Not surprisingly, I get a lot of trolls sniping at me on Twitter.
I posted a suggestion recently that we should identify the trolls, without wanting to give them any publicity. People have been writing to me with suggested trolls. The list follows. I will update it as time goes on. Let’s make social media #SocialAgain
Here’s a short-list of people on Twitter who seem unable to tweet anything but false allegations or meaningless insults:
In mid-March 2018 I retweeted a tweet which included a photo-shopped image of Peter Dutton as a Nazi.
The Jewish Anti-Defamation Commission criticised me for it. Andrew Bolt published a piece on his blog which was very critical of me. He did not bother to contact me about it for comment, before or after.
At the outset, I would say that I am very sorry that some people were offended by the tweet. It is worth noting that I did not compare our present conduct with the events of the Holocaust, and I never would.
Twitter is not an ideal place for complex ideas. I agree with the ADC that nothing in the Western world today is equivalent to the Holocaust, which cost the lives of millions of Jews. Australia’s detention centres, onshore and offshore, are not death camps.
However it is important to recognise that the Nazi regime spent years generating in the German community a hatred and fear of Jews, without which the Holocaust would not have been possible. The Nazis took control in 1933. By degrees they generated fear and hatred of Jews. If they had introduced the ”final solution” in 1933, I think the German public would have revolted, By spending years spreading lies about Jews, the Nazis were able to get away with increasing mistreatment of Jews: mistreatment which reached flash-point in November 1938 (Kristallnacht) and rapidly descended into the events we call the Holocaust.
Peter Dutton is not doing things equivalent to the unspeakable acts which we call the Holocaust; but he is cultivating a climate of fear and hatred of some (I emphasise some) refugees: in particular Moslems and people who are not white. His wish to encourage white South African farmers to come to Australia under “special arrangements” stands in marked contrast to the fact that he is encouraging Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar, by offering them money if they will go back: but we all know that the plight of Rohingya Muslims is far worse than that of white South African farmers.
The Jewish community in Australia is to be congratulated for its strong advocacy in favour of decent treatment of people seeking asylum. And no wonder: they understand better than most what can happen if fear and hatred are allowed to govern the way people are treated.
I retweeted the image because I regard Peter Dutton as a dangerous force in Australian politics: he is leading the dogwhistle charge to make ordinary Australians fear Moslems generally, and Moslem refugees in particular. He is making life increasingly difficult for them. The pattern of his conduct is familiar: certainly they should be alarmingly familiar to the ADC.
Presumably it suits Peter Dutton for arguments like this to break out, driving a wedge between advocates who broadly agree with each other.
As I say, I am sorry that the tweet offended some people, but the direction in which the conduct of Australia is being taken by Peter Dutton is very troubling: we must be aware of what he is doing.
As George Santayana said “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
PS: the whole thing was brought to light by an article in the Australian, a Murdoch newspaper. It is easy to forget that just before the 2013 Federal election a Murdoch paper ran front page pictures of Rudd and Albanese in Nazi uniforms!
PPS: Since posting this piece on my blog, I received a number of emails. Here is one of them, and my response:
YOUR COMMENTS RE Peter Dutton were inappropriate and wrong
How dare you slander this politician who has done in my opinion a great job in protecting Australia
Yes he has even cleaned up Labor’s mess in getting children out of refugee camps.
Why can’t you give him some credit you righteous person.
Love to hear your comments sorry Mr Bolt didn’t talk to you ….did you ring him first before you published?
Who do you think you are
Thank you for your email. I am sorry you take such strong exception to my comments about Peter Dutton.
I will not match your personal abuse of me because I do not know who you are or what you do.
However I do know a bit about Peter Dutton, and what he does.
Peter Dutton kept many children in detention (on Nauru) despite his plainly dishonest public claims that there are “no children in detention”. Apparently his dishonesty fooled you. You may not have caught up on the news that being held on Nauru has caused terrible harm to the children who have been sent there. In the past 4 months 2 children have been transferred from Nauru for treatment in Australia. Both were suicidal. Both were about 10 years old. All the experts said that the children could not get appropriate treatment on Nauru. Mr Dutton’s department resisted attempts to bring the children here so that the damage we had done to them could be treated.
Incidentally, you may not have caught up on the fact that self-harm and suicide is extremely rare in children under the age of 12 or 13: except in Australia’s detention system, where it is common.
Peter Dutton says we have to put people in offshore camps in order to prevent asylum seekers from drowning. I do not believe he is troubled about people drowning. In fact I think he is lying about that: if he was truly concerned about people drowning, he would not punish them for not drowning. But if people try to escape persecution and survive the perils of the journey, he forces them to Manus or Nauru and keeps them there for years, in conditions which have attracted criticism from around the world. Of course, he won’t tell you that, because he is too dishonest to admit that he is doing it all for electoral advantage.
Most of the people seeking asylum who are now held on Manus or Nauru have been there for 4 years or more. New Zealand has offered to take 150 people a year from our offshore camps. Peter Dutton has actively discouraged that by making dark noises about trade arrangements. Did you know that Australia spends about $570,000 per refugee per year to keep them offshore: that’s roughly 5 times more than it would cost to keep them in immigration detention in Australia, and roughly 20 times more than it would cost if we let them live in the community until their refugee claims were assessed.
Peter Dutton has been at the forefront of dog-whistling about boat people, in order to persuade a lot of Australians (apparently including you) that cruelty to innocent people is OK: that is what the Nazis did between 1933 and 1938. Oh, by the way, they are innocent people. Even though dishonest politicians call them “illegal” they do not break any law by coming here the way they do in order to seek asylum. None of them is ever charged with having come here without a visa, because it is not an offence. We just jail them indefinitely.
