“Unethical law” gags doctors on speaking out about mistreatment 195



View Profile

Two peak medical organisation have spoken out about a new law coming into effect this week they say will intimidate doctors and prevent them from speaking out against alleged abuse.

The Immigration Department and the Customs service will become a joint agency from today with a new Australian Border Force serving under it.

This new system will include a secrecy provision that could result in government contracted workers, including those working in offshore detention centres, being jailed for two years for speaking about conditions or events at the centres.

Speaking with Lateline last night, Brian Owler, President of the Australian Medical Association said, “This law is designed to intimidate people against speaking out. There is no reason why doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers should be stopped from speaking up about concerns that they have for the care of their patients, whether they’re detainees or anyone else in our society.”

Nicholas Talley from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians,  agreed.

“Evil thrives when good people turn a blind eye. I’m very worried about, you know, a gagging effect, where indeed, information is not being provided where it needs to be provided. And in this case, I would argue this law is faulty, it’s unethical, it needs to be repealed,” he said.

Eleven other health groups have also spoken out against the secrecy provision and say it should be scrapped.

Introducing the secrecy provision, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said, “This provision… provides assurance to industry and our domestic and international law enforcement and intelligence partners that sensitive information provided to the Australian Border Force and my department more broadly will be appropriately protected. The provision also enables authorised disclosure where this is appropriate.”

Ryan Essex, who worked as a counsellor in immigration detention for several years, has written in the Guardian about his experiences, doing so today “before this modest piece of dissent could put me in front of a judge”

He writes, “Whatever side of the asylum seeker debate you stand on, the Border Force Act should alarm you. This legislation has implications beyond clinicians working in immigration detention. It raises questions about the entire medical profession, complicity, and their stance on ethical and human rights issues.”

Mr Essex says, “I have seen the damage Nauru and Manus have done; sending psychotic people, broken and defeated to Villawood after all options were exhausted offshore. I could tell you about the self-harm I have seen and I should put this on record one more time, as it may be the last, that immigration detention has a devastating and long-lasting impact on mental health.”

He adds that he hopes people will continue to speak about the conditions inside detention centres despite the secrecy law. “The fact this may now be illegal and seen as ‘sensational’ shows just how much there is to hide.”

Do you think health workers and other government-contracted workers should be be bound by law to secrecy? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. The problem with this Government is they seem to have no stance on ethics on any issue. All the lies before the election to get Government and now trying to gag people including doctors on the condition of these asylum seekers and the continually petty whining aout the ABC makes me wonder what they have to hide. Children have been sexually abused on Naru and Manus, what else is going on that we don’t know about? It is becoming scary, bit by bit not only are these asylum seekers rights being eroded but our right to know what is happening in our name is vanishing

  2. This is a serious issue we seem to be heading for a dictatorship in this country, what next will they ban new elections? We seem to be running on fear and scaremongering and secrecy

    1 REPLY
    • When this gov’t instills “martial law” under the guise of “security & safety”, that’s when new elections won’t be held. Has happened in other so-called democratic countries, and, who’s to say it won’t happen here?!

  3. A disgraceful ‘law’. Completely OTT and unacceptable. Those who voted for this appalling ‘government’ should hang their heads in shame.

  4. There are plenty of examples in history that should remind us of what happens when governments gaol people for speaking up about human abuses. This is a dangerous law and I cant beleive people still support this fear mongering, denegrating government even if they dont care about refugees. Dont speak up, dont come back, dont associate – this government is doing everything it can to stifle free thinking – heaven help us all.

    18 REPLY
    • One wouldn’t guess that your a Labor voter, would one. ?

      1 REPLY
      • Blind Freddy could see this is wrong Joe – no matter who he voted for.

    • You can guess all you like Joe Rudzyn but you dont have a clue how I vote. The last time I checked the register there were 53 political parties in Australia, and I might vote formal, informal or donkey.

    • This is not about party politics . It’s about being a decent human being and caring about the rights of others .

    • Well Joe, one must presume YOU’RE a liberal/Nation voter, or you wouldn’t immediately move to the denigration of anyone with an opinion inconsistent with the right wing thought process.

    • While we love a passionate debate, please remember that personal attacks are not tolerated on our page. Those who do so will be issued a warning and then banned for 24 hours, or permanently.

    • Starts at 60, having read ur post, I am questioning whether my comment was too inappropriate, or I had gone too far. The problem is, as I see it, that some others (with only one eye) will not give even a seconds thought that it might be about their comments (as well). And thats the problem in a nutshell.

    • Liz Deakin – I don’t care how you vote at all. That’s irrelevant. You speak and sound like a labor voter, that’s all that matters.

    • Chris Tetley – yes I vote Liberal. Labor spends your money till they run out and then they borrow till you go bankrupt. The lib’s will spend only what they have and only borrow to build infrastructure that will give us all a return in the future. When Labor becomes fiscally responsibly, it is possible they would get my vote. I think I will be waiting a long time. The debt keeps growing because Labor is stopping all the Liberal policies in the Senate. Even when their not in power they are still destroying the economy.

    • So that’s why they have doubled our debt in such a short time Joe? Why are LNP voters so in denial ?

    • Joe, unfortunately the facts belie your comments on fiscal responsibility – Howard, most profligate government, current deficit doubled under Hockey. As for stopping policies in the Senate, Labor is NOT stopping ALL the policies in the Senate, only those it considers bad, and for the most part I support them. I dont think everything Labor stands for is good, nor do I think everything the Libs have proposed is bad, but on balance, I know where I stand and why. If more people considered all aspects on each subject, instead of blindly following a party line, we would have a better informed electorate and more positive discussions on many topics.

    • So Joe Rudzyn are you suggesting that the Labor Party has a humanitarian stance and that is how I should vote? If not, why comment at all? My comment was related to free speech and the law not party politics.

    • On very few occasions Anne does this forum breach any ‘rules of engagement’ so please be aware that ‘offence’ is a choice . Debate is often robust and as you say makes one think on a different level, for some at least! So to suggest that even more rules be applied is very frustrating. We are grown adults, enough with the political correctness, let’s leave that to our esteemed moralisers in charge. We will soon all be wearing ankle bracelets to leave the house! When the site is being deliberately trolled then the person needs to be called on it.

    • Elda Mulrine Quinton None of your comments have any relevance to the question/topic. If spelling is your topic, you are in the wrong post and Joe Ruzden being a caring human being is above politics. Let’s stick to the topic.

  5. Ok here is a scenario. Something is happening in workplace, worker does not agree with. He then goes to his union and complains. The union then investigates. No name are mentioned. The union sees something is wrong and takes it from there. What they are doing is making people join unions. Unions will get strong again. So the govt who tried to shut the unions out in the past will fall flat on their faces. Up the unions!!!!

  6. We have chaplains in our schools, so our children learn morals and ethics, we should send all those chaplains to parliament house, ethics in short supply there!!

    1 REPLY
    • Family can’t teach children about ethics and morals and the difference between them. Once again the power of the family being eroded by ‘father knows best’ attitudes. Ethics and morals are not something that those of religion have any special sway over, just review the history of religion and the religious throughout the ages. Not a good record.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *