May 17, 2005 | Graham

Deport me

Could Vivian Alvarez receive $2 million damages for her wrongful deportation? According to this morning’s ABC Radio National Law Report former HREOC Commissioner and Federal Court Judge, Marcus Einfeld, believes she could, at a rate of $1,500 per day (net of GST?). This story in the SMH suggests it might not be so cut and dried.
At the risk of being accused of flippancy, they can deport me for that rate of pay. There’s the little known fact that when I first came here in 1964 I was travelling on my Mum’s passport as a British Subject, and now that the Queen is Queen of Australia, maybe that means I shouldn’t be here at all? If I forget to tell them about taking out nationality in the 70s, it just might work.
Now, I’m not denying that Ms Alvarez should be awarded some compensation, nor that the Department of Immigration should be penalised for its shoddy work (it’s a market economy afterall). Just that $2 million sounds like an excessively large sum for the damage she’s suffered, and one that’s likely to encourage people to consider fraud, or at least encourage lawyers to discover more claims than they otherwise would.
It does, however, raise the question of how we keep public servants and the departments they administer honest and competent. When a government department makes a mistake there should be a penalty, but frequently mistakes are recklessly made in the knowledge that there are none.
Perhaps the damages could be split between payment in compensation and punitive damages – afterall, while $2 million might be too much for Alvarez, is it enough to deter DIMIA? The punitive damages could perhaps be put into a charitable trust for, in this case, refugees, and partly funded by a reduction in the pay and bonus of the DG of DIMIA.

Posted by Graham at 9:37 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. The size might be related to the actual damage done. Some of this will only be known after extensive medical examinations.
    And key questions might be whether any is reversable. At present it seems she is incapable of functioning independently. (Can’t dress or clean herself.) $2m might seem pretty modest if she requires lifetime care attendants. Might not be so bad if her condition can be improved.
    Other factors might be the extent to which DIMIA’s 4 year neglect have contributed to her incapacity. Quite a bit I’d have thought. The media has already uncovered witnesses saying she wasn’t fit to travel. And the hospice wasn’t equipped to provide medical rehab. Even Baxter might’ve had more.
    The Philippine Embassy raised similar concerns, requesting that she not be moved until she’d had trauma counselling and more medical rehab. DIMIA apparently submitted its own medical info claiming she was OK and pressured the Embassy into relenting.
    There is also the one best left to the courts as to what level of damages you put on being deprived of your sons for four years (and for that matter on their loss).
    Liked your finishing sentence, though. Would be good if punitive damages could come out of those ‘incentives’ they offer their higher staff these days.

    Comment by Don Wigan — May 18, 2005 @ 8:40 pm

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