If you have read this far, please feel free to tell me if any of the facts I have set out above is incorrect. Because I am confident that the facts are as I have set them out, I regard Peter Dutton as dishonest, and I regard his dishonesty as profoundly dangerous: it has persuaded decent Australians to tolerate things which would have appalled us 10 or 20 years ago. Peter Dutton is doing what the Nazis did between 1933 and 1938.
Very best wishes… “
I don’t claim to have the answers to all our problems. And I recognise that Australia has a lot going for it: great climate; great natural resources; great people. Maybe our good fortune is the source of our complacency. We’re a bit like Middleton’s Rouseabout (see the poem by Henry Lawson here).
It’s hard to go to any public function in an Australian city these days without the MC intoning recognition of “…the traditional owners of the land we meet on. The people of the …Nation; their leaders past, present and emerging…”.
It is one-sided and self-indulgent. It does not recognise that our ancestors took the land from them, and caused them immense harm. And we don’t intend to give it back. Then we added to the harm by taking their children from them.
It is easy to overlook that Aboriginal settlement in Australia goes back about 65,000 years. Compare that with recent developments like ancient Egypt (about 4,000 years ago) and ancient Greece (about 3,000 years ago) and blow-ins like ancient Rome (a bit over 2,000 years ago).
Aboriginal people are about 2.8% of the Australian population. So how about this:
- A once-off tax of 2.8% of the capital value of the land we took. The proceeds would amount to billions of dollars. Use that money specifically to fund programmes designed – genuinely designed – to repair the damage we did to members of the oldest, longest-lasting civilization on earth.
The Arts struggle to get genuine, meaningful support from governments and big-Australia. Of course there are exceptions, but it is rare to see a head of government also holding the Arts portfolio. And most practising artists in Australia can’t make enough from their art to cover the cost of surviving, so they take a job as a teacher or as a waiter.
But in the long sweep of history, it’s artists who are remembered. Try this experiment:
Take a room of 50 or 60 people of fair intelligence and reasonable education. Give them a list of names from the past 6 centuries. They will recognise the names of painters, sculptors, composers and writers out of proportion to the number of practising artists from time to time. They will not recognise the names of lawyers, accountants, sporting heroes…They will recognise the names of a few politicians, but mainly the ones who were tyrants. By this experiment you will demonstrate the real, transcendent value of the Arts.
- So: when governments at any level (from local to Federal) put out a request for tender, they could include this question: “What does your company do to support the Arts?”. It’s a fair bet that a lot of companies would want to be able to give a good answer and might just start supporting the Arts creatively – and generously.
In 1974 the parliament passed the Trade Practices Act which, by section 52, decreed that a corporation should not “engage in conduct which is misleading or deceptive”. It was new norm of conduct for companies in Australia. While it was resisted at first, it is, by now, a deeply ingrained idea of the way companies should behave.
But parliamentarians are not subject to similar restrictions. We accept without questioning that the norms of conduct, which parliamentarians set for commerce in 1974, do not apply to politicians.
Most people expect politicians to lie. Not many politicians have shown the capacity for dishonesty and hypocrisy which Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have displayed in connection with people seeking asylum.
But should we expect better? I propose:
- Parliament should pass an Act which provides that “A politician, in his or her capacity as a politician, shall not engage in conduct which is misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive”.
Imagine how our politics would be transformed if politicians were expected to behave with the same honesty they demand of companies…
A person who is held on Manus – at our expense, as taxpayers (thanks, Peter Dutton) – has written to me a couple of times setting out the hardship refugees on Manus are facing.
Bear in mind, the misery we inflict costs us, the taxpayers, $570,000 per refugee per year. And also bear in mind that New Zealand recently revived its offer to take 150 refugees per year from Manus and Nauru. Dutton made it clear that, although it is a matter for New Zealand and PNG/Nauru to consider, they should be aware of the trade implications! He might just as well have threatened reprisals directly.
This is the same Minister who claims to be a Christian, but he is inflicting misery on people who have not broken any law by trying to escape persecution.
This is the same Minister who dishonestly tells us he is concerned about people drowning at the hands of unscrupulous people-smugglers. He’s so concerned about them drowning that he punishes them if they don’t drown. So far, most of them have been held on Manus or Nauru for the past 4 years.
Peter Dutton is a dishonest hypocrite. He disfigures our nation.
Here is a snapshot of the misery inflicted on human beings by your government:
“Actually I don’t know how to start it because there has been a lot of issues since Australia government brought us in here.
We are all in a bad mental condition as we are here for such a long time and still hope for a better future.
PNG Authorities keep insulting us and use a lot of bad words when they talk to residents, for example, yesterday PNG ICSA and police brought some non refugees from Port moresby to hillside compound and tried to accomodate them and while they were doing their job they started saying that you are not a refugee and you should sleep in the rubbish bin and they said that we won’t have any good future and we should get the hell out of their country because we are non refugee.
You know we are so sick of living like that. When we were in pervious detention we were hoping that after this hell we may go to a nice and safe country but unfortunately they brought us to another camp by force and now they are making road , building new accomodation and they are hiring new security officers. This is really scary for us because we don’t know how long more they want to suffer us in here.
We know that there are a lot of Australians who are happy about what Australia is doing to us in here but please if you can spread my message to them that Australia is using their taxes for nothing in here they are just wasting money in our name and please tell them that we are trying for everything in here but not one thing and that’s coming to Australia.
Hope I didn’t make you upset but this is really true. This is current situation in our camp.”
“About our current situation, we still do not know about our future as Australia put us in this whole shit situation and do not take any responsibility.
We don’t really know what is going on in here but what we know is PNG ICSA is deporting Bangladeshi people to their home country after 5 years which is unfair. For rest of us, we have not been told anything yet but spread the message between us that they want to bring refugees from Nuru to Manus which I believe they are bullying us.
