Michael Kirby visits the University of Wollongong to talk about refugees, while announcing he's posted his 'Yes' vote

HEAD STRONG: Michael Kirby - an international jurist, educator, former judge and honorary UOW Doctor of Laws - discussed Australia's non compliance of international laws on refugees in Wollongong on Tuesday. Picture: Sylvia Liber
HEAD STRONG: Michael Kirby - an international jurist, educator, former judge and honorary UOW Doctor of Laws - discussed Australia's non compliance of international laws on refugees in Wollongong on Tuesday. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced nearly 60 per cent of all ballot papers in the same-sex marriage postal survey have been returned – and that of Michael Kirby’s is with them.

The jurist, academic and human rights advocate was in the Illawarra on Tuesday, speaking at a public lecture at the University of Wollongong on international law and refugees.

Mr Kirby also spoke after the lecture about his stance on the same-sex marriage debate, and he has previously deplored the ballot saying it was created by politicians in order to stifle the development of equality and citizens rights.

Marriage equality surveys must be sent return post by October 27. Picture: AAP

Marriage equality surveys must be sent return post by October 27. Picture: AAP

He and his partner of more than 50 years, Johan van Vlotan, have both sent their “Yes” vote but said they are still opposed to the “discriminatory hostile” process.

“It’s a very bad development and it’s a very bad precedent and it’s truly a disgrace to Australia that we’ve come to this,” he told the Illawarra Mercury.

“That is not the way we do law-making in this country and I hope it will never happen again.”

It’s been reported Mr Kirby has being very vocal about his distaste for the task, along with reports he was going to boycott.

“I’m totally opposed to having a postal survey before our members of parliament decide what they think should be done. This has never been done before in the history of Australia, it’s only being done because this affects a minority who are thought to be unpopular,” he said.

Read More: How Illawarra MPs will vote in the same-sex marriage survey

Nothing much permanent will happen until the two major political groups in Australia decide to put humanity above politics.

Michael Kirby

REFUGEES

The emotional consequences from Australia’s offshore processing of asylum seekers has been described as torture, according to the former High Court justice.

What to do with refugees is an age-old problem and won’t be resolved any time soon according to Michael Kirby, who addressed mostly UOW students and staff in a public lecture.

He said Australia was failing in their obligations under the Refugees Convention by sending asylum seekers elsewhere and labelled the uncertainty those in detention faced - the unknowing of when the process will end or what will happen to them - as “an element of psychological torture”.

“I think the battle will keep manifesting itself in different ways … the likelihood is that is nothing much permanent will happen until the two major political groups in Australia decide to put humanity above politics,” Mr Kirby said.

Read More: Calls to keep specialist GP in Wollongong for female refugees

'This is a shocking thing in this country to get to my grand old age of 78 and find ... the group of which I am a member - the LGBTQI community - is so disliked that our members of parliament won’t exercise their responsibilities,' says Michael Kirby. Picture: Sylvia Liber

'This is a shocking thing in this country to get to my grand old age of 78 and find ... the group of which I am a member - the LGBTQI community - is so disliked that our members of parliament won’t exercise their responsibilities,' says Michael Kirby. Picture: Sylvia Liber

The policy of offshore processing does not comply with the United Nations’ agreement has signed, he said, regardless of our country having a long history of accepting refugees.

He highlighted several instances in history where Australia has taken on thousands of displaced people such as the Jewish population fleeing parts of Nazi occupied Europe during World War II.

Wollongong may be one of many cities currently accepting newly resettled refugees, but Mr Kirby said the problem wouldn’t be fixed by the actions of individual areas but by a change of public perception as a nation.

“If you look at the numbers of refugees who are actually coming to Australia ... it’s not a huge number by world standards,” he said, comparing our few thousand to the millions heading to Germany. 

Of the asylum seekers arriving by boat, Mr Kirby said around 80 per cent are found to be genuine refugees but the majority of Australians in “outlying suburbs” are unsympathetic and have the misconception boat people are queue jumpers.

“Politically this is very difficult because in the outlying suburbs is where governments are formed,” he said. “This is the predicament we find ourselves in … that most major political groupings are not going the change the current policy.”

This story ‘It’s a disgrace to Australia’: Kirby posts yes vote despite protests first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.