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Day to Day Politics: Measuring one atrocity against another.

Saturday August 13 2016

On Wednesday the Guardian published the Nauru files, which reveal in staggering detail the scale of abuse and trauma of children in Australian offshore detention.

It is said that a picture paints a thousand words and so it was when the Four Corners programme revealed that horrendous footage of the boys being abused both physically and mentally in a Northern Territory Youth Centre.

Comparably the picture of a dead boy’s body being washed up on the shore by gentle waves that caressed his past, his  beginning and his end, said more than any thousand words.


syrianbeachboyIn this case the footage of the boys experiencing war like treatment by inhumane men triggered a response that cried “not in this country”. The word decency aroused our sense of fairness and our Government overcame its apathy and acted with a sense of urgency rarely seen. So much so that a Royal Commission was quickly convened.

Conversely this week the Guardian newspaper released 2000 emails outlining the abuse of Men women and children on Nauru.

The Guardian points out that:

“The Nauru files are the largest set of leaked documents published from inside Australia’s immigration detention system. They are a set of more than 2,000 incident reports from the Nauru detention centre, written by guards, caseworkers and teachers on the remote Pacific island. They set out every reportable “incident” on the island. Such events include attempts at self-harm, sexual assaults, child abuse, hunger strikes, assaults and injuries. While some of these cases have been reported by the Guardian and other news organisations, the logs set out in detail the totality of harm caused by prolonged detention in Australia’s notorious offshore detention camps.”

The difference between these two atrocities is that there are no pictures worth a thousand words from Nauru. There is no footage of a child having its innocence destroyed or a body hanging from a tree or the many other forms of abuse being perpetrated against crimeless seekers of a better life. All we have is words. Well we have emails of which there is no doubt about their veracity.

The Guardian tells us that there are 2,000 emails in total. Of these 515 are about incidents involving children but children account for only 18% of those in detention. The incidents include self-harm, sexual abuse, physical abuse, assaults and cruelty.

The evidence is unequivocally unambiguous. When a reasoned mind compares the events of the Northern Territory with those on Nauru the injustices, whilst not identical demand a similar response.

Kristina Keneally again writing for the Guardian lists a number of enquiries and concludes:

“And now the Turnbull government, sparked by harrowing footage from the Don Dale youth detention centre, is establishing a royal commission into the Northern Territory juvenile justice system.”

The point of course is that systemic abuse is being carried out against children both in the NT and Nauru. And adults in the case of Nauru.

Of the two atrocities, according to the Government, only one requires a Royal Commission. Why are they different? Why is there an immediacy for one and a turning of the cheek for the other?

David Marr writing for the Guardian:

“But secrecy has its purpose. It helps hold the political consensus together. The truth is terrible. The regime of official secrecy allows us – even when so much is known – not to face the facts. It’s a service for the squeamish.”

He goes on to say:

“Put simply: we think the horrors are worth it. First because both sides of politics tell us that only by detaining refugees out there will the boats stop coming here. And second, we’re assured there is somewhere in the world ready to take our prisoners off our hands.”

“Those are both lies.”

“The second lie is worse: that some country will take the prisoners on Manus and Nauru off our hands. The hunt for the “regional solution” for resettlement is up there with search for Lasseter’s lost reef.”

There have been many lies told in Australian politics. The one that the Australian Government is seeking to place for them in another country is the vilest.

New Zealand has offered to take them but have been knocked back. The fact is that the Australian Government for obvious reasons will not place then in a first world country and is happy to see them rot in detention centres as a deterrent to others.

Let me sum that up. Your Government has decided to sentence men, women and children who have demonstrably committed no crime, to life imprisonment. Furthermore they want those contemplating coming to Australia by boat to be aware of the atrocities being perpetrated on their predecessors.

In yet another article for the Guardian Helon Davison and Ben Doherty wrote that:

The Australian government has been widely condemned over its asylum seeker detention facilities on Nauru”

“Two United Nations agencies and dozens of human rights, legal, religious and medical groups have demanded the Australian government put a stop to the suffering of asylum seekers and refugees in its offshore processing regime, following the publication of the Nauru files.”

