Though disguised in beige words, legislation to ban mobile phones from people being held in immigration detention centres is a knife held at the throat of Australian decency, writes Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ. Source: Eureka Street.
In early October the Senate will vote on a bill that allows the Minister for Home Affairs to ban any items that he prohibits within immigration detention centres. His judgment will not be reviewable. The items that have caused most controversy have been mobile phones.
When considering the legislation we should begin by asking what place phones have in the life of people seeking protection. Phones connect people with family and friends both in Australia and overseas, allowing them to maintain relationships. The phone is the medium by which they can see the mountains and lakes of the lands they were forced to flee, the flowers, the streets and the towns.
For some people who have been detained for seven years or more, it is a lifeline. It allows them to hear news of their local areas and perspectives on its conflicts that they could never find in Australian media. It allows them to consult friends and agencies about the arcane and forbidding language of Government communications and to seek resources in their all-important claim for asylum.
In short, the phone has been an artery in the distinctively human life that distinguishes human beings from animals. Once it is cut, the lives of people detained can begin to die away. As would your life and mine wither were we placed in a similar situation.
Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.
Mobile phone bill threatens dignity and decency (Eureka Street)