Biloela locals Angela Fredericks, who last week travelled to Christmas Island to see the family, and Bronwyn Dendle, whose children played with Kopika and Tharunicaa in Biloela and Canberra supporters of the campaign, out the front of Parliament House in Canberra with a petition of 250k signatures. Picture Kym Smith
Biloela locals Angela Fredericks, who last week travelled to Christmas Island to see the family, and Bronwyn Dendle, whose children played with Kopika and Tharunicaa in Biloela and Canberra supporters of the campaign, out the front of Parliament House in Canberra with a petition of 250k signatures. Picture Kym Smith

ScoMo blasted for ‘blatant' Biloela Tamil family 'fallacies’

BEFORE her friends were forced out of their home by border force, prompting an ongoing 20-month ordeal, social worker Angela Fredericks felt she could trust the government.

Since March 2018 Ms Fredericks has led a campaign - Bring Them Home to Bilo - calling on the Federal Government to allow asylum seekers Priya, Nades and their Australian-born daughters Tharunicaa, 4 and Kopika, 2, back to the regional Queensland town.

The Biloela family is detained at Christmas Island, where their long-running fight for Australian protection continues.

Ms Fredericks said she expected to debunk lies from residents, but she didn't expect to be forced to correct the government's "blatant fallacies".

Speaking in the wake of the combined media's Right to Know campaign, Ms Fredericks said she was surprised and concerned by the number of false claims made by MPs about the family.

"At the end of the day we would like to trust our government, and to know that they won't mislead us," she said.

"But I've clearly seen that's not the case."

In September last year Australian Associated Press' FactCheck dubbed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's statement that Nades had travelled from Australia to Sri Lanka while his immigration case was before the courts, as false.

Immigration lawyer Carina Ford told FactCheck Nades, the father, had not travelled out of Australia since arriving in 2012.

She said the conditions of the visa Nades was on was unlikely to have been one that would allow him to leave Australia and return.

Mr Dutton's office later told FactCheck the quote was referring to before Nades came to Australia.

Ms Fredericks also disputed claims Priya and Nades had come to Australia illegally and said they were not told they would "never settle permanently in Australia ".

"It definitely has surprised me, just the sheer, blatant fallacies that have come out and how much that sways the public opinion and damages reputation," she said.

Ms Fredericks said misleading information helped skew residents' views on the family.

"When you have people with authority say 'this is what has happened', the public will believe that over everyday people like me who are friends with the family," she said.

The issues raised by the Right to Know Campaign span much further than government departments hiding behind confidentiality claims and refusing to answer the media's questions.

At least 75 pieces of legislation introduced since 2001 have created roadblocks to stop you finding out what's going on in this country.

Politicians and government departments should help inform the community, not avoid answers, sidestep the issues or pass the buck.

 

Here are two other examples where residents had a Right to Know.

Gladstone Ports

Corporation contractor

Seven months since the suspension of a contractor who questioned Bill Shorten during a press conference in Gladstone, it has become no clearer who made the decision to cancel the worker's pass.

Ahead of the May election, then Labor leader Mr Shorten visited the Queensland Government-owned Gladstone Ports Corporation for a media conference.

The contractor asked Mr Shorten if he would consider a tax break for high-income earners.

Days after the event the worker had his pass deactivated, his desk was cleared and his personal belongings delivered to his home.

But Gladstone Ports Corporation denied suspending or terminating the worker's contract.

"The port worker, a subcontractor, is still employed by the contractor and carrying out work for their employer," a statement said.

In response the worker told the Courier Mail that GPC's statement was "incorrect".

"I have not performed any work whatsoever for the port in the last three weeks, and neither have I been asked to perform any work by them," he said.

"I agree that the suspension was lifted late Friday evening, but I suspect that this was only due to pressure from the media."

Almost six months on, it is yet to become clear who made the decision to suspend the contractor's pass.

The Crime and Corruption Commission was asked to investigate the contractor's suspension.

In September, The Observer revealed the matter had been referred to Queensland Treasury.

It is the second investigation under way by Queensland Treasury relating to Gladstone Ports Corporation.

In August last year a complaint, believed to be related to how the business is run, was referred to the CCC.

In the following month the commission referred it to Treasury.

 

Vessel Monitoring System

Families of the fishermen lost at sea during the maritime tragedy aboard the Dianne in October, 2017, launched a campaign for an overhaul to the fishing industry's safety systems.

The campaign's main focus was for the Vessel Monitoring System, installed to track commercial vessels' movements, to be used for safety purposes.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority initially said while it would be supportive of the change, it would be a decision for state and federal governments.

It wasn't until a joint inquest into the Dianne in March this year that the Department of Fisheries revealed the system had functions to be used for safety purposes, and that it was initially intended to be used for safety at sea when introduced in the 90s.

Central coroner magistrate David O'Connell said the affidavit provided by the Department stated on four occasions that the VMS did not have a safety function.

The fishing industry, and relatives of those who work in the industry, deserve to know the full capabilities of this system.



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