Believe it or not, that take us as hostage in here.
There is something weird going on in here, for example PNG immigration do not provide any visa to Australian security officers to come here for work but not sure for tomorrow.
Another thing is they are slightly decreasing their services. Whatever we request in here they say NKW company is responsible then we talk to NKW staff and they say JDA company is responsible for that and at end they say Australia must look after you not us.
They are passing us to each other however they have contract with ABF and they have been paid a lot of money but these companies I told you do not provide us our necessary things. All of these companies I told you take advantage from our miserable situation.
Since the local take our this place they become so cranky and they are really rude to us. “
I am grateful to Barry Jones for drawing this to my attention: the Gettysburg address as Trump would have made it.
First, the original:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Now, the Trump version:
It was many, many years ago that our beautiful founders created this great nation for Americans to love deeply. It’s been 400 years, or 700 years. That’s the information I was given. We’ve had a tremendous number of years. And they’ve been good years, believe me, the best. No country in the history of the world has had years like ours. Because we were conceived in winning and dedicated to the proposition of America first. Always America first.
Now we have a huge fight on our hands. I’m telling you folks, we’re fighting to take back our country and start winning again. We’re fighting to make America great again. We’re fighting to make America first again. Some people have taken some very unfair hits in this fight. They’ve been hit by liberal activists and the dishonest fake news media. They’re gone now, but we remember their dedication to our movement, and we will be even more dedicated in their memory. We will commit ourselves to secure borders to keep our nation safe, extreme vetting to keep out the bad dudes, and the best trade deals to guarantee that our great American economy does not perish from the earth.
Chris O’Carroll/Donald Trump
I recently received a letter which was directed to all Federal MPs and was copied to a number of refugee organisations.
The subject line is: Taxpayer funded time spent on other people’s lives
It sets out very well how Australia is failing in its treatment of refugees. Here is the letter:
Ltr to MPs 15 Feb 2018
A student who witnessed the shooting called out lawmakers on TV, looking directly into the camera and saying: “We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.” He added: “Ideas are great but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die.”
And when people say we need to discuss gun control, the NRA and its patsies in Congress say “Now is not the right time…”
So, when is the right time to start taking a rational approach to gun control, in a country where the possession and use of guns is out of control?
Rico Salcedo, the Regional Protection Officer, UNHCR Canberra, recently spent time on Manus and Nauru to assess conditions. Hisreport makes difficult reading.
If you are an Australian, it is hard to avoid feeling ashamed:
Geneva, 13 February 2018
Update on humanitarian situation of refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus Island
The following is a transcript of the remarks by UNHCR Regional Protection Officer, Rico Salcedo in Canberra – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Rico Salcedo, Regional Protection Officer, UNHCR Canberra
Thank you for the chance to briefly update you on UNHCR observations from our latest mission to Manus Island (Papua New Guinea).
What stood out the most from this mission at the time we were there, was a pervasive and worsening sense of despair among refugees and asylum-seekers. I observed and people shared with us that many are staying in the rooms, not going out, and not meeting and talking with others around them.
Those that you see walking or meet are usually downcast. In our conversations with different people there’s a sense of desolation. People are grasping for hope. They ask many questions that we, as UNHCR, have previously heard and repeatedly raised as well – what will happen to them; when will this end; how long will they have to stay in these conditions? These questions are particularly concerning in the context where current services, as well as future solutions outside of Papua New Guinea, remain insufficient.
While the relocation of refugees to the United States is an ongoing and welcome process, the knowledge that many remain without any resolution is weighing on everyone.
More than 3,000 refugees and asylum-seekers have been forcibly transferred by Australia to the offshore processing facilities since 2013. Currently, more than 500 refugees and asylum seekers are living in three sites in Wards 1 and 2 in Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
It was evident again from our last mission and after more than 100 days since the closure of Australia’s so-called Regional Processing Centre, that the need for greater mental health support, emergency medical care and specialised torture and trauma counselling remains critical and unmet.
I spoke with a refugee who shared with me his daily struggles and what he was going through. He told me how he was concerned about some of his friends who are suffering of depression, who were thinking of self-harm and how he tries to be there for them. He also shared how he felt unable to help on some days because he himself could not get the help he needed.
The services provided at the site are predominantly implemented by Australian-contracted providers. The Government of Australia is no longer playing a coordination role on Manus Island. This is in contrast with previous arrangements at the former Regional Processing Centre.
UNHCR staff have observed a consistent and ongoing lack of clarity on the designated roles for specific services amongst contracted providers. This continued confusion makes it hard for refugees and asylum seekers to obtain the necessary services and to understand if they are even provided. This highlights the lack of outreach services to people with mental health concerns. This is particularly important at this point as the most vulnerable aren’t able to seek assistance outside their accommodation sites.
We’ve already emphasised and it remains the case that the local health facility, primarily the Lorengal hospital, has very limited capacity and resources to assist refugees and asylum seekers with serious mental health concerns.
Another observation is the safety of the refugees in the community which remains a major concern. This is noted from the conversations with refugees and community leaders.
In the local community, while no curfew is in place, the police have advised all refugees and asylum-seekers that they should return to their accommodation by 06:00pm each evening to mitigate security risks, and to walk in groups and not alone.
We cannot emphasize enough that solutions must be found for all, outside of Papua New Guinea, as a matter of urgency. Australia remains ultimately responsible, as the state from which these refugees and asylum-seekers have sought international protection, for their welfare and long-term settlement outside of Papua New Guinea.
The Government of Australia should assume a clear coordination role with regard to the service providers it has retained, and adequately monitor and provide services in line with growing and evolving needs.
