Human rights

Manus refugees left to rot as son-of-a-refugee Frydenberg whines about s44

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Minister for the Environment and Energy (and son of a refugee) Josh Frydenberg whines about s44 as refugees on Manus collect drinking water in rubbish bins.

A humanitarian crisis of our making is unfolding on Manus Island, as more than 600 refugees are left to rot without food or water while Frydenberg whines about dual citizenship. Deputy editor Michelle Pini reports.

TODAY, the headlines are all about Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg and the question mark over his citizenship.

Meanwhile, there are over 600 refugees who fled persecution and came to us for help. They are stranded for the third day on a hostile island where we have dumped them — without water, food, medications or power.  

Without any sense of irony, Frydenberg, whose mother was a Hungarian refugee who fled persecution, said:

"It is absurd to think that I could involuntarily acquire citizenship of a foreign country from a stateless mother and grandparents."

I know I speak for many voters when I say what is absurd is that we pay these people (and their lawyers) and yet they are unable or unwilling to apply due diligence to the small matter of the Constitution!

The “debate” about Section 44 of the Constitution has been raging for months.

When questions arose over former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's citizenship, Prime Minister Turnbull did not take the honourable lead of Senators Ludlam and Waters and ask Joyce to stand down.

Instead, Turnbull tried channelling his inner clairvoyant and said, Joyce

" ... is qualified to sit in the house and the High Court will so hold."

We all know how that display of hubris turned out for Turnbull and his Government. 

In the meantime, instead of doing what they should have done when they ran for election to Parliament (which is governed by the Constitution) and make a few calls to their countries of origin, Frydenberg, Senate President Stephen Parry and an undetermined number of other Coalition dual citizens decided they were above the law.

Regardless of whether this part of the Constitution is still relevant or not — it’s the law! There are other, some may even say more, unjust areas of the law that could use changes — same-sex marriage and Indigenous recognition being two that come to mind. The former does not require Constitutional change – which is how former PM John Howard lumbered us with it – and constitutional change in the case of the latter, according to Turnbull, would be “undesirable”.

Of course, Section 44 is not the only area of the law considered important enough for our Government to try and make up its own rules, which brings us back to Manus Island.

We have learned in IA from refugee advocate Sarah Smith, who has maintained contact with the people on Manus, that the situation is desperate. We have learned from Senator Nick McKim (one of the few politicians prepared to speak out) who just left Manus Island, that it is a clear humanitarian crisis. And we have learned from journalist and Manus refugee Behrouz Boochani that the situation is 'a landscape of surreal horror'.

In another ironic twist, Boochani has been awarded a human rights medal, while he continues to be denied actual human rights on Manus Island.

The Australian Government – in this case, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, led by Peter Dutton – has cut off food, water, medication and power supplies. The situation is desperate.

Our Government took these people to PNG after deeming them to be illegal immigrants, again, not heeding laws – this time, international ones – inflicted them on an unwilling third world populace, detained them for four years and then walked away!

We drone on sanctimoniously and often about humanitarian crises happening in other parts of the world.

There is a humanitarian crisis right now on Manus Island! It is of our making. It doesn’t matter about the cruel and mean-spirited decisions made by both the Labor and Coalition governments that led to this crisis, or which one is more to blame.

This crisis is happening now and the Turnbull Government is in power so it’s the only one that can fix it.

Josh Frydenberg, Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton, step up!

Malcolm Turnbull, if you only make one worthwhile decision as Prime Minister, this is it! Step up and save these poor souls from certain death.

Show the world Australia is not a nation of unfeeling monsters.


For the rest of us, this is what we can all do right now to help.


  • Your local MP: here.
  • Malcolm Turnbull's office: (02) 6277 7700.
  • Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton: (02) 6277 7860.
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop: (02) 6277 7500.
  • Opposition Leader Bill Shorten: (02) 6277 4022.
  • Shadow Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek: (02) 6277 4404.
  • The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre(03) 9326 6066 or (03) 8537 9500
  • The Human Rights Law Centre(03) 8636 4450


You can also continue to share this and other stories highlighting the Manus refugees' plight. 

You can follow deputy editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9

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