The Tamil family: cruelty beggars belief

Jun 11, 2021
Prison wall feature
Credit- Unsplash

The continued detention of the Tamil Biloela family, let alone the threat to deport them, confirms the government’s fascination with cruelty as policy. To demonstrate their bravery in defending Australia’s borders, Ministers think that to protect comfortable and fortunate Australians, they must show a wanton disregard of the interests of the powerless and vulnerable.

Displayed on a daily basis, such cruelty beggars belief. As with any serious disease, a diagnosis should be made and explanations provided about the persistence of such a poisonous disorder.

Government politicians, bureaucrats and the law are culpable. So too the opposition if – with Christina Keneally and the Greens as worthy exceptions – it stays lukewarm in demanding the Tamil family be returned to their friends in Biloela.

Marise Payne and Karen Andrew’s consideration to possibly send the family to the US or New Zealand marks the latest sadism operated by a government who don’t think twice about spending a fortune to detain the family on Christmas Island. Payne and Andrews are muttering the script given by their so-called Christian leader, but are unable to show a vestige of courage by thinking and saying enough is enough.

Let’s not play with words. You can’t claim respect for human rights, mateship, Pentecostal fervour for the underdog, let alone a sermon on the mount principles and then collude in the apparent denial of immediate hospital treatment for a seriously ill three-year-old, who late in the day was flown for six hours to a Perth hospital.

The Department of Home Affairs bureaucracy contributes to the disease. Why are they so mute!

Throughout history, massive cruelties have depended on the efficient operation of invisible and inaccessible public servants. For the sake of efficiency, the Holocaust death trains needed an army of bureaucrats to ensure that resources were available and everything ran on time. Let’s not mince words. The analogies are apt.

Bullying cruelty to punish the vulnerable leaves no exception to the rule. Yet in almost all social policies, there are exceptions, otherwise, a country would be run by robots. Let’s show a touch of courage in a simple exception for this worthy Tamil family. It only needs a little bit of imagination and some sense of humanity. It beggars belief not to do so.

The Prime Minister’s grovelling repetition that in the case of the Tamil family’s appeal to stay in Australia, the law has run its course and that all legal avenues have been exhausted, confirms a one-dimensional abuse of power and uncritical consideration of this phenomenon called ‘ the law’, presumably a reference to deliberations of the High Court. Let’s not avoid criticism of establishment interests. Let’s demystify a high and mighty administration of justice. What justice?

Legal deliberations remain a mystery to most citizens, the wisdom of judges almost taken for granted, yet legal decisions are too often made to reflect a government’s policies, otherwise, Murdoch media outfits join in supporting Coalition derision of the judiciary. When one courageous and principled public servant criticised the cruel operations of the Department of Home Affairs, Immigration at the time, (she wrote under the pseudonym La Legale) the High Court ruled she was in the wrong and could not do so.

Let’s be clear. There are numerous rules of international law that forbid cruel and inhuman punishments. May judges of every level recall those humanitarian principles and summon the courage to go home satisfied that they have decided to speak about humanity by allowing exceptions to the rule.

The Labor opposition has a chance to speak about justice, not as a piece of opportunism to embarrass the government for its cruelty, but because, post-Covid, there is an immediate cultural and policy need to craft non-abusive, socially just ways of living together. The long-overdue return of the Biloela family would be the first step.

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