Judge Orders Refugee Compensation Case Live Streaming
The Landmark decision in the Manus island detention centre trial was not necessarily the size of the payout, but that Judge Michael McDonald ruled that the trial be live streamed – Link
The Australian Government has fought tooth and nail to lock down every scrap of evidence coming out of its off shore detention centres and much of the legal process for the case over the last two years have been around obtaining permission for various evidence to be submitted without criminal charges being laid. The government and attendant facility security providers continue to deny culpability despite agreeing to the settlement. Read More
So for Justice McDonald to rule that the case would be live streamed [ABC NEWS RADIO] in the interest of law students, the general public and other parties. This decision seems to have been far too much for a government intent on avoiding any scrutiny whatsoever.
To be clear – This trial was expected to last for at least 6 months and was settled in a little over two weeks. The government legal team has agreed to settle for this amount – which means that they believed that continuing the trial would be far more damaging and costly than the 20 million they paid to Slater and Gordon and the 70 million paid to the detainees.
The case would have delivered daily horrors of witness after witness testifying to systemic abuse, live streamed worldwide, reposted on Facebook and clipped on Twitter. Far too much negative publicity for a government that is hanging by a thread.
Current polling shows a 5% swing against the government. An election called now would result in at least a 13 seat swing against an embattled coalition. To have the entire body of evidence, some 200 witnesses and accompanying reams of documentation, paraded before the world would have cast an indelible pall on a government with an already shaky record around human rights.
Settlements are only made when in the interest of both parties to do so. And in many opinion columns the sentiment seems to be that the government has got off lightly.
When we crunch the numbers each of the 1905 inmates receives approximately $25 per day of incarceration. There are those who are claiming that this is far too little for the abuse and injustice faced by these refugees.
Avoiding a lengthy trial
Avoiding a lengthy trial has benefits for the plaintiffs as well – not having to submit to rigorous
questioning and reliving the horrors of incarceration. Also being able to move on as the future of the detention centres are in question and the refugees still must be housed somewhere.
The agreement to resettle refugees with the United States is now based on vulnerability of the refugees. Which in practice may mean that only women and children will be given refuge by the US. Manus Island is primarily populated by men. The PNG government is reluctant to accept the refugees as issues of safety hinder integration.
What happens now to the remaining refugees of Manus Island and Nauru is very much in question. Whether the payout of approximately $37000 per person will provide some pathway to a better life for these refugees remains to be seen.