clarification on please put them in comments. My memory is a little hazy on many items, but I will do my best to answer as truthfully as I can.

[LE: minor update – “inappropriate” replaced by “appropriate” and clarification re relationships between detainees and staff members.

Second update: Name of minister corrected in response to Andrew Bartlett’s comments.]

21 Comments

  1. Posted April 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    “Maybe we should stop pretending they are not a horrible totalitarian regime and trading with them like they are our best buddies, and start calling a spade a spade?”

    Once again you emote rather than think seriously. If we stopped trading with them hundreds of millions of Chinese would be financially ruined and mass starvation would occur. We would then have a failed state with a huge nuclear arsenal. Everybody would lose.

    Your problem is that you subscribe to the cartoonish notion that every global problem has a neat solution and that we in the West are both morally obliged and capable of delivering the solution, if only we were nice enough to try.

    I’d prefer to see Australia fix the shithole in its backyard, namely indigenous disadvantage, before trying to save the world.

  2. Lang Mack
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Spirited debate, it had to drift, the outstanding thing is that mostly civility was carried out.
    Then again ,that is the expected.

  3. tal
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Kudos for posting this ladies and yes Mr Bartlett’s posts were nasty.We must engage everyone in this debate and sometime we have to listen to things we don’t want to hear.As you were.

  4. tal
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    OT Helen do you need a care package :)

  5. Posted April 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh well, for the record, I’m with Andrew B. Everything he said was right on the money, and he was only scratching the surface.

    So many speculations, prejudices and cozy generalisations; Newspeak (“staff” called the detainees “residents” – obviously not Permanent Residents); hollow “I was the nice guard” stuff, which is immaterial to the main issue; “firm but fair” cheers for the tough boss (actually he was just firm).

    Other apparent insights of TFM:

    Not all detainees were saints (doh!); people behave badly in detention (it’s sooo stressful for the staff); and cheers for Phil Ruddock on behalf of Fortress Australia, though I don’t see much in TFM’s experience of the camps which particularly qualifies him to offer first-hand conclusions about that.

    I don’t blame LE and SL for allowing TFM’s post, and it is an interesting document, but I certainly don’t think much of it. My questions/comments at the foot of the Einfeld comment thread remain pertinent, imho.

  6. Sir Charles Ponsonby
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the post TFM.

    Paul, that’s an interesting observation. Maybe Mr Rudd wears a blindfold when he enters negotiations with the Chinese. Mr Rudd berates us for spewing pollutants into the air but he then adopts a sotto voce approach when it comes to Chinese pollution. Maybe theirs is a mild, less harmful type.

    What amazes me about refugees, both genuine and non-genuine, and asylum shoppers is the lack of standards they have to meet compared to the locals. Most of them arrive on our shores without any paperwork and if their application to stay is successful they are eligible for welfare. Welfare recipients are given about 21 days to open a bank account in order to receive payments. How does one open a bank account without any paperwork (I think you have to score 100 points…driver licence, passport etc)? At some of the detention centres a new arrival can have his arse in a dentist’s chair in a matter of days after arrival. There is no upper limit on the dental treatment he or she may receive. A TPI pensioner can only receive one dental crown (about $645) per calendar year. Our once embarrassing White Australia Policy, heavily associated with racism, would seem to be the goal of some of the detainees so how can we rid ourselves of the racism tag when we are importing racists? Why can’t we run a case in court relying merely on our say-so? If you go to court on a substantial matter you will be asked to provide evidence…proof. Unless your name is Einfeld no judge is just going to accept your word. We had one high court case dealing with two homosexual Sri Lankans who feared violence from other villagers if they were sent home. Proof? They said so, so it must be true. Contrast that with an incident of violence that happened very recently. The CCTV footage is required along with eye witness accounts if the matter is to go forward. Why not get someone to stand up in court and point to the villains and say ‘they did it’? Why should standards of evidence be so malleable?

    In conclusion, what are we to make of the 200 poor sods currently living at Woomera? The locals are subjected to the harshness and isolation in that ‘hot desert location.’ True, there is no razor wire but the sheer isolation acts as their razor wire. Why no concern for their welfare?

  7. Posted April 2, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tal (and sorry about the OT for everyone else), let me know when you arrive in Blighty and we’ll catch up. I’m in Scotland from April 8 for a couple of weeks, but otherwise am in Oxford. You can get most Aussie things here now, but some nice Aussie honey wouldn’t go astray — honey here has no taste.

  8. thefrolickingmole
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    marcellous

    Considering you post on the Einfeld thread took the well worn route of “detention center officers = Nazis” I shouldn’t worry to much about replying to you. You have made you camp in the morally pure, but not taking a hard decision area.

    Hers a “nasty officer story for you then since only devoting about 1/2 of my article pointing out errors and problems weren’t enough for you.

    In my 4 years at PH I used a baton exactly once.
    I was in well over 20 incidents where we kitted up and stood around as people threw rocks at us. I call that rather restrained.

