The human rights commission’s report, The forgotten children: national inquiry into children in immigration detention, was tabled, 18 months ago. The 315-page report provided compelling first-hand evidence of the negative impact that prolonged detention has on children’s mental and physical health. The report also made 16 recommendations.
There was no substantive discussion in parliament about the report or its recommendations. Then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, used common techniques to stifle debate – attack, shoot the messenger and then ignore the message. The silencing techniques were effective; they took the focus away from an issue that reflects Australia’s standing in the world and its obligations under international law.
Now that the tantrum towards Gillian Triggs has passed, it is time for our new prime minister to provide a substantive response to the human rights commission’s report. We ignore the issue of children into detention and our global obligations at our peril.
First published as a letter to The Age on 12 August 2016