Scrutiny of sovereign border policy for ‘operational matters’: a new political role for an old legal dichotomy in Australia?

John Bevacqua, Suzanne Bevacqua

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Tightening of border control policy to ‘protect’ sovereign borders and own citizens has become common practice across the world over the past two decades. However, a question that is rarely scrutinized by governments in this framework is, where does policy end and operational matters begin? The Australian approach to stricter border control highlights the many policy concerns that emerge when this distinction is not routinely applied. In the Australian context, the federal government consistently refers to the need to keep ‘operational matters’ associated with implementation of its ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ offshore immigration control policies secret. This insistence on secrecy has remained steadfast despite significant and sustained international criticism from media, academic commentators and refugee advocates who have called for greater transparency and scrutiny of operational aspects of these policies. This chapter appraises the insistence of the Australian government for secrecy in contrast to the global trend towards greater transparency and explores where policy ends and operational matters begin, including which aspects of border control justify continuing to be protected by a cloak of non-disclosure and where the traditional legal usage of ‘operational’ is misapplied.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransformative Law and Public Policy
EditorsSony Pellissery, Babu Mathew, Avinash Govindjee, Arvind Narrain
Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780429344657
ISBN (Print)9780367111397, 9780367348298
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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