Sunday 6 August.
So barbaric was the tone that I thought I was reading a not so subtle modern-day day form of 18th century slave trading. Here we had two leaders of the civilized world discussing the fate of some 2000 humans as if they were cattle.
People who have suffered the full force of Australia’s unique version of fairness by being incarcerated for not having committed a crime may – judging by the tone of the conversation between these two civilized men – turn out to be life sentences.
What struck me was the sheer absence of humanity. Turnbull knows that these people have been languishing in these hellholes created by his government in order to make a point to others who might come, for years.
The absenteeism of human warmth, one to another, of empathy or compassion for people who are suffering and the callous disregard for their fate, I found to be deeply scandalous.
The stain of bad Australian blood insinuates itself on these hellholes of our own construction because our own leadership, indeed our own governance, is represented by men and women of ill repute.
From the reports I have read there seems to be a consensus that Malcolm matched him, that he gave more than he got, as if there was a certain gratification in our Prime Minister having gone 13 rounds with the greatest man in the world and came out on top. The mainstream media has lost its objectivity.
The Australian newspaper called it his finest hour.
Here is an example:
“You can decide to take (the refugees) or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process … It does not require you to take any … We are taking people from the previous administration that they were very keen on getting out of the United States. We will take more. We will take anyone that you want us to take.”
What I see lies beyond this meaningless exchange between two men full of their own immoral emptiness. It is a world where men and women strut their stuff in the murky waters of ambiguity. Where trust and truth are withering under the onslaught of self-importance power and narcissism.
It is a world in which history is just an ongoing commentary on the incompetence of men.
In 2012 Malcolm was enjoying a turn on the speaking circuit. In his Winterton lecture he said:
“In case you think my call for a change of attitude and practice to truth in politics is just idealism – let me make a practical political point. It seems to me that we don’t simply have a financial deficit; we have a deficit of trust. We can argue for hours which side and which politicians, which journalists indeed, have contributed most to it. But it affects all of us and all of our institutions. The politicians and parties that can demonstrate they can be trusted, that they will not insult the people with weasel words and spin, that they will not promise more than they can deliver, that they will not dishonestly misrepresent either their own or their opponents‟ policies – those politicians and parties will, I submit to you, deserve and receive electoral success.”
With these words the Prime Minister describes his hypocrisy, his characterless naked desire for power. That in spite of his fine eloquent words of political idealism the fact is that he is a liar.
You see the conversation between these two narcissists is not the story here, it’s the character of them that is.
“Do you shape the truth for the sake of good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people may have of you? Alternatively, do you simply use the contrivance of omission and create another lie .I can only conclude that there is always pain in truth but there is no harm in it”.
“His confession to Trump that it is a people swap shows his duplicity and lays bare the contempt he has for the Australian people and the truth,” Senator McKim said.
The Senator is correct we understood that the majority of refugees on Manus and Nauru would be re settled in the United States. Its unambiguous, that’s what he said.
The Prime Minister promised Australia would “hold up our end of the bargain by taking in our country [people] that you need to move on from”.
He then went further, offering to “take more” people and “take anyone that you want us to take … as long as they did not come by boat”.
“We would rather take a not-very-attractive guy that [helps] you out than to take a Nobel Peace Prize winner that comes by boat”.
On many occasions the Prime Minister has been asked about the connection between Central American refugees and he has always insisted that there is none.
Last September Turnbull said Australia’s acceptance of refugees from Costa Rica was “not linked to any other resettlement discussions” and was “not connected to any other arrangements”.
Sometime later, after the US deal was announced, Australian Minister for everything Peter Dutton said: “The Costa Rica arrangement had nothing to do with this deal and it’s not a people swap.”
“The agreement … does not require you to take 2000 people. It does not require you to take any,” Turnbull told the President.
“The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1250 to 2000. Every individual is subject to your vetting.”
“You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process.”
If you seek truth, justice, integrity and a concern for human suffering from this conversation you will not find it. This conversation was about a deal. Not an honorable one where people, and our duty of care, might be the major concern but rather it was about a business deal and who might gain the most from it. It didn’t matter how far you had to lower your standards so long as you looked formidable.
As for the refugees who have done no wrong their defilement will continue and Australian values ridiculed.
Time will move on while
Death lurks with
Love its first victim
Truth a first causality
Faith is lost
Depravity has no shame
Dreadful is the
Fear that seeks bravery
Some have more
Only the dead see the end of it
Still life lingers in
Lest we forget
Of those who fight with grace
Courage be their name
So I have interpreted this conversation a little differently than most of my fellow scribes. The shame that this episode brings to my country’s history weighs profoundly on my ageing heart. I deplore the likes of Dutton, Turnbull and Abbott but I cannot bring myself to hate them.
My thought for the day
“Power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s wellbeing for the sake of it”.