Clearly, much more needs to be done to bring the circumstances of refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus Island up to a basic minimum standard. These critical steps however, will only be a stop-gap measure until durable solutions are found and made available for them outside of Papua New Guinea.
In 1974 the Parliament passed the Trade Practices Act which, by section 52, decreed that a corporation should not “engage in conduct which is misleading or deceptive…”. But parliamentarians are not subject to similar restrictions. We accept without questioning that norms of conduct which parliamentarians sets for commerce do not apply to them.
Most people expect politicians to lie. But few politicians have shown the capacity for dishonesty and hypocrisy which Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have displayed in connection with people seeking asylum.
Abbott, Morrison, Turnbull and Dutton claim to be Christians, along with most other members of the Australian Parliament. For fear of being misunderstood, I should declare that I was brought up in the Christian tradition, but I no longer adhere to any religion. But I do remember some of the fundamental tenets of Christian teaching: compassion for those in need; treat others as you would want to be treated…
These men lie to us, and they are hypocrites. They lie when they call boat people “illegal”, when it is not an offence to arrive in Australia, without a visa, seeking to be protected from persecution. And by their wilful mistreatment of people seeking asylum they betray the Christian values they pretend to hold.
Christ told the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish traveller on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, has been stripped and beaten and left, helpless, beside the road. A priest and a Levite both pass him by and avoid engaging with him. A Samaritan sees him and helps him, even though Jews and Samaritans were traditional enemies.
Tony Abbott, who claims to be a devout Roman Catholic, once suggested that the parable of the Good Samaritan might have been different if a number of travellers had been found beside the road. It takes someone like Abbott to claim that he can reconstruct Christs’s teaching.
Abbott had earlier exposed his bankrupt version of Christianity when he gave the second Margaret Thatcher Lecture, in London on 27 October 2015. Among other things he said:
“Implicitly or explicitly, the imperative to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” is at the heart of every Western polity. It expresses itself in laws protecting workers, in strong social security safety nets, and in the readiness to take in refugees. It’s what makes us decent and humane countries as well as prosperous ones, but – right now – this wholesome instinct is leading much of Europe into catastrophic error.”
So, a wholesome instinct is sidelined because of its consequences.
In the same speech, Abbott said this:
“…no country or continent can open its borders to all comers without fundamentally weakening itself. This is the risk that the countries of Europe now run through misguided altruism.
On a somewhat smaller scale, Australia has faced the same predicament and overcome it. The first wave of so-called “illegal” arrivals to Australia peaked at 4000 people a year, back in 2001, before the Howard government first stopped the boats: by processing illegal arrivals offshore; by denying them permanent residency; and in a handful of cases, by turning illegal immigrant boats back to Indonesia.
The second wave of “illegal” boat people was running at the rate of 50,000 a year – and rising fast – by July 2013, when the Rudd government belatedly reversed its opposition to offshore processing; and then my government started turning boats around, even using orange lifeboats when people smugglers deliberately scuttled their vessels.”
(Incidentally, in addition to his lie about “illegal boat people”, his figures were false. The Australia Parliament House library shows that the largest number of boat people to come to Australia in a single year was just short of 25,000).
Malcolm Turnbull converted to Roman Catholicism . He has not tried to reinterpret Christ’s teaching, but he has embraced Abbott’s practical lessons in morality by embracing his policy of mistreating refugees.
By contrast, Pope Francis has taken a principled stand on the need for compassion for the plight of asylum seekers said:
“Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself.”
He was referring to a passage in the Bible (Matthew 25), where Christ says:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Sadly, neither Abbott nor Turnbull appear to have listened to the Pope or understood the Bible.
Scott Morrison’s maiden speech in Parliament placed great emphasis on his Christian values. Among other things he said:
“So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24:
… I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.
From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way:
… we expect Christians … to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.
These are my principles.”
If those are Scott Morrison’s principles, he is not a man of his principles. During his time as Immigration Minister, Morrison showed no trace of “loving kindness” or justice or compassion for refugees who came to Australia by boat looking for protection from persecution.
Peter Dutton claims to be Christian, but he boycotted Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008. Like other members of Coalition governments during the past 16 years, he refers to boat people as “illegal” and he administers a system of detention which shows astonishing cruelty.
This is not the place to give details of Australia’s mistreatment of refugees: the facts are well-enough known. Equally well-known is the Coalition message that a harsh refugee policy is essential to protect refugees from the risk of drowning.
But to suggest that they are worried about refugees drowning is a lie: a fig-leaf to make immoral mistreatment look compassionate. “Worried about people drowning”! So worried that, if they don’t drown, we punish them as if they were criminals, and call them “illegal” to make their punishment look vaguely respectable. We do it, explicitly, as a deterrent so that others will not try to find safety in Australia. And these dishonest politicians, pretending to be motivated by compassion, overlook altogether that if persecuted people stand their ground and are killed by their persecutors, they are still dead: just as if they drowned; if they die in an attempt to escape to some other country, they are still dead: just as if they drowned.
For politicians like Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison and Dutton to say they are worried about boat people drowning is a lie. For them to mistreat asylum seekers in the way they do is a betrayal of the Christian values they cherish.
They are dishonest hypocrites.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) sits at The Hague.
We joined the ICC in 2002. Since then, our treatment of people seeking asylum has involved various crimes against humanity.
So far, 5 communiques have been sent to the ICC, inviting it to investigate and prosecute our PMs and Immigration Ministers for crimes against humanity. The one exception is Chris Evans, who behaved very well as Immigration Minister. The rest: appalling.
