Statement from the Board
Please find a statement from the Foundation House Board of Management regarding recent comments by Australian Greens Senator Hanson-Young:
Statement from the Board of Management
On 4 December 2014, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young made a number of statements about VFST CEO Paris Aristotle during a speech to the Senate about the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014.
We believe it is incumbent on a legislator who criticises a citizen using the privilege of the Parliament to take particular care to ensure their remarks are truthful. We are very disappointed that Senator Hanson-Young has not done so.
Paris has the full support of the Board of VFST. We stand by the work he has done and continues to do to ameliorate the often appalling conditions for asylum seekers, and to contribute to critical and extremely complex public policy discussion.
Chair, Board of Management VFST
8 December 2014
Paris takes this opportunity to respond to each of the Senator’s comments.
1. Senator Hanson-Young stated that I “drafted and negotiated this dirty hostage situation” and that I “negotiated a hostage situation hand in hand with Scott Morrison”, suggesting that I bear responsibility for the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection keeping children in detention as a means of pressuring Senators to support the legislation.
The statement is untrue. I have never advised the Minister to keep children in detention for any reason whatsoever. On the contrary, I have advocated over many years for the release of all asylum seekers from detention – children and adults – in accordance with international human rights standards. Furthermore, I have made my serious concerns about aspects of the bill very clear including the use of temporary protection visas, enhanced screening procedures, lack of family reunion, fair processing of claims and appeal rights in accordance with principles of natural justice. In addition I continue to raise the need for greater legal assistance, welfare support, work rights for asylum seekers, a much larger refugee quota and a proper regional protection system. I will continue to advocate on all of these issues.
2. Senator Hanson-Young stated that “Paris Aristotle told Prime Minister Gillard that it would be a good idea to freeze the applications of asylum seekers when they arrive here. He told Prime Minister Gillard that is how you stop the boats – stop processing people’s claims, introduce something called the ‘no advantage rule’, which would mean that people wouldn’t have their claims processed for five or six years – they would not even put a figure on it.”
The statement is untrue. At no time did I tell Prime Minister Gillard or any other Minister or departmental official that the applications of asylum seekers should be frozen in order to deter asylum seekers. The cessation of processing by the Labor Government was, for a short time, inappropriately explained by the then Government as an application of the ‘no advantage’ principle proposed by the Expert Panel of which I was a member, together with Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, AC AFC (Ret’d) and Professor Michael L’Estrange, AO. This was an incorrect interpretation of the Panel’s position. I pointed this out at the time and the attribution stopped. I have consistently advocated to the previous and the current government that the protection claims of asylum seekers should be promptly assessed.
3. Senator Hanson-Young stated that I do not “represent the refugee sector in this country.”
I have never claimed to represent “the refugee sector” and I am not aware that anyone has made such a claim about me. I believe I am well placed to contribute to the development of public policy relating to asylum seekers and refugees in Australia because I have worked in the field for more than 25 years.
4. Senator Hanson-Young stated that I am “a ministerial advisor.”
The implication of this comment is that I am inappropriately close to the current minister, and in that context it is highly misleading. It is a matter of public record that, in addition to my position as the CEO of the VFST, I have over many years been appointed to a number of advisory bodies, working to both Labor and Coalition ministers. These are Ministers Hand, Bolkus, Ruddock, Vanstone, Andrews, Evans, Bowen, O’Connor, Burke and Morrison.
For a PDF version, please click here Statement from the Board