    I never used a closed hand on a detainee, all efforts at control of violent/ property damaging people were aimed at restraining with the least damage to either myself or the detainee.

    And just out of interest what group name do you think officers should have used for detainees? Residents was chosen as the least judgmental, even failed applicants were still called the same general term.

    I have spent thousands of hours talking with detainees, there were blokes Id have let out in a minute and there are others who were released who will make bad residents of Australia.

    Heres a use of force I authorized as shift boss one night shift.

    Resident a had received a notification his initial application had been turned down, he took this badly and was placed under suicide watch (still in the compound but to be sighted by an officer every 1/2 hour).
    He became more distressed as the night progressed and a small group of his friends indicated to me they were sure he would attempt self harm before the morning.
    I asked a how he was and he indicated he wanted to die and we should leave him alone to do so.

    I brought him up to the control room along with another detainee “b” a friend of his with good English.

    I asked a to stay overnight in an observation room as we were concerned for his safety. He agreed. I asked a to change into the suicide smock (a one piece tear proof garment) which he refused to do. This led to over 4 hours of talking to a via b interpreting to try to get him to change. This was necessary as it was not unknown for detainees to hide the blades of razors in their everyday clothing.
    After spending the 4 hours trying to get this done peacefully I called center management and asked to use force, as I was concerned the detainee was a serious risk to himself.
    Permission was given and myself and 2 other officers used force to remove a’s clothing.

    It was done not out of bloody mindedness but because I was seriously concerned this bloke would self harm. I dealt with large numbers of detainees who were on watch, that’s the only man (while I was shifty)
    I was ever concerned enough about to take those steps.

    Why did I take the job? It was just a job, then after a while you stay to help look after your workmates. You can also waste a lot of time trying to get changes made to improve things.

    Why bring up the reader? The “caring classes” endless tying to hype immigration detention into a modern day Belsen is frankly ludicrous.

    People were held in administrative detention until they were either found to be refugees, and released, or found NOT TO BE REFUGEES and held for deportation.
    To conflate that to the Nazis is beneath contempt.

  9. Posted April 12, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Crushed!

  10. Margos Maid
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Frollicker, thanks for sharing these experiences. This is by far the most informative piece I’ve ever read on detention centres. It’s disturbing to see that our policies on these things are influenced by both media and policy makers who seem to neck and neck as to who is the most incompetent.

  11. John Greenfield
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Frollicker

    Great post. Confronting and bracing, and bloody necessary reading.

    But I had to have a really long bath after reading Andrew Bartlett’s bile, especially when it is recalled that the ALP built the concentration camps due to Luvvies like Bartlett, and their continual Stuff-White-People-Like tanties kept Howard in power for 372 years.

    Thanks Andrew.

  12. Daniel
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    There’s a confusing typo: “(in that the staff members quite [sic] before they entered into a relationship).”

    Thanks for an interesting read. I urge you to put your name to it and have it published mainstream.

  13. Patrick
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks, a great read and consistent with my experience of immigration in several countries around the world.

    It would be funny watching some peoples’ knees jerking if the topic were less serious.

    I also agree with the LDP policy in this area, with some minor modifications.

  14. Henry2
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Gday folks,

    My first time reading this post, and that in light of the recent boat smash at Christmas Island.
    I have always been agnostic on areas of immigration and refugees.
    When you see the pictures of people newly refugeed from war, the glazed look in their eyes from trauma, all their remaining worldly goods wrapped up in what ever they can carry or push, how can you not feel pity?
    I have maintained for many years now that one generation is all it takes to create an aussie out of whatever clay comes from O/S.
    If we dont take the opportunity to bring people in in reasonable numbers, Im sure that one of our close, heavily populated neighbours will offer to come and populate the place for us.

    I am influenced by evidence of ghettoism and perhaps wonder if bringing too many folks from one place to one place may inhibit the development of aussies in one generation.

    Having said all of that this craziness of encouraging people to board extremely ordinary craft, whilst in the process paying exorbinant amounts of money to criminals for the priviledge is ludicrous. Who cares if somebody overstays on a plane trip? At least there the plane doesnt end up in flames on the tarmac.
    There is one sure fire way of stopping the boats and that is the way advocated by Bolt et al.
    Send the hundred from on the boat back to port of departure and in return take two hundred in their place. I have yet to see a credible argument against this as a means of stopping the encouragement of folk onto unstable vessels at the whim of criminals.

    Regards,

    Frank

  15. PAUL WALTER
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    This is the same f…..g mole who was debating Fran Barlow at LP today? Sent off a comment of my own, on the same thing, but it sits there in the spaminator still. God knows why. It’s a lefty blog and my opinion on this is to the left of Henry2.

    I think it’s been a horrific thing, more evidence of the inhumanity of people toward other people. The fact that some people (vocally, often) celebrate the loss of life is something I find as worrying as the tragedy itself.
    For the moment, will avoid further finger pointing- there are others far more adept at this than me.

  16. Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Since this post has been reanimated, I’ll repeat the comment I made @11:

    2004 taught me that the maintenance of historically high rates of immigration in a welfare state almost inevitably leads to various forms of prejudicial nastiness, and that the prejudice is well-founded. Low skill immigrants hurt the poor (driving down wages) and — by and large — mean that middle class people get cheaper house servants. Low-skill immigrants and their access to welfare are also heavily subsidized by working-class people’s taxes. The process isn’t pretty, and the refusal by many on the anti-detention centre side to acknowledge that those ‘on Howard’s side’ may actually have had arguments — serious economic arguments, since documented by the likes of George Borjas — was utterly infuriating.

    Those on the right — if they have any sense — have had to learn to accept the people’s verdict on, say, Workchoices. One may argue with the people as one may argue with one’s spouse, but in the end, one must submit to the fact of being married. It is simply unreasonable to express a desire to ‘elect a new people’. People on the left need to do the same when it comes to mandatory detention, and anti-immigration sentiment generally.

    I see no evidence that the debate has moved on, and I’m still grateful to LE for commissioning and Mole for writing this piece. It’s a useful corrective.

  17. PAUL WALTER
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    SL, I don’t suppose you have caught up with a conversation between Andrew Barlett and Prof. Mark Diesendorf, involving the journal “Overland” at Bartlett’s blog?

    The enviro/ pop/ refugees/migrants/development thing is going to be the death of the Greens, unless people start adopting the course you advocate, which would entail the effort of a good think rather than more anger.

  18. PAUL WALTER
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    The comment at 17 is exquisite, too.

  19. Posted December 17, 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Have you got a link, Paul? I’d be interested to see that, if you’ve got a moment. Don’t worry about trying to embed the code, just cut and paste the URL and I’ll let you out of the spammer if you get caught.

  20. Posted December 17, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    [email protected]/116 Anti-immigrant sentiment is not, in fact, general in Oz. There is serious public hostility to folk “rocking up by water” but not refugees and migrants generally.

    It is about a sense of control and having a say. Boat arrivals are very public illegal immigration and broadcast a lack of ordinary citizen say in migration while undermining the basic value of one set of rules for everyone: indeed, the arrivals are signalling that they are flouting that principle.

    It is important to have a sense of what really annoys folk, rather than the “it’s just xenophobia/racism/callousness” nonsense one sees.

    There is some resentment of job competition, welfare and crowding costs, but it is not a majority sentiment as long as there is seen to be reasonable border control.

    That the inner city intelligentsia — which is advantaged by high migration through increased house prices and other increased relative scarcity of its human and other capital — re-characterises the issue in order to condescend to/morally lord it over other (and particularly working class) Australians is noxious.

  21. PAUL WALTER
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Sorry, 119 can’t get it – hopeless with these things. 120, a fair bit of common sense. Onya.

    Nothing has been managed more clumsily in this country than immigration and population, over recent times. As you say, right across the spectrum, too many people or organisations with fish of their own to fry re, for want of a better word “ethnicity”.

    And it’s an issue that is tricky for people, as they to try to balance out “doing right”, against legitimate (and illegitimate) self concern, particularly when so much contradictory information flies about concerning it all. I guess my original thing was, the Xmas Island disaster is nothing to be proud or gleeful about, as some at tabloid blogs have claimed – that’s weird.

    Then again, I remember experiencing the “ressentiment”, as to Seiv X nearly a decade ago msyself, thinking, “serves em right for smart arsing”. Since then, we’ve learnt that most of these people are in fact both genuine and worthwhile; people we would be happy to have within our own family and circle of friends.

    Other aspects over the years had me wondering about Australian sincerity, including my own, on these things and the uncomfortable feeling that all is not well with these things is what has me seeking out opinion at blogsites and the like.

    Now, off for some shopping…bah humbug, hard life, moan, etc, blah. Meanwhile, on a tropical island thousands of miles from anywhere, a body is being washed up on a beach, because no one cared.

7 Trackbacks

  1. […] are way, way late to this discussion but a link from kae has alerted us to this sensational article by a former immigration detention officer at Port Hedland in north western Australia. It is […]

  2. […] an extract from a post I wrote over at skepiclawyer a while […]

  3. […] thinks Bolt has been harsh should check out the work of Frollicking Mole. Mole, a former detention officer at Port Hedland knows more about the asylum seeker debate than most. Frollicker is naming […]

  4. By The SIEV 221 « James Board on December 20, 2010 at 9:18 am

    […] Inside a detention centre – from an insider’s point of view. […]

  5. By The SIEV 221 « The Tizona Group on December 20, 2010 at 9:43 am

    […] Inside a detention centre – from an insider’s point of view. […]

  6. By Christmas Comes Early To The Island. on March 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    […] If you spend enough time at Aussie blogs, you might come across a rare sighting of a commenter by name of The Frollicking Mole. The Mole has worked in the detention centres, and has had his say about it. […]

  7. […] If you spend enough time at Aussie blogs, you might come across a rare sighting of a commenter by name of The Frollicking Mole. The Mole has worked in the detention centres, and has had his say about it. […]

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