Terry Laidler. To Michael Pezzullo, Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Dear Mr Pezzullo,

Starting to get through to you, is it? Great!

Forget your law of the land, let alone your direction of the government of the day drivel — neither of these is some sort of absolute that lets you suspend all moral judgment!

For, make no mistake about it: the actions of you and your departmental officers in our name are a gross violation of basic ethics and of innocent people’s rights.

To take legitimate asylum seekers (and it actually doesn’t matter whether they are men women OR children), and to subject them to cruel and inhumane treatment that you know produces family dysfunction and mental illness, so as to deter others, is no more than state sanctioned “hostage taking” and is both immoral and potentially illegal at International Law.

I am really so glad that the accurate description of the nature and function of detention centres as gulags and of what you are doing there as torture offends you. I hope it betrays a residual moral sensibility!

However, if you really are ill-informed enough to think that the public numbing and indifference that occurred in Nazi Germany is only an allegation, I worry that my hope might be misplaced.

I, for one, do not think that the indifference that you and your departmental officers show to people in detention is just an allegation or reckless; I know it is a measured implementation of government policy. And I actually hope that the cruelty involved in the detention program is calculated; to think that it was capricious would be intolerable.

But, what we desperately need now to shore up not only staff morale but also community conscience is people in leadership positions like you with a strong moral sense and enough personal courage to speak the truth to power, so that we can develop, not mantras, but alternative, ethical refugee policies. Then, maybe, just maybe, we can start to dig ourselves out of this mess.

Laidler_Pezzullo

Terry Laidler (Associate Professor, Registered Psychologist)

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Terry Laidler is a psychologist and a former ABC Melbourne Drive presenter. He chaired the Victorian Road Safety Co-ordinating Council in the early 1990s through the Drink, Drive, Bloody Idiot campaign that saw a paradigm shift in road safety in the state.

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