DALLY MESSENGER. A letter to Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten concerning refugees.Aug 1, 2016
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.