Offshore processing has just made it worse. The Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Papua New guinea makes it clear that humane treatment was never the point: rather, the point was to end the people smuggling trade by holding refugees in horrible conditions for a long time. For most of them, it’s been 4 years now. MOU-PNG-Aus
To understand how our treatment of refugees amounts to a crime against humanity, here is one of the communiques. Analysis of the legal aspects starts at page 15: Communiqué to ICC
It is worth looking at the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
It sets the frame-work for the humanitarian horrors which are unfolding there.
Bear in mind: the MOU makes it clear that the purpose of the whole exercise is to combat people smugglers by making an example of the people held on Manus. When government Ministers say they are worried about people drowning, don’t believe them: they are using the survivors as hostages.
If they were genuinely worried about people drowning, they would treat the survivors decently, but there’s no trace of that: not in the MOU and not in the way it is playing out: inadequate medical care; refugees had to queue 7 hours today to get fed.
Just for a moment, imagine that the refugees held on Manus are German Jews, late 1930s: is our treatment of them ethically acceptable?
Here’s the MOU: notice there is no promise they will be treated decently.
I have recently read two new books about Australia’s policy in relation to boat people.
They are both excellent, they both contain a lot of facts which need to be understood, and they both deserve to be widely read.
Claire Higgins’ recent book Asylum By Boat, is published by UNSW Press. It is a very good history of boat arrivals since the Fraser years. It paints a remarkable contrast between the resolute generosity of Australia’s treatment of boat people escaping Vietnam and Australia’s current response to boat people. It explains how the policy shifted over time, and how (back in the late 1970s) the government persuaded the public that mistreating asylum seekers was unthinkable.
Tony Ward’s recent book Bridging Troubled Waters is published by Australian Scholarly Publishing. It is an excellent account of Australia and asylum seekers. It is very rich in facts and it has a number of very useful graphs and tables. It is superbly researched. It discusses Australia’s various manoeuvres designed to avoid its humanitarian obligations and (of particular interest) it notes in passing that asylum seekers who arrive by air (with visas for tourism, study etc) have outnumbered boat people in all but one of the past 20 years. And yet “aeroplane people” are not given a hard time, are not vilified and are not detained, even though they are far less likely to be assessed as refugees than “boat people” are.
On Thursday 16 November, Kate Durham will speak at the opening of the Home exhibition at the Walker St Gallery in Dandenong. It includes works by Zia Atahi, Renee Dixson, Mahla Karimian, Pierre Mukeba and Zakiria Tahirian
Kate spoke at the opening of the Dandenong Annual Art Prize in 2015.
Dandenong Annual Arts Prize
Dear Dandenong, Defiant Dandenong, look at you, how you’ve grown. I remember you, but not like this. Dandenong you are like a council of nations. Here in this intricate city is an Ark, as if from the bible, representatives of every breed, clan or culture are assembled here, a gathering has taken place, Moses would be pleased. What did this city know of the bewildering displacement, the loss of art and cultivation, the self-expression or the needs of the people of the world? Or how to welcome their tentative steps towards a cautious resettlement, in an often hostile terrain?
What is the purpose of the shelter, the vessel, the shield you have made here? The purpose is a very human one: to allow people to represent and to reproduce themselves, and their lives; to find passage to future generations, to stretch their allotted time and space on this ground, to leave the sea of turmoil. Like those animals in the Ark, people seek, if not deliverance from a place of evil, then a place to stay, the way a creature needs a habitat.
The people of the well-named Greater Dandenong recognised as an opportunity, other’s need to find a resolution to the search, a nest, a home, a full stop. With them, they also knew those exotic people would bring their freight of ancestry, their knowledge,,, their joke-bags, their grievance and losses, fears and expectations.
Their great enterprise will be to flourish, but also to pass on an indefinable essence, to pass it on, and to pass it on. Like the game Pass The Parcel: here is my gift, it may get smaller, but keep it, please keep it.
I’m picturing Dandenong, twenty years from now. Take yourself there now, on a little mental voyage. You may discover, that for the first time in a long while, white people, and certainly white females like me, even with the price of a ticket, can no longer travel to more than a quarter of the world’s surface, its prohibited or at least risky. White people are astonished, they have been the ones fussing over, visas, tickets and border control . We, no longer rule the world. we start to experience ostracism, mistrust and boundaries, like those immigrants only a generation ago.
The travel Industry, has not shut down, a vast commercial machine like that won’t rest or die, it will simply restrict or invent our horizons in a manner that suits its business model. They are already doing it. Travel is re-focussing, its offering has changed. In the 70’s the idea was to experience otherness, other cultures, other vistas. Nowadays its imperative to experience more about YOU. You, trekking, you on a mountain. you, snorkelling, you chilling on a beach, any beach. You taking a short trip around Europe within the sanitary and speedy confines of an ersatz Las Vegas: Disneyland for grown-ups, time – poor and afraid of anything but the highlights…
Some of you and some of these artists will remain here in Dandenong. Most of you will possess far more than highlights, you will have the fine grain, the memory, the advice of your former politics and parents. You will have a culture that is not thin, not dilute, but strengthened by its hybridity. Dandenong will be well known for its cultural curiosity and learning.
The artists in this show have something in common, mostly their otherness. In the future, artists like Valamanesh will not have such close, direct insight into Islamic Art and its cosmic gaze, but they’ll have this artist to guide them so the past won’t be so misunderstood. I’ve followed this artist for a while, admiring his cool austerity and wit.
I also know and have desired artworks by Guan Wei, also witty, with an out-sider’s idiosyncratic eye in relation to Australia.
Rhubaba Haider’s work spoke immediately to me of her feminine Hazara heritage. She has morphed that knowledge into something strong yet fragile and contemporary, and philosophical. Whilst retaining a great deal of typical Hazara woman’s discipline and personal restraint.
