Australians against deportation of refugees

Angela Fredericks with Nadesalingnam, Priya and their two daughters, Dharuniga and Kopiga

By Max Newman in Australia:

Biloela resident: “It is really important that we stand up”

Australian rural town continues to fight deportation of Tamil refugee family

2 February 2019

Angela Fredericks is one of the leaders of a determined campaign by residents from the rural Queensland town of Biloela for the freedom of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees Nardesalingnam (referred to as Nardes) and Priya and their two infant daughters.

On March 5 last year, the family was detained in a pre-dawn raid by Australian Border Force officers and guards from the British-based security company Serco, and imprisoned thousands of kilometres away in Melbourne, pending deportation to Sri Lanka. Nardes was a meat worker at the local Teys Australia abattoir.

Biloela is a town of about 6,000 people, about 120 kilometres inland from the port city of Gladstone, Queensland, on the southern edge of the Bowen Basin, a large coal-mining region. The fight being waged by the town’s residents, and thousands of others around the country, belies the media image of popular support for the anti-refugee policy of successive governments. Almost 180,000 people have signed an online petition to stop the deportation.

The Biloela campaign legal team last month lodged a special leave application in the High Court, challenging earlier Federal Court rulings backing the government. Their deportation was scheduled for February 1. However, Minister for Immigration David Coleman confirmed through his lawyers in the afternoon of February 1, that they will not remove the family while the application for special leave remains pending in the court.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, whose ministerial portfolio previously covered immigration, has refused to intervene to grant visas to the family, and prejudged their appeal by declaring on January 14: “The family has gone through multiple court processes. At every single turn they’ve been found not to be refugees.”

Such deportations are a central component of the “border protection” policy, created and enforced by Labor and Liberal-National Coalition governments alike. This regime denies the basic right to asylum to all people who attempt to reach Australia by boat, either forcing them back to sea, imprisoning them indefinitely or forcibly deporting them.

In 2012, the … Labor government began the “fast-track” removal of Sri Lankan refugees, about 6,000 of whom fled to Australia between 2011 and 2013, fearing persecution.

Labor struck an agreement with the Sri Lankan government for the deportation of all the refugees, without even considering their claims to asylum. This immediately resulted in 700 refugees being sent back to the authorities in Colombo, with about 1,000 more still facing the same treatment, according to Home Affairs Department statistics.

The High Court sanctioned this process in 2017, even though it was proven such refugees suffered appalling conditions of imprisonment, including “torture, maltreatment and violence.”

The World Socialist Web Site recently interviewed Angela Fredericks.

Angela Fredericks outside the Australian parliament

Why have the people in Biloela taken up this campaign?

It began initially because we were all so distressed and broken-hearted at the fact that good friends of ours had been taken away. It started as an outrage at how they were taken. But then, as we have learnt more about their claim for serious protection, it became more about saying that these are the sort of citizens we want, even regardless of refugee status. Why take away people that fill important needs in our community?

Could you describe how the community found out about the dawn raid?

The first thing is the secrecy. It wasn’t until a good week later that we managed to unfurl what had happened, after we spoke to their neighbour, who was traumatised by what she witnessed.

The neighbour described hearing Priya screaming. This still sends shivers down my spine imagining it. She then ran out and saw the house surrounded by police officers and Serco guards, all armed. The neighbour was not allowed to go and comfort Priya, even though she owned the property the family was living in. She then watched as Priya and Nardes were put in a vehicle and the girls were put in separate vehicle.

That was the initial description, but we then heard it again from Priya and Nardes, after they were allowed to use a phone. We heard how they were basically given a very short amount of time to pack up their lives and they had no idea what was going to happen to them.

It was around 5am, and the family were starting the day like any other. Nardes was dressed and was about to head off to work. His keys were left in his car, with his wallet. There was meat in the sink defrosting, a baby bottle left on the bench. They were treated like criminals.

Australian-born daughters, Dharuniga and Kopiga

Why do you think such an operation was carried out?