“A group of 26 former Save the Children staff released a statement on Wednesday afternoon to say they were the authors of many of the reports but the leaked cache was just “the tip of the iceberg.

Sean Kelly in The Monthly today makes these observations about Peter Dutton interviewed on 2GB:

“I’ve previously accused Dutton of the worst case of cynicism I have seen in politics so, having deprived myself of anywhere to go, let me simply lay out his words for you. Asked about a leak of incident reports from Nauru – which, in case you missed them, include “seven reports of sexual assault of children, 59 reports of assault on children, 30 of self-harm involving children and 159 of threatened self-harm involving children.”

Dutton responded by saying:

“I won’t tolerate any sexual abuse whatsoever. But I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end, people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country. Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated in an effort to get to Australia. Certainly some have made false allegations.”


“Dutton wants us to be talking about asylum seekers and the awful things of which they are capable. Because if we’re talking about that, we won’t be talking about his government’s abject failure to protect children. Which, by the way, isn’t really worth our time, because most of that’s been reported on before.”

Dutton also faced questions about the differences between the Australian government’s swift decision to establish a royal commission into the juvenile detention system in the Northern Territory and the comparatively muted response to the release of the Nauru documents. Dutton responded: “There are considerable differences … Nauru is not part of Australia, so this is an issue for the Nauruan government.”

The difference of course is that the atrocities in the Northern territory and Nauru is that one had pictures and the other had words. But words still matter.

It is said that the first measure of any Government is how it treats the least well off of its citizens. I would have thought that this would also apply to those seeking the comfort of our shores.

It is really incredible, no disheartening, that this government contains so many members of the ilk of Dutton. Those lacking in empathy and compassion. And so many willing to toss away the welcoming spirit that has made this country great. Values that they defend when they deem it necessary but willing to divorce themselves from them for political gain. How rotten to the core they are. Any Government that would deliberately sentence innocent people to a life of incarceration deserve the loathing of the people they seek to serve.

Late on Friday a consortium of human rights groups has released legal advice that the Royal Commission examining Institutional child abuse has the power to examine allegations of abuse of asylum seeker and refugee children on Nauru.

My thought for the day.

In terms of social activism. The word wait should never mean never.”


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  1. Freethinker

    And Dutton was voted in again. It appears that he is doing an excellent job for some people.

  2. David Evans

    Instead of a new Royal Commission into the Don Dale past, why can’t the Terms Of Reference of the current Royal Commission into child abuse in institutions be extended to include Abuse Of Children In Detention, both on mainland Australia and in the offshore facilities? Seems to me to be a logical step forward, we already have a very experienced inquiry, surely some/ all of this talent could be used? I will suggest that the only reason that dutton, morrison abbott and turnbull would resist fair and open inquiry is that they could well be held to account for their actions, as they should be.

  3. Peter F

    This is the party/coalition which pulled a ball out of a hat to decide who would be sent to a war into which they engineered our entry for purely selfish political gain. NOTHING has changed

  4. Kaye Lee

    I cannot believe Adam Giles’ response. He really needs to be kicked out.

    “We’ve seen an outrageous report just a couple of weeks ago now about Don Dale,” Giles told the rather more sympathetic Sky News. “A show that completely sought to politicise Four Corners in the lead up to a Northern Territory government election. I think Four Corners should be ashamed.”

    He upped the ante in later interviews by accusing the ABC of being racist, somehow: “To see an episode such as that try and stir up racial divide in the Northern Territory, I think is appalling, I think is racist and I’m absolutely disgusted in what they’ve done.”

  5. Michael Taylor

    I knew Adam Giles quite well, having worked with him for a couple of years in the public service. There was never a truer champion for Aboriginal people than Adam. But that was then. He seems to have changed. A lot.

  6. Florence nee Fedup

    The PM said so I believe. At the very least he is doing the job the way this government wants it.

  7. Terry2

    Tony Abbott has given what can only be classed as a rambling speech to the Samuel Griffith Society in Adelaide during which he reflected on the Malaysia solution that the Gillard government had proposed. It involved Malaysia taking 800 irregular maritime arrivals not so much as a panacea but as a non-punitive symbol to say to people queuing for boats in Indonesia don’t waste your money with people smugglers, you will could end up in Malaysia.


    Abbott fought vehemently to avoid that policy being introduced and you may remember that Joe Hockey almost burst into tears about the prospect of women and children being sent to Malaysia. No such worries it seems with Cambodia or Nauru.

    Now Abbott is having second thoughts, he said in his speech last night :

    “I wonder, though, about the former government’s people swap with Malaysia.

    The 800 boat people that could have been sent to Malaysia was less than a months’ intake, even then.

    I doubt it would have worked.

    Still, letting it stand would have been an acknowledgment of the government-of-the-day’s mandate to do the best it could, by its own lights, to meet our nation’s challenges.

    It would have been a step back from the hyper-partisanship that now poisons our public life.”

    The key words : “letting it stand would have been an acknowledgment of the government-of-the-day’s mandate”.

    What a hypocrite that man is.

  8. helvityni

    Has this ship got a captain ?

  9. jim

    Look these reports are a conspiracy to make Dutton look bad. Look! there is no abuse, there is no trauma, there is no reason a group of Australians who served as teachers on Nauru are risking their own job and 2 years jail time to speak out, its made up to make Dutton and the LNP look bad.

    and we wouldn’t do anything to anyone that would make them want to hate us or harm us would we?.

    We have the worst government . since 1949 and it’s the LNP,……As the Australia Institute’s research in June found – across a broad range of economic measures, the Abbott/Turnbull government has performed the worst of any Australian government since 1949. Economist Jim Stanford’s report examines economic performance across 12 indicators – including GDP per capita, the unemployment rate, employment growth and the growth of real business investment and intellectual property investment …

  10. Jack Straw

    helvityni: Yes; though he has a half a dozen monkeys on his back.

  11. Steve Laing -

    That is an interesting aside Terry. It shows that for the LNP it is, and was always, just politics to wedge Labor. And if a few Johny Foreign brown people are collateral damage, then so be it. Practical, humane solutions? Only if there is the opportunity to wedge.

    The fact they wouldn’t send to Malaysia, but were happy to send to Cambodia, shows that it was never about human rights, just as the fact that the offshore solution was never really about stopping people drowning at sea.

  12. Darren

    I think it is important not to refer to “asylum seakers” as “crime less people seaking a better life”. If they are indeed “crime less people seaking a better life”, then they are simply illegal immigrants. HOWEVER, these people are fleeing a situation of almost certain DEATH in their homelands and should be refered to as what they are REFUGEES. The term “Asylum Seakers” in itself was introduced into our vernacular by Government spin doctors as it evokes a soft image of people looking for a free ride. Use the word REFUGEE, we should all know what that means – desperate people with NO other option but to herd their own family onto overcrowded unseaworthy boats, face a very real chance of death trying to find a SAFE (not just “better”) place to live. – For the record I believe that we should help in the current crisis as much as we can while pressuring other counties to do their bit as well. I also believe that it should be made quite clear that any family qualifying for refugee status should be expected to return home as soon as the threat of persecution has gone (as determined by an indipendent organisation such as Amnesty Intrrnational and clear that this may never be the case)
    thus speeding up the recovery of said nation. Also, wouldn’t it be great to be having all of these people returning home with first hand knowlage of what living in a democratic, inclusive, compassionate country is like and therefore demanding nothing less in their own country?

  13. stephentardrew

    I am so devastated by these reports. It demonstrates that Australia is not a democracy while it is willing to illegally run torture camps out of some vile and corrupt sense of specialness and elite right to discriminate against anyone who needs assistance.

    Many of my fellow citizens voted for these vile reprobates as Labor sat on its hands with muted voice and unwillingness to act on what is ethical and decent. The country feigns ignorance while supporting such cruelty.

    Australia you should be ashamed of yourself. You all know what is going on it has been obvious for years. I am sick of this pretence at ignorance.

    Most Australians have turned their backs knowing full well what is going on.

  14. Terry2


    ‘hear what you are saying but just to be clear, there is no CRIME here : had there been a crime there would have been charges, a trial and a judgement and possibly a conviction. What we have is indefinite detention as a punishment where no crime has been committed.

    I am sure that these people would jump at the opportunity of having their day in a court of law : they would be acquitted and freed instantly.

  15. Darrell

    Recent article that caught my attention but I was unwilling to read closely (Sky News) said Dylon Voller’s treatment (abuse) was humane, and for his own safety. Really!!? These pricks make me sick to the stomach and should not be anywhere near anybody’s children let alone responsible for rehabilitating these unfortunate kids that have been failed by our/their own society. What chances will they ever have if the only form of compassion we can offer is to be restrained in a chair with a bag over their head.

  16. Ken Butler

    Bad fellow my country.
    Karma ahead???

  17. wam

    spot on michael but giles back stabbed his way to the job when his boss was in Japan, and is now subjected to many pressures from sycophants, lobbyists and men from the past.
    He got sucked in by a sex scandal(the lonely men in darwin and the wives in Alice and Perth). Survived a knife attempt by a former co-conspirator and is now in ads trying to pick up votes with a spiel of ‘achievements’. Including measures in ‘crime control’.
    No matter what our political view, a royal commission into the treatment of children on the mainland and offshore is a must.
    Without such apolitical sanction, no politician can risk ‘softening’ on detention for boat people and turnball is unable to, freely, let go of an election winner.
    When labor cannot trust turnball’s word and turnball himself, cannot be sure the rabbottians in his cabinet will support his promises. How can bi-partisanship be approached much less launched?? QED

    Hopefully, the loonies may force the issue by screaming about the costs, till we voters see the treatment as a voting issue??

  18. Joan

    , Surely “illegal immigrants” are those who overstay their Visas ? Those who come from countries very much like ours ? I understand, rightly or wrongly most are from the UK ? Given the actions and inn-actions of our Government, how could you expect ANYONE leave this country and sing our praises of a democratic, inclusive and compassionate country. You say that in jest ? Our Government has forfeited ALL rights to those adjectives. The truth seems to be plain to see. Our Government doesn’t give a damn what anyone or indeed another country think of us and cares even less about those who risk all to reach a safe life. You have only to see the outcry from those of us who care….and then see how our Government ignores us and lies to us , over and over again.

  19. Florence nee Fedup

    They have been treating Dylon in that manner for more that 7 years. Only result is worse behviour. Doesn’t work. #auspol

  20. Harquebus

    I remember the world being shocked at the drowning death of that young boy Alan Kurdî. I also remember the Israeli attack on Gaza and seeing pictures of the young children there killed and maimed. A young boy with a cavity where his brain used to be, a young girl being rushed into hospital with her intestines hanging from her stomach. Both were about 5 years old. There was also a slightly younger girl sitting up crying with bloody stumps where her arms used to be and a baby that was reduced to a blackened piece of charcoal. Where was the shock and horror then? There was none. The media was silent.

  21. Freethinker

    Just because the media that you read was silent it does not mean that other media sources did not published the events.
    Many of us were sick of that news.
    What it is your point?

  22. Kronomex

    All I can say after looking at the photo of Duncehead is that he’s obviously been practicing his corporate arse crack kissing for years until it has become second nature. I wonder if his tongue has mutated into an anteater type of tongue to really get the recipient excited.

  23. helvityni

    Jack Straw, the donkey in the photo looks like he’s just about to take a bite of a banana, I hope it’s an unripe one….

  24. helvityni

    …no wonder he’s happy to eat unripe bananas, his ex-boss ate unpeeled raw onions

  25. win

    Someone PLEASE convince me that Dutton is a human being. He looks like a badly made inflatable doll and is as empathetic as a primitive robot — except Asimov’s law would require such to harm no human.Real emotions are visible on the face, even when there are no words spoken.

  26. andreas

    No, Freethinker, I don’t buy your line. And misleading it is, too! You may be a Free-martin, -loader, -domfighter, -mason, -holder, but a Free-thinker you are not.

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