I’ve been appalled by Australia’s policy towards asylum seekers for many years now, alongside a good many other people. It was pretty bad before the “stop the boats” mantra took over politics. It’s been positively poisonous since Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton began managing the state-sanctioned torture of asylum seekers: people who, we need to remember, are already victims, and who are guilty of nothing more than fleeing persecution.
In recent weeks, as our Prime Minster Malcom Turnbull actively sought to deny food and medical aid to the people he has consciously and deliberately detained on Manus Island, my disgust has reached new depths. I know that there are many people out there contacting their representatives to express their own disgust, and I know that sometimes when enough people speak out it can make a difference. So I’ve decided to speak out. It’s not much, but I’m happy to add my voice to that chorus. I’ve also literally put my money where my mouth and donated some cash to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, who are out there actively trying to find food for people who are being starved by the Australian government, and who are busy trying to find urgent medical aid for those people towards whom the government has forgotten it has a duty of care.
Below is a letter I’ve written to Malcolm Turnbull, and copied to the Minister for Immigration and his deputy. Lower down is a another letter I’ve written to ‘opposition’ leader Bill Shorten (opposition in quotes, since I haven’t heard much opposing going on) and have also copied to the Shadow Immigration Minister and my local Labor representative.
I immigrated to Australia a little over ten years ago. I viewed it as a place where I could raise my children and provide them a good, happy and healthy life. I saw the stated value of having “boundless plains to share” as one of compassion and generosity that I could instill in my children. I believed the spirit of having a “fair-go” offered my family, as well as anyone else who cared to come here, a fine chance for having the future we all wanted.
Instead I find myself living in a country where my eleven year old son has a stronger grasp on the concept of equal rights than our “leader”. I find that my son, even with his natural spirit of stubbornness and obstinacy, walks with a more open mind than our “leader”. I find that my son has developed a healthy disgust for your policies and your lack of regard for basic human rights.
What does this mean, when an eleven year old, who is still learning about his place in the world, is a better human being than our Prime Minister. Incidentally, I placed the word leader in quotes above because we don’t have one. A leader takes his people forward. A leader sets the example for those who follow. You do neither.
I also have a five year old son, who will have questions of his own before too long. Perhaps you can help answer some of them for me:
- How do I explain to my son that leaving people to die on Manus–not just abandoning them, but actively denying them food, water and medical treatment—is anything but murder?
- How do I explain to my son that leaving these people to die is justified because we’re saving lives at sea? (I know that one’s a lie, by the way, so I’ll let this one go)
- How do explain to my son that all people deserve equal rights, when we’ve recently put that very question to a national debate with your expensive survey?
- How do I explain to my son that history is valuable, when your government ignores all the lessons that the past has taught us?
- How do I explain to my son the dilemma of being told to respect his elders, when you deserve none?
I was appalled when Tony Abbott was voted Prime Minister. But I’ve been absolutely astounded that his successor has been so much worse. You will, inevitably, be remembered as Australia’s worst Prime Minister: as the man who allowed innocent families to die on Manus; as the man who failed every LGBTQ person in the country; as the man who wrecked our internet.
The list goes on, but I’ll leave it there in favour of one last question. Please, tell me: how do you sleep?
I really wonder about that.
And to the Opposition:
Dear Mr Shorten
I attach a letter that I have today sent to Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia. I trust its content makes my feelings regarding his actions as Prime Minister abundantly clear. The failings, however, are not on his side alone.
It should be clear that I am unlikely to ever vote Liberal, and neither, I hope, will my children. At this point in time it is almost as unlikely that I would vote Labor, but that has potential to change.
So, I write to you today to ask just one question: what are you going to do?
The silence—the absence of both outrage and action—from your party, while refugees have been actively persecuted by our Government is simply shocking. This is no longer a justifiable policy (not that it ever was). This is no longer a deterrent (not that it was ever that, either). This is innocent people suffering and dying as a direct result of our government’s actions. And this is happening because our government has been allowed to do it. We have an Opposition Party that is not opposing it.
So: what are you going to do?
What are you going to do to convince both myself and my children that you not only value human rights, but that will protect them and fight against those who deny them? What are you going to do to persuade us that you value equal rights, and that you will stand up for all people of Australia equally? What are you going to do to convince my children that you will leave them a clean, healthy environment for their generation and the generations after?
And again: what are you going to do to stop innocent refugees being tortured by our government, in all of our names?
Simply put: what are you going to do to convince us to vote for you?