Khaled Sabsabi”s work turns like a Dervish on Sufi themes, that strange metaphysical branch of Islam which is becoming endangered. Thank you Khaled for preserving it.
Gosia Wlodarczak’s unsettled lines following and chasing life, restless and unfixable, charting her relationship to objects. She makes a cartographic record over time and space.
Kosar Majani’s work is highly symbolic and resonant. It speaks of unrelenting rituals and repetitions that we’ve never known or encountered, in our young country.
20 years from now we may find ourselves grateful that Greater Dandenong ignored the ”Team Australia“ slogans of some of the worst leadership known in this country. That Prime Minister tried to frighten us about the living and cultural aspirations of others, demanding to know whose side we were on, challenging us to mistrust foreigners or the unfamiliar.
Fortunately we barely remember that Prime Minister, he left no relics or artefacts. Unlike these artists who have joined us in a gathering just like this to fill this once slight and shallow space with all our lives, heredity, children, art, adventures and exploration on the vast subject of US and WE. Not THEM or THEY.
Thank you Dandenong, dear Dandenong: you are the Ark. Pass it on, pass it on.
The refugees on Manus have written a letter to some of the leaders of the free world (I have corrected a few spelling mistakes):
To the Honourable: President Donald Trump,
Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau and also humanitarian people of those countries
We, refugees and asylum seekers in Manus Island detention, are writing to you to explain our terrible condition and also our request. The condition in here is out of humanity. Australian government cut food , water and electricity for 5 days. They also cut toilets and everything for around one month. There is no medical clinic in here if something happened for us. We are refugees or asylum seekers and we are not criminals. Even criminal have the right for food and water. This type of torturing is new and Australian government have been torturing us in many ways for more than 4 years. Crime against humanity have been exactly happening in here. To sum up, President Trump, our processing for the USA is running. We want you to please notice some genuine refugees have detained in here. We have no any other choices except for remaining in here. We also ask from Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau to help us. We are skilled or educated from University. We can participate in the way that your countries are heading.
Please help us as much you can. We are in critical condition right now.
We are looking forward to hearing from you.
Detainees in Manus Island
5th of November 2017
– All humanitarian people all over the world.
An open letter to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Join in: to sign the letter, email here, to show your support
6 November 2017
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister Private Bag 18888 Parliament Buildings Wellington 6160 New Zealand
Dear Prime Minister
Warm congratulations on your election as New Zealand’s new Prime Minister.
We are writing to call upon the New Zealand Government to intervene in the entirely preventable humanitarian disaster unfolding on Manus Island.
We applaud your Government for renewing New Zealand’s previous offer to resettle 150 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru. We are aware that on Sunday the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, refused your renewed offer at this stage. This is not acceptable. The men who have languished in Papua New Guinea for over four years need urgent access to a durable solution.
We urge you to actively pursue negotiations with the Papua New Guinean Government and the UNHCR Regional Representative to resettle as many of the men from Manus Island as soon as possible.
We acknowledge, with regret, the unfortunate necessity of writing to you to request that New Zealand step in to resolve this crisis when it is so clearly an Australian responsibility. We believe, however, that the moral leadership New Zealand can take on this issue will increase the pressure on the Australian Government to work with resettlement countries to resolve the current crisis. We will do all in our power to assist you.
In the spirit of international cooperation and humanity, thank you for considering this letter.
Paul Barratt AO Former Secretary, Department of Defence
Dr Margaret Beavis MBBS FRACGP MPH Immediate Past President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
Dr Alison Broinowski Writer and former Australian diplomat
Scott Cosgriff Chair, National Committee, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
John Falzon (TBC) CEO, National Council, St Vincent de Paul Society
Andrew Farran International lawyer
Michael Hamel-Green Emeritus Professor, Victoria University Melbourne
Marion Le AM Registered Migration Agent; specialist in International Law and Refugee Resettlement
Rebecca Minty Human Rights lawyer
Kellie Tranter Lawyer and human rights activist
Dr Sue Wareham OAM President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
Matthew Zagor Associate Professor, Director of Law Reform and Social Justice, ANU College of Law
Julian Burnside AO QC Barrister
Doctors For Refugees have written a very well-considered letter to Federal MPs, concerning the crisis on Manus. It captures the problem very well:
Immediate action required to prevent humanitarian catastrophe on Manus Island
As you know, a major humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding on Manus Island. Six hundred male refugees and asylum seekers are occupying the former Regional Processing Centre (RPC). Outside sits the PNG Defence Force, which is preventing food supplies, purchased by well-wishers, from entering the facility. The men have been told to move to three locations in or near the regional capital, East Lorengau. Two of these are not ready for habitation. All three are insecure and these men have legitimate fears for their own safety. PNG locals have demonstrated their opposition to the move to the town in the last week with a vocal protest outside the centre and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, stated in a media release in late October 2017 that the safety of refugees is ‘not to be taken for granted given the tensions that are being expressed by the locals on Manus Island’. Paradoxically, the former RPC, with no access to food, clean water, sanitation, electricity or adequate medical care is currently the ‘safest’ place for these men to be.
However, the former RPC is not safe. These men have now been without access to the fundamentals necessary for life for over six days. In PNG’s tropical climate we must expect that serious consequences will start to occur this week. We can expect severe skin and respiratory infections, dysentery, malaria and other illnesses to start to take hold. If no action is taken immediately to alleviate this situation, we can expect deaths to start occurring very soon.
On the evening of 4th November 2017 a man with a suspected heart attack in the former RPC sought assistance in Lorengau Hospital. This man was discharged from the facility without having an ECG or blood tests and returned to the former RPC. Thirty six hours later these essential investigations still had not been performed. With this level of medical support, it seems there is little hope for any refugee who becomes seriously unwell on Manus Island, whether they are in the former RPC or relocated to East Lorengau.
