DALLY MESSENGER. A letter to Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten concerning refugees.



There is some talk of cooperation so, living in hope, I am emboldened to write to both of you. Only by you both working together can this criminal behaviour cease. There are far better ways to stop people smuggling than imprisoning people in third world jails without charge or trial. 

I am particularly ashamed to point out that in jailing people who ask for help we violate three international treaties — The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The United Nations Convention on Refugees, and the United Nations Convention against Torture. In simple terms, we are what we erroneously accuse the boat people of being – lawbreakers.  We have become the people who do not keep our deals, who break laws when it suits us, whose word is not our bond. The harm to our reputation internationally which results by these crimes – trashing every law and convention from Magna Carta to Habeas Corpus and “innocent until proven guilty” is immense. Have you any idea the harm you have done, the precedent you have set? (By you, I mean the governments of both persuasions up to now).

I am particularly alarmed to tell you that Eva Orner’s film “Chasing Asylum”, is about to be screened to 10,000,000 cinema-goers in Europe. This will ensure, following the articles in the New York Times, and reports by the BBC, that Australia’s reputation for fairness, decency and respect for the law will be well and truly trashed.

I am particularly embarrassed to remind you that when war criminals were tried at Nuremberg and elsewhere, their pleas that they were only obeying orders from their government was not accepted. Obeying unjust laws was no excuse. They were tried and sentenced. And when Mr Abbott, Mr Morrison, Mr Dutton and others (including public servants and government contractors) are placed on trial in a few years time, in the same way that we catch up with paedophile priests, the defence that everyone thought it was OK at the time, will have no currency.

I am particularly sickened, Malcolm and Bill, to cause you to face the fact that these crimes are all the more hideous because they are enacted by people, like you, who claim to be doing the right thing. Like all criminals committing criminal acts,  there is always the attempt to justify. But all the spin doctors in the world cannot make this one wash.

I am particularly galled to note that the worst perpetrators of this crime are practising catholics and practising christians. How am I supposed to get my brain around that? “Do unto others”, the most basic of all Christian tenets, has become a sick joke. The Good Samaritan has become a fairy tale for gullible “bleeding hearts”. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” bears no weight with these churchgoers whatsoever. The Pope says:

When there are just reasons in favour of it, (a citizen) must be permitted to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there.(22) The fact that he is a citizen of a particular State does not deprive him of membership in the human family, nor of citizenship in that universal society, the common, world-wide fellowship of men.

I am particularly shocked to point out this whole scene, as both of you well know, is filled with stupidities. I know people who have come here by plane on tourist or student visas who have successfully gained asylum with very little trouble. Many many more than those who, misinformed, came by boat. How dumb are we that we do not lock up people who come by plane, but lock up those who come by boat? Why do boat people and not plane people deserve to be sent slowly insane on remote tropical islands because no one told them it was far better to come by plane? What about some full-page Kevin-Rudd-style ads in all the asian newspapers telling people to come by plane? (“It’s cheaper and safer and you won’t get jailed in the swamp infested tropics.”) Do I have to point out that those who came by boat, that minuscule number compared to plane people, are the bravest and gutsiest of them all. Historically boat people have made some of the finest citizens we have.

I am particularly distressed to point out that double demonising of “people smugglers” does not wash with intelligent people. They are criminals but they are not that bad really compared to the crimes of our big corporations who pay no taxes, and the ever ready rabble of “entrepreneurs” who exploit the government such as they did with the insulation scheme, or they now do in the educational sector. These exploiters who are all around us are far worse criminals. But it suited your predecessors to portray people smugglers as the worst kind because it attracted the vote of uninformed and uneducated people. How base is that – you simply did not attempt, or you did not have the skill, to “sell” decency to basically decent people. (Have a chat to Angela Merkel.) And the argument that these crimes we are committing are very effective  in controlling our borders! Mal and Bill, there are lots of crimes that are effective. In all areas of human life crime pays. Where is society heading if you act like that?

And when all this comes out from under the radar and the court proceedings begin, how will we explain how we turned boats around (with the help of people smugglers) and sent people back to certain wars (to which we contributed), or back to almost certain jail, punishment, persecution and/or torture. All this to get a few extra votes?

It’s like this, Malcolm and Bill, the first thing you have to do is to stop this horror, then you must apologise, then you must compensate and assist those you have wronged. It should be pretty cheap given that we are paying $500,000 per year person as we send people crazy by depriving them of hope, depriving them of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

I do understand your job is difficult but this is not a “policy”, it has crossed the line and become a crime. Please get together and fix it.

Dally Messenger is a Melbourne author and commentator. 


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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16 Responses to DALLY MESSENGER. A letter to Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten concerning refugees.

  1. jurgen Malina says:

    Thank you Dally for expressing so eloquently all what can be said about this immoral behavier by Australien Gouvernments . With that behaviour they destroy the trust and fabric of a deacent ,just and mercyfull society

  2. Pauline Baylis says:

    Thank you, Dally Messenger. It has been very moving to read your very profound and exquisitely crafted letter and see my own thoughts so represented!

  3. Jim Kable says:

    In fact I think it is time for the UN to mount rescue missions to Manus and Nauru – at the same time taking the guilty politicians to The Hague to answer for their crimes.

  4. Jim Kable says:

    Bravo! John Menadue with is highly ethical reputation and world worldwide that reputation – has said what tens of thousands of us have been saying on all manner of forums! These excrescences on our political and bureaucratic stages must be made to answer for their crimes against humanity. Just yesterday a cousin in Canada having read Joe McCarthy about the Amnesty report on Nauru wrote to me in shock that surely it could not be true! All true, I replied! So thAnkyou John – from the bottom of my aching heart.

  5. Dianne Ridding says:

    Praying that your pleas will not fall on deaf ears.

  6. Peter Graves says:

    I agree. How about having this raised at the appropriate Estimates Committee hearing ?
    Otherwise (and apologies for saying this, in advance) – this is well-meaning hand-wringing.

  7. Tom Moore says:

    The Australian people have belatedly become aware of the inhumane treatment of young people in detention in the NT. How can we mobilise public opinion to address the problem we have conveniently shipped overseas, and in the process made worse? This submission is a powerful starting point. Well done.

  8. I too am ashamed of this ‘policy’.

  9. William Peacock says:

    Thank you for sharing Dally Messenger 111’s letter. The path we travel is brought to a halt by the atrocities
    We need Dally’s wisdom, intellect and insight to kickstart our motors so we can continue our journey with the knowledge there are those that make us think and care unconditionally. Thank you Dally

  10. Quillpower1 says:

    Thank you, John Menadue, for sharing Dally Messenger’s open letter. He gives voice to the feelings of thousands like myself who are so often rendered speechless by the atrocities committed and permitted on our behalf, but are encouraged to speak out before it is too late.

  11. Dally. You’ve put into words my heartfelt sentiments. Thanks. But what more must we do? It took a 50
    Minute 4 Corners program to galvanize our Malcolm Government to set up a Royal Commission. What will it take to change ‘Turn Back the Boats’. Such three word slogans as ‘Jobs & Growth’ no longer work.

  12. I read Dally Messengers most serious and significant letter. The identity of the nation of Australia is at stake. I am deeply concerned about the future of Australia. We hear more and more troubling news from this promising continent, all used to admire for it free, open and forward looking policies. The gutting of scientists working to reverse climate change; the rejection of same sex marriage equality bills by parliament; and the condemnation of the 2015/16 Amnesty International Report: “Australia jailed Indigenous people at a disproportionate rate to non-Indigenous people; some children were detained with adults. Australia continued its hard-line policies towards asylum-seekers, including pushing back boats, refoulement, and mandatory and indefinite detention, as well as offshore processing on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.” But there is more: “Staff and contractors who complained about human rights violations at immigration detention facilities could face criminal proceedings under new legislation.” That mean doctors are prohibited by law to use their right of free speech and stay true to their Hippocratic Oath from the late 5th century: “Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free.”

    Dally Messenger is an internationally known writer, editor, philosopher, social commentator and a leader of the Celebrant movement, a great Australian contribution to the democratic impulse of mankind. Whenever I meet him he speaks with pride of his deep love of his country, Australia. Dally Messenger wrote: “I am particularly ashamed to point out that in jailing people who ask for help we violate three international treaties — The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The United Nations Convention on Refugees, and the United Nations Convention against Torture.” And I, like so many others, share this
    I am asking Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and everyone concerned in this matter to take Dally Messengers statement at face value and give it the most serious attention. Future generations will judge Australia on what it did when it mattered when the world, in crisis, asks for help. It is time for Australia to share responsibility and burdens of the global world we all now live in, not just take part in the pleasures. It is time for Australia to be a global citizen, and not just to think about its own world as an oyster. And, as the bible says in Matthew 16:26: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

    Dr. Frank Hentschker
    The Graduate Center, CUNY
    City University of New York

  13. Janette Condon says:

    I endorse Dally Messenger’s eloquent letter on behalf of the asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island, Nauru and in Australia. I am sure this Parliament can resolve this lengthy, expensive and cruel incarceration. Many people in Australia are happy to welcome these people into our homes. Don’t let face saving keep them locked up.

  14. Thank you for you insight Dally and your plea to our politicians for their compassion and humanity. What a crime that we continue to demonise asylum seekers and ‘boat people’, only to continue to pursue record high population growth policies through non refugee migration for the purposes of endlessly pursuing GDP growth

  15. J H Holmes (JP) says:

    Dally Messenger is an educated man, he is a freethinker who carefully weighs-up and considers every situation before he goes into print.
    He is, and has been before, the conscience of many politicians and other
    influential power brokers, he writes without fear or favour.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think Dally really expects to hear back from the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition, notwithstanding his articulate and cogent plea for them to do something as compassionate members of the human race; the two most powerful men in the country. How sad!

  16. Dennis O'Hara says:

    I cannot help be moved by the passion and “rightness” of the message in this letter –

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