Honestly, I cannot imagine why the government would do it in such a manner. This only happens if you are taking away dangerous people or those who are a serious threat. The government has said that they did it so they wouldn’t escape, which is, quite frankly, ridiculous. How can you need 20 armed people to stop two adults and two toddlers from going anywhere? I mean, this is a family that wouldn’t hurt a fly.

It really scared me that the government can do this sort of thing and nobody raises a sound. We do like to believe that our government is doing the right thing.

Have there been other instances where refugees were taken and it was not reported to the community?

Definitely. Through this campaign we have been told so by our meat workers, at the local abattoir, where quite a few people who have come as refugees have been employed. We have been told stories about how workers turn up for work one day and somebody is just not there anymore. I find this quite sad as those are often single males who, because of the work hours and time restraints, have not been able to be part of the community.

A meat worker who witnessed losing people at the abattoir made the comment “when do we start hiding people in our houses?” If that is not a return to World War II, I don’t know what is.

The difference in this case is that this is a family we had gotten to know. They had built a network here.

How many people have been involved in the campaign in Biloela?

In terms of those who have written letters [to local MPs], come to events, who have helped fund raising, that is going into the hundreds. There are definitely people who have come on board who have never met them. People who have literally just heard the story.

I have been contacted also by people around Australia, in lots of small communities, who have said they are supporting a family just like Nardes and Priya and they are fearful those families are about to taken.

What has been the response by the abattoir and his workmates to Nardes’ removal?

His colleagues have all been very supportive. They have been distraught that the family has been taken. The difficultly is lots of the other people who work there are subject to immigration status. For lots of them they fear saying anything, but many have been silently supporting.

In terms of higher up in the meatworks, we have had letters of support. However, it has been quite interesting. Companies, councils and those that rely on the government to a certain extent haven’t been willing to say much out front or to the media.

This case has really highlighted to me that it is really important that we stand up and make sure we are not owned by anyone.

Could you comment on the remarks by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton?

Firstly, you tell me one person who decides they want to flee a country for war that is not of anybody’s making or choice. The fundamental flaw in his statement is the idea that it is illegal to seek asylum by boat. The [1951] Refugee Convention, that Australia has signed, states that there is no illegal way to seek asylum.

The other point which is incorrect is where he says the family has been through “multiple court processes” and found to be “non-genuine” refugees. Under the fast-track system, they have never had their claim heard by a court. Their status was looked at only two times. The first was by the Home Affairs Department and the second was by the IAA [Immigration Assessment Authority]. Both those reviews were conducted by a single person, so literally two people have found them not to be refugees.

The key thing is that Tamils are not on the list the government has of who warrants protection and who doesn’t. That is against the advice of the United Nations, Amnesty International and multiple other organisations, who say Tamils do need protection. So, the decision has been made because of that list and not because of their individual case.

Do you see a connection to what is happening to refugees internationally?

Yes. We are seeing the most refugees ever experienced. However, we spend too much time trying to fix this “problem.” Refugees are not the problem. They are the result of earlier problems.

World leaders are not doing enough to stop the creation of refugees. You read in so many statements that “Australia does more than enough for refugees.” Actually, the third-world or developing countries do more for refugees than first-world countries.

The cause of refugees comes down to world conflict, power and control. Any war is going to have casualties. Refugees are the causalities of war. Lots of first-world countries have participated in creating refugees. Even if they are not actually bombing countries, they remain silent.

Where is the campaign up to?

We have used January to create momentum. Throughout January we have had two weeks of letter writing to local MPs. We have followed up with phone calls. From January 19, we held protests and rallies across Australia. Our legal team has submitted paperwork for special leave to take the decision to the High Court. In the meantime, we are encouraging people to make contact with their local MPs and Peter Dutton.

At the end of the day, we don’t have faith that the court system will change anything for us. All the courts are deciding is whether the decision will be sent back to the IAA. So, we need the minister to intervene.