If the situation deteriorates further and the PNG Defence Force decides to clear the centre then there is a risk of many deaths through violent action. This is a military force which has demonstrated tremendous antipathy to the refugees, which fired indiscriminately into the RPC causing multiple injuries earlier this year and which has no training in crowd control.
This situation is a direct consequence of the Australian government’s arbitrary, indefinite incarceration of hundreds of innocent men in a hostile environment on a remote island in a poor country, unequipped in all respects to look after them. It must finally take adequate responsibility for the welfare of these men. The duplicity of the Australian government in this matter is eye-watering. On the one hand, the representations of Doctors for Refugees and others about the welfare of these men are referred on by the Australian government as ‘a matter for the PNG government’. On the other hand, we hear that Prime Minister Turnbull has once again turned down the New Zealand government’s offer to shelter some of these men. If the Australian government can dictate what happens to them then it is evidently responsible for their welfare and in fact PNG Immigration Minister, Petrus Thomas, explicitly stated last week that Australia will remain responsible for the welfare of these men when the Australian-funded centre closes. All pretence to the contrary must now stop.
Amnesty International and the UNHCR have been condemning the detention and conditions of these men for years and this was first termed a situation amounting to torture over two years ago. Today, things are exponentially worse and we reiterate: we are heading for many deaths in the coming days and weeks unless urgent action is taken by Australia. Action to alleviate these men’s situation needs to be taken today to prevent deaths. As a start, they need food and water today.
You, as an Australian parliamentarian, must realise that at stake are these men’s lives and Australia’s international reputation as a Western democratic nation and that only you hold the power to influence the situation. Whether by your action or inaction to date it is you who is directly responsible for what is happening. If you do not act now, by speaking, lobbying and voting appropriately then whatever happens to these men will be on your conscience.
For the sake of humanity and compassion we urge you to act immediately. The world is watching you.
Dr David Berger, Executive Committee Member
Dr Barri Phatarfod, President
Dr Paddy McLisky, Secretary
Dr Igal Augarten, Treasurer
Doctors for Refugees
 HLRC 27th August 2017
 PNG Constabulary Media Release October 2017
 ABC 17th April 2017
 ABC 5th November 2017
 Reuters 30th October 2017
 Guardian 9th March 2015
Australian Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA) is a not for profit incorporated association based in South Australia. It is run professionally by a voluntary Executive Committee and volunteers. It was established in 2004, by Paul Heywood-Smith QC and others.
AFOPA’s primary concerns in respect to Palestine are:
- the current humanitarian crises that exists in Palestine as a result of the Palestinian disposition of land and the provision of humanitarian support; and
- consistent with the position of the United Nations, support for a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict based on 1967 borders; it calls for Palestinian people to have the right to self-determination by recognition of the Palestinian State. This is fundamental to the achievements of social and economic freedom, and equality before the law.Australia is one of a few countries (along with Israel, the United States and Canada) that does not recognise the Palestinian State. AFOPA advocates for a change in this position. Australia’s recognition is required to contribute to the peace process. A Roy Morgan poll this year showed that 73 per cent of Australians support recognising Palestinian statehood.
This is a speech I gave to the annual dinner of AFOPA in Adelaide on 4 November 2017.
It sounds pathetic: I just did not know.
I did not know what was being done to Palestinians.
I was vaguely aware of troubles in Israel, of course. I was vaguely aware of reports of Palestinian youths causing trouble, throwing stones at Israeli settlers. I was vaguely aware that Israelis who were attacked would strike back. And of course, like most people, I was aware that the State of Israel was established as a homeland for the Jews who are one of the most persecuted races in all of history.
But I did not realise how shockingly the human rights of Palestinians are being violated.
It’s 69 year since al-Nakba, the great catastrophe: when more than 800,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes; 500 villages were destroyed; 15,000 Palestinians were killed.
It’s 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration originated in a letter written by Lord Balfour on 2 November 1917: 2 days after the famous charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade.
Back then, the Palestinians fought alongside the British. They didn’t get much gratitude: the Balfour Declaration included this paragraph:
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
As it turned out, the rights of Palestinians have been comprehensively trashed.
And when Malcolm Turnbull went to Beersheba recently to celebrate the famous battle, no Palestinian leader was invited to attend.
The abuses of the human rights of Palestinians are getting worse. In particular, Palestinian children are grossly mistreated, despite the provisions of various international human rights conventions to which Israel is a party.
Palestinian children as young as 12 are being:
- Arrested in their homes, at night, between 10pm and 5 am
- Taken away, blindfolded, hooded, their hands tied
- They are often placed on the floor of the van that takes them away, and they are taken by long, slow routes, so they often spend hours on the floor in the back of the van
- They are physically abused: head-butted, kicked, tasered, dragged across the ground
- They are strip-searched and threatened
They are interrogated without being told they are entitled to have their parents present; without being told they are entitled to have a lawyer present; without any warning that they have the right to remain silent. One Palestinian child reports: “The interrogator told me I had the right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer. I told him I wasn’t going to say anything before I was allowed to speak to a lawyer. He became angry and slapped me when I said this.”
Some Palestinian children have been held in solitary confinement for weeks on end.
And beyond all this, there is the Israeli Defence Force’s use of administrative detention: detention without charge, without trial; sometimes for months, often based on secret evidence.
John Lyons recently published a piece in the Weekend Australian. It includes this paragraph:
“Twice a week they had children’s days when children as young as 12 faced the army judges. I caught a glimpse of four young boys, in brown prison overalls, shuffling across the courtyard. They were handcuffed and shackled at the feet. I thought: if the 1nost powerful army in the Middle East thinks it’s acceptable to treat children like this, then something has gone badly wrong…”
Israel has been warned that these things are a gross violation of international human rights norms. Its response has been to suppress information about what it is doing. But it has not improved its behaviour.
The legal rights of Palestinian children are not the same as the legal rights of Israeli children. Palestinian children are treated as legally responsible when they are 12; Israeli children are not legally responsible until they are 14. Israeli children are taken to a civil court; Palestinian children are taken to a military court. Israeli children are treated properly if they come into contact with the criminal justice system; Palestinian children are not.
Israel is making the same tragic mistake Australia makes in relation to boat people. It seems to have forgotten completely the most fundamental point: these are human beings.
Anyone who criticises Israel’s conduct can expect a fierce response. John Lyons writes about it. Anthony Loewenstein has experienced it, and so have I.
I do not wish to deflect attention from the mistreatment of Palestinians for one moment, but it is worth noticing that we have a parallel set of events in Australia.
Australian Aborigines know what it is like to have your land taken; they know what it is like to be kept out of privileged areas; they know what it is like to be given a different, and inferior, legal status; they know what it is like for their children to be taken, mistreated, turned into aliens in their own land.
As I learned what was being done to Palestinian children, I had a recurring vision of the Aboriginal children in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
And Australia has a terrible record for mistreatment of children whose parents brought them to Australia as boat people: they get locked up indefinitely, in what the legal system regards as…yes…”administrative detention”. No charge, no trial. Just like we say to justify the indefinite detention of boat people, who come to Australia seeking a safe place to live.
It is eminently appropriate that AFOPA was founded in South Australia. South Australia leads this country in many things, not least in its advocacy for decent treatment of boat people. And South Australia is the only State where an Aboriginal man, who was taken from his parents when he was 13 months old, was accepted by a Court to have been taken unlawfully, and to have suffered harm as a result.
South Australians seem to understand human rights. Please support the work of AFOPA: keep reminding our politicians that what is being done to Palestinians is utterly unacceptable; donate to charities which concern themselves with human rights: especially Military Court Watch, which is doing remarkable work reporting the atrocious treatment of Palestinians. And hit social media: make sure Australians learn the truth about what is happening. After all, if our political “leaders” hide from the truth, let’s use the new democracy of social media to remind them.
Arundhati Roy, the Indian writer who is famous here for writing “The God of Small Things”, is more famous in her home country for her constant campaigning against the needless creation of dams which serve no useful purpose but which displace small farm holders in the valleys above and below the dams. Arundhati Roy, in one of her essays a couple of years ago, said that “a thing once seen cannot be unseen. And when you have seen a great moral wrong, to remain silent is as much a political statement as to act against it.”
So: now you know what is being done to the Palestinians. Now is the time to speak against it.
This touching, truthful message is from a refugee suffering on Manus.
How can we be so miserable to a tiny group of people? Our politicians have persuaded us to forget the most basic thing: These people are human beings – they need our help.
I don’t normally pass on messages from politicians, but this one from Adam Bandt is an exception:
As we bear witness to the horror that is unfolding on Manus, we cannot be bystanders.
If we are silent, we are complicit. If we turn away, we are complicit. We cannot ignore the atrocities committed by Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull in our name. These callous men must know that there is fierce, widespread opposition to their barbaric regime. As this crisis deepens, the most important time to stand up is now. Will you join me at an emergency rally tomorrow in Melbourne, calling for the immediate evacuation of the men stuck on Manus?
WHAT: Emergency Rally for the Men on Manus Island
WHERE: State Library of Victoria
WHEN: Tomorrow, 4th of November
This week, I am ashamed to be Australian. The hypocrisy that Australia can be on the UN Human Rights council whilst at the same time willfully disregarding the human rights of the men on Manus is disgraceful. That this is happening under our watch shakes me to my core.
It is inconceivable that our Prime Minister can wield the power of the state to inflict torture on innocent people, cutting off food, water and electricity for 600 people under our care. We must stand against him. Join me tomorrow as we occupy the streets of Melbourne’s CBD to send a message the government can’t ignore.
A national tragedy is happening before our eyes. It is disturbing that the Labor party, who started the Manus camp and put people there, are working with the Liberals to deflect attention away from this crisis.
Our major parties are knowingly, and in full view of the international community, attempting to destroy the lives of innocent human beings that need our help. Tell them that this is unacceptable.
Julian, when we look back on this time in Australian history, we will be deeply ashamed. Make sure you are on the right side of history. Make sure that when the next generation asks you what you did when this was happening, you can answer them with pride.
Stand with me tomorrow at the emergency rally in the city. Be counted.
P.S Can’t make it tomorrow? Forward this email to five friends and ask them to stand with you.
Here is a Facebook message from Behrouz Boochani, posted about 4 hours ago:
The situation is getting worse in Manus prison camp. The bodies are getting weak and people are developing physical problems. The refugees collected some more water in rubbish bins from a big tropical rain storm yesterday, and they are also using water from a hole that they dug in Oscar coupound. This water is not clean enough for people to drink, but they are boiling it on a small fire so it can be used. Another important thing is that people are struggling with starvation, and at the same time don’t feel safe in the centre or safe enough to go out because of their previous bad experiences. Many people are unable to sleep because of hunger and fear. Yesterday a Manus missionary wanted to bring food in to the refugees but the Navy prevented them. It’s really hard to describe the difficulty of the current situation. Nonetheless, what I’m understanding from talking with people is that they are not going to leave the prison camp. Also it’s important to state they are saying they don’t want to go to Australia. They are asking that Australia lets them go to a third country. They are so tired from Australia and don’t want to hear any more from Australia.
Hey: Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton how are your Christian values looking?