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“I wonder how the hell you can put a baby in detention”

Dear Prime Minister,

I know you are busy ‘securing our nation against the various challenges that we face at home and abroad’. I know same-sex marriage is low on your agenda. I know that hating on the ABC rates highly on your list of things to do.

However I have a question for you; an important question that thousands of Australians, in fact, the rest of the world, wants an answer to.

Since when has it been acceptable to house babies in stinking hot, rat-infested, leaky tents?

I know you are distracted by posing with your new Border Force commissioner, but this is a really important issue. And it’s an issue that Australians – the ones who haven’t bought into your fear tactics and scaremongering, want dealt with immediately.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing to you. Surely I should be doing something useful, and non-controversial, like ironing my husband’s work shirt. But you see, Prime Minister, I have a son who is one month younger than Asha, the baby born to asylum seeker parents and just recently sent to your detention centre on Nauru.

And I am doing my job, as a parent, as a human being, as a person with a conscience, in speaking out and saying that it is unacceptable for babies and children to be held in detention.

The thing is, Mr Abbott, it is my taxes paying for those filthy facilities. My taxes paying for the guards to allegedly film themselves having sex with vulnerable and desperate women. My taxes, Mr Abbott, paying for a regime which includes rapes, sexual assaults on children and acts of violence.

And I object.

I want you to tell me, Mr Abbott, why my taxes should be used to pay for child abuse?

And I don’t want you to deny this is happening. Quite simply, Mr Abbott, when your department tells me that everything is fine, I don’t believe it.

But I do believe the many doctors, nurses, teachers and health workers who have spoken up about the inhumane conditions. I do believe the findings of the Moss Review, and the Forgotten Children report presented to you by the Australian Human Rights Commission. I believe the United Nations, who has stated that Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in detention amounts to torture.

Do you know what else makes me believe these people above you, Mr Abbott, apart from them being professionals and ethically obliged to report abuse?

Your law which may see professionals, including these doctors, nurses and health workers, jailed for speaking out and advocating on behalf of their patients.

I’ll just repeat this, Mr Abbott, in case you don’t quite understand: Your law which may see professional people, who have witnessed, first hand, the conditions that these asylum seekers, including babies and children, are living in, jailed for reporting abuse.

I acknowledge Mr Dutton’s pitiful attempts to downplay the situation. He says that the laws don’t prevent ‘genuine concerns’ from being aired and ‘legitimate’ issues raised.

How do you define ‘genuine’ and ‘legitimate’ concerns, Mr Abbott? Is evidence of rape, sexual abuse, serious mental illness, and suicidal ideation not enough for you? What about murder, Mr Abbott? What about asylum seeker death from septicaemia? Clearly none of these things are of concern to you, Mr Abbott, or you would have done something about it.

Instead, what do you do?

You send a baby to Nauru.

Right now as I sit here breastfeeding my son (and I won’t apologise for making things awkward for you by talking about my breasts), I am thinking about baby Asha’s mother, and how she must be feeling. You see, Mr Abbott, unlike you I am able to empathise. And having a son almost the same age as Asha, I can barely imagine how stressful and traumatic it must be for her mother, struggling to feed her baby in that hell-hole on Nauru.

Of course I appreciate that you’ve never breastfed a child, Mr Abbott. And I understand that in the 1950’s, where most of your values date from, breastfeeding wasn’t considered cool – something practised by the uneducated and poor. But let me tell you something, Mr Abbott, babies need food. And if they are bottle fed formula, they need access to clean, fresh water, hygienic conditions and facilities to sterilize bottles.

Can you honestly tell me, Prime Minister, that Asha’s mother has access to these things? I want an honest answer, Mr Abbott, not another one of your lies.

So as I sit here, Mr Abbott, writing to you, with my son suckling away and filling his fat little tummy with milk, I wonder how the hell you can put a baby in detention. I wonder how the hell you expect Asha’s mother to feed her, when you have subjected her to such torturous and inhumane conditions that she is struggling to breastfeed.

How far do you want this to go, Mr Abbott? Do you want a baby to die?

Why, Mr Abbott, is it illegal for my son to be abused, yet not for baby Asha? Is it because my son was born in Australia? Asha was born in Australia too. Is it because her parents are not Australian? Neither were your parents, Mr Abbott. Is her skin not white enough?

If my son was living in the same conditions as baby Asha, I’d be deemed an unfit parent. Your policy, Mr Abbott, and your laws, which not only serve to endorse child abuse, but now make it unlawful to report it, make you unfit to be Prime Minister.

I want an answer, Mr Abbott. I want you to tell me just why you think abusing a baby, any baby, is acceptable.


Eva Cripps


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  1. Kenneth McGrath

    Great moving truth Eva thank you, you should send this to the Guardian or SMH, seriously. You have managed to put a truly human face to the shame that is being done in our name, more power to you, cheers, ken

  2. babyjewels10

    I’m sharing and sharing.

  3. Rosemary Robenn

    I have just shared this to Tony Abbott’s Facebook page with a request that he answer this question.

  4. The Lion

    Tony Abbott uses the Bible to make his comments about Gay Marriage, well Christ never talked about Homosexuality, he did make comment about harming children there references in three Gospels so I will take one Mark 9:42 It would be better for a person to tie a millstone around ones neck than to harm one of these children! Now Christ knew who he was and what he was on the planet for and still he said this, and just so we don’t get confused here he said it BEFORE there were Christians so it meant ALL children! Time for you to realise you are a candidate for the Mark 9:42 Millstone award as are your fellow Christian cabinet members like Hillsonger Scott Morrison!

  5. olive

    Fantastic eva…..I cannot get this cruelty out of my mind…and does Mr Abbott think it Ok to keep this baby on Nauru for the rest of his natural life ? ….This should be sent to every Parlmentarian especially the cross benchers . Can this get published in the msm?

  6. Kaye Lee

    The Forgotten Children report says that “Over 167 babies have been born in detention within the last 24 months.”

    What have we become?

  7. David Shapcott

    Well said Eva, thank you for putting coherently what I would babble and scream.

  8. miriamenglish

    Excellently said Eva. I’m linking to this via facebook. It should get as much exposure as