The author also recommends:

Australia: Biloela residents protest at pre-dawn removal of Tamil refugee family
[15 March 2018]

Australia: Biloela residents continue protests against deportation of Tamil refugee family
[2 July 2018]

Baby humpback whale saved from shark net

This ABC News video from Australia says about itself:

Humpback whale calf rescued off Gold Coast while mother watches on

8 October 2018

A whale calf has been freed after becoming caught in a shark net off Queensland’s Gold Coast. Rescuers said they believed the calf’s mother, who was swimming close by during the rescue, realised they were helping the calf and stayed calm.

Read more here.

New snake species discovery in Australia

Vermicella parscauda. Derez, Arbuckle, Ruan, Xie, Huang, et al., 2018

From Zootaxa today:

A new species of bandy-bandy (Vermicella: Serpentes: Elapidae) from the Weipa region, Cape York, Australia



Bandy-bandies (genus Vermicella) are small (50–100cm) black and white burrowing elapids with a highly specialised diet of blindsnakes (Typhlopidae). There are currently 5 recognized species in the genus, all located in Australia, with Vermicella annulata the most encountered species with the largest distribution.

Morphological and mitochondrial analyses of specimens collected from the Weipa area, Cape York, Queensland reveal the existence of a new species, which we describe as Vermicella parscauda sp. nov.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis (16S and ND4) and external morphological characteristics indicate that the closest relatives of the new species are not V. annulata, which also occurs on Cape York, but rather species from Western Australia and the Northern Territory (V. intermedia and V. multifasciata) which, like V. parscauda, occupy monsoon habitats.

Internasal scales are present in V. parscauda sp. nov., similar to V. annulata, but V. intermedia and V. multifasciata do not have nasal scales. V. parscauda sp. nov. has 55–94 black dorsal bands and mottled or black ventral scales terminating approximately 2/3rds of the body into formed black rings, suggesting that hyper-banding is a characteristic of the tropical monsoon snakes (V. intermedia, V. multifasciata and V. parscauda). The confined locality, potential habitat disruption due to mining activities, and scarcity of specimens indicates an urgent conservation concern for this species.

The ink has not yet dried on a scientific paper describing a new species of snake, yet the reptile may already be in danger of extinction due to mining. A team of biologists discovered a new species of bandy-bandy snake at Weipa on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula: here.

Brushtail possum in Australia

This video says about itself:

8 December 2017

On this episode of Breaking Trail, Coyote meets Blossom the incredibly CUTE Brushtail Possum!

The Common Brushtail Possum is one of Australia’s most adorable and widespread marsupials. Blossom is a rescued ambassador for her species that lives at the Billabong Sanctuary in Queensland Australia and she quickly became one of the crews favorite animals encountered on their recent visit down under! Get ready to meet the worlds cutest possum!

HUGE THANKS to the Billabong Sanctuary and their staff for hosting the crew at this location and for all the work they do to preserve Australias magnificent wildlife. To meet Blossom for yourself consider making a visit!

Breaking Trail leaves the map behind and follows adventurer and animal expert Coyote Peterson and his crew as they encounter a variety of wildlife in the most amazing environments on the planet!

White whale Migaloo protected by Australian police

This video from Australia says about itself:

24 September 2012

A one in a million chance encounter with Migaloo the white Humpback Whale as he leaves the Great Barrier Reef, migrating back to Antarctica after spending the worst of the southern hemisphere winter off Port Douglas.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 28 July 2016:

Migaloo under escort as whale watchers get too close for comfort

By Elise Kinsella and Damien Larkins

Authorities are escorting Migaloo the white whale up the south-east Queensland coast after a complaint of onlookers getting too close.

The Queensland State Government is investigating a complaint about people getting too close to the white whale off the Gold Coast.

As white whales are classified as special management marine creatures, boats must stay 500 metres from them, and aircrafts and drones must keep a distance of 610 metres.

Rangers will begin helping to protect Migaloo during his northern migration on Thursday, until he reaches the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles said it was important whale watchers respected the protection zones.

“The last thing we would want to see is for a whale like this to be injured in a boat strike,” he said.

“It’s just so important people keep their distance, especially as we understand there are a number of boats there.”

He said whale watchers could be fined if they went within the protection zones.

Humpback whales, they are big creatures, they can behave erratically,” he said.

Southern Cross University whale expert Dr Wally Franklin said tourist boats could stress humpback whales if they came too close.

“It’s very important while these whales are in this northward migration not to interfere with their travel, not to get in front of them,” he said.

“You only approach him at a very slow speed, matching his speed; you only come in from the left or right and do not interfere with his line of travel.”

White whale-watching rules:

Boats must stay 500 metres away

Aircraft and drones must stay 610 metres away

Approach whales from parallel and slightly to rear – never from behind or head-on

Move off slowly and leave no wake

Do not get into the water

Torresian crows in Australia studied

This is a Torresian crow video.

From Australian Field Ornithology, December 2015:

Exploring possible functions of vocalisations in the Torresian Crow ‘Corvus orru

Abstract: The vocal behaviour of the Corvidae (crows and ravens) is known to be complex and extremely diverse, although detailed studies of vocalisations within the family have been limited to only a few species. This study describes a pilot investigation into the potential functions of the vocalisations of Torresian Crows ‘Corvus orru’ in suburban Brisbane, Queensland, using playback to experimentally assess whether the apparent function of four calls determined during an earlier study were appropriate. These calls had been given the generalised function of contact, mobbing alarm, flee, and juvenile begging.

Ten trials (using different recordings of each call type) were broadcast to target groups of wild Crows and the proportion of Crows reacting as predicted was determined. We found that the purported function of three of the calls (contact, flee and begging calls) had been appropriately described, with a clear majority of the audience birds responding as predicted. Playback of the mobbing alarm call, however, resulted in no birds responding as predicted, indicating that the inferred function had been incorrectly attributed. The results gained from this study can be used to investigate further details of the possible function of vocalisations of the many other calls within the Torresian Crow communication system.

Good Great Barrier Reef news from Australia

This 2017 video is about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

From WWF:

Landmark victory for the Reef, and people power, as dredge spoil dump ban passed in Qld Parliament

Posted on 12 November 2015

New laws banning the sea dumping of industrial dredge spoil have passed in the Queensland Parliament in one of the most significant conservation victories ever for the Great Barrier Reef, said WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said that, for more than a century, dumping huge amounts of dredge spoil in Reef waters was the norm. But the continuing decline of Australia’s national icon sparked an international campaign to end this out-dated practice.

“For everyone around the world who cares about the Reef this is a moment to savour,” said Mr O’Gorman.

“We’ve stopped up to 46 million cubic metres of dredge spoil from being dumped in Reef waters in coming years.

“That’s enough dredge spoil to fill 4.6 million dump trucks. If you lined those trucks up end-to-end on Highway 1 they would circle Australia three times.

“This is a huge win for people power. We thank the scientists, mums and dads, Australians young and old, and concerned citizens around the world who have all contributed to this victory. And we thank the Federal and Queensland Governments for listening and acting,” he said.

AMCS Reef Campaign Director Imogen Zethoven said: “The dumping ban becoming law sits alongside the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the World Heritage Area and the green zones as landmark moments for Reef protection”.

In June the Federal Government banned the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. But in recent years about 80% of dumping has occurred outside the park, closer to shore. The Queensland Government’s Sustainable Ports Development Bill now extends protection to the whole World Heritage Area. It also restricts major new capital dredging to Townsville, Abbot Point, Gladstone, and Hay Point/Mackay.

WWF-Australia and AMCS thanked the Liberal-National Party Opposition and two cross benchers for joining the government to support the Ports Bill.

“It’s particularly heartening to see genuine bipartisan support for the new law, since it fulfils key commitments made to the World Heritage Committee in the Reef 2050 Plan. The Queensland LNP should be congratulated for strengthening their position on Reef protection,” Ms Zethoven said.

Ms Zethoven said many challenges remained.

“The latest dredging plan for Abbot Point could be approved any day, the promised ban on transhipping has not yet been achieved, the Ports Bill doesn’t cover dumping of dredge spoil from smaller projects like marinas, and each year about one million cubic metres of spoil from maintenance dredging is dumped in Reef waters,” she said.

AMCS and WWF want to work with the Queensland Government to reduce that volume per year and minimise the impacts.

WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571