The government’s position on the Rau case seems pretty clear. Ms Rau was an ‘illegal’, that is, a person found to be in Australia and unable to satisfy the authorities that she had a legitimate right to be here. As was established in apartheid South Africa, where the term originated, illegals have no human or civil rights. They can be locked up in atrocious conditions, denied contact with the outside world and so on. Now the authorities are satisfied about her status, and she has been duly released.
Many commentators, including bloggers, have insisted upon both the term ‘illegal’ and the fact that such people have no human rights. All that is new is the discovery that an ‘illegal’ is anyone the government chooses to detain.