Event details
Event Start Date: 03/11/2014
Event End Date: 03/11/2014

Time: 9.00AM - 5.00PM
Location: Law Building Theatre G04 UNSW

Program and speaker biographies

Annual Conference: 'Between Principle and Pragmatism: Australia and Refugee Law, 60 Years On'

The Kaldor Centre held its first annual conference on the 3 November 2014. 

60 years ago, Australia ratified the Refugee Convention.  It was, in fact, this act which brought the treaty into force.  Since that time, Australian governments have oscillated in their responses to the reception, treatment and protection of asylum seekers and refugees, ranging from generosity and understanding, through to intolerance and deterrence. 

The Kaldor Centre’s first annual conference provided an opportunity to consider how previous Australian governments have sought to balance Australia’s obligations under international law with anxieties about spontaneous arrivals of asylum seekers, and to consider how Australia might offer principled protection into the future.

Professor Guy S Goodwin-Gill from the University of Oxford presented the keynote address.  He argued that:

If Australia is seriously interested in a workable and long-lasting response to the challenges of refugee and forced migration, then, in my view, it will need to abandon unilateralism in favour of collaboration; to recognize the equal sovereign status of those partners in the region which have also to deal with those challenges; to recognize that exceptionalism where direct arrivals are concerned cannot be justified in law or on principle; to make protection and solutions the cornerstone of its asylum and resettlement policies; and to implement its international obligations in good faith, including its duty to ensure and to protect the human rights of everyone within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction, authority or control.  Above all, if it is to become serious about co-operation, then Australia will need to show its commitment to international law, to the principles which I have laid out, and to others too, such as transparency and accountability. 

Other speakers were: Allan Asher, Former Commonwealth Immigration Ombudsman and Chair of the Foundation for Effective Markets and Governance; Admiral (Ret’d) Chris Barrie AC, Former Chief of the Australian Defence Force and Visiting Fellow, ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre; Professor Mary Crock, Sydney Law School; Associate Professor Michelle Foster, Melbourne Law School; Professor Graeme Hugo, University of Adelaide; Dr Claire Higgins, Research Associate at the Kaldor Centre; Professor Walter Kälin, University of Berne and Former Member of the UN Human Rights Committee; Kelley Loper, Hong Kong University; and Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs President, Australian Human Rights Commission. 

Download the full program and speaker biographies.  Selected papers from the conference are available below.


8.30–9.00                 Registration

9.00–9.30                 Welcome and introductory remarks: The year in review

Professor Jane McAdam, Director of the Kaldor Centre, UNSW (Read Professor McAdam's address)

9.30–10.30                 Keynote address

The international protection of refugees and asylum seekers: Between principle and pragmatism?, Emeritus Professor Guy S Goodwin-Gill, University of Oxford (Read Professor Goodwin-Gill's address)

Chaired by Andrew Kaldor AM, Kaldor Centre Founder

10.30–11.00                 Break

11.00–12.30                 Island nation, island mentality

‘In good faith’: The contribution of Australian judges to a principled interpretation of the Refugee Convention,  Associate Professor Michelle Foster, University of Melbourne

When is detention of asylum seekers arbitrary? The case law of the UN Human Rights Committee, Professor Walter Kälin, University of Berne and Former Member of the UN Human Rights Committee

Human Rights and the Protection of Refugees in Asia: Moving beyond the Refugee Convention, Kelley Loper, Hong Kong University

Chaired by Professor Stephen Castles, University of Sydney

12.30–1.30                 Lunch

1.30–3.00                   Looking forwards by looking back

A politically sensitive ‘rescue mission’: Australia’s in-country program, Dr Claire Higgins, UNSW

Australian exceptionalism: Temporary protection and the rights of refugees, Professor Mary Crock, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney

The economic contribution of humanitarian settlers in Australia, Professor Graeme Hugo, University of Adelaide (Read Professor Hugo's research in 'The Economic Contribution of Humanitarian Settlers in Australia' published in International Migration)
Chaired by Renata Kaldor AO, Kaldor Centre Founder

3.00–3.30                   Break

3.30–4.45                   Q&A panel: The impact of inquiries into the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers

This panel featured people who have led or been involved in inquiries into the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. It considered the extent to which such inquiries can influence government policy, departmental culture and operations, and the relationship between international law and administrative practice.

Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs
President, Australian Human Rights Commission

Allan Asher
Former Commonwealth Immigration Ombudsman (2010–11)
Chair of the Foundation for Effective Markets and Governance

Admiral (Ret’d) Chris Barrie AC
Former Chief of the Australian Defence Force (1998–2002)
Visiting Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

Chaired by the Honourable Catherine Branson QC 
Former President, Australian Human Rights Commission (2008–12)

4.45–5.00                   Vote of thanks

Professor David Dixon, Dean, UNSW Law

Download Biographies of Speakers and Chairs.

Twitter @kaldorcentre #KaldorConf

The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.