The idiotic mindset of Donald Trump has been on display for quite some time and it is epitomised by his call for slowing down of testing for Covid-19 so there will be fewer cases recorded. While he eventually tried to pass it off as sarcasm, he has stated it several times and at another time said ‘I don’t kid’1. Trump is so bereft of an inkling of understanding that if you decrease testing you will certainly have fewer cases recorded, but you will not have fewer cases. All he is concerned about is the hammering he is getting from just about everyone, except the gullible trumpettes and QAnon conspiracy fruitcakes, for his gross mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis in the United States. At the time of writing (31/8/2020) this mishandling had given rise to 6,175,600 cases and 187,232 deaths2. He seems to believe that if the numbers looked better for him, then the gullibles would believe that he was doing a good job. It would be immaterial how many more people died, so long as the gullibles didn’t know the number.
Now a similar kind of mindset has overtaken the Australian government, with the attempt to have mobile phones removed from those in immigration detention, as news from inside detention centres has been something which has annoyed the government for years. The proposed law would allow the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton to ban mobile phones in onshore immigration detention centres. Acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge, argued in parliament in May, that the bill, which would also allow him and the home affairs minister to declare phones and other items “prohibited”, was needed to stop the spread of drugs and contraband items in detention centres. Tudge claimed phones were an “unacceptable risk” and had been used to facilitate escape efforts, bring drugs into detention, and to organise criminal activity3. We have heard this type of thing from the government before, when Scott Morrison, in an attempt to demonise asylum-seekers, labelled them as child molesters, rapists and criminals4. This is ironic in that it was his ‘spiritual mentor’ Brian Houston, who protected his own father from a child abuse investigation5.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International are among the organisations raising concerns about this proposed bill. The UNHCR said, in a submission to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee, that phones were a “lifeline” for refugees in detention and were as important as basic needs such as water, food and energy. The AMA said detainees were at higher risk of suicide and self-harm and that removing phones would make it difficult to maintain contact with people who supported their mental health and wellbeing. This feeling of isolation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 lockdown3.
Dutton has fought tooth and nail to restrict or ban mobile phones in immigration detention because they shine a light on what’s really going on. Without them, we wouldn’t know the story of the family from Biloela, or that people are being forced to sleep four to a room in a pandemic, or that basic necessities like soap are sometimes not available to inmates. It is mobile phones which provide access to this information. This ban would make holding the government or SERCO, who run these centres, accountable much more difficult. It would also take away refugees’ and asylum-seekers’ access to contact with their families, legal representation and the outside world6.
The Department of Home Affairs insists this push to enhance the power of guards to confiscate mobile phones from those in onshore immigration detention won’t amount to a “blanket ban”7. Does anyone actually believe that once Morrison or Dutton start to feel the heat about some transgression by the government or SERCO in an onshore detention centre, that there won’t be a hunt for, and confiscation of the whistle-blower’s phone?
If there are no phones in detention centres, then there are no problems in the running of onshore detention centres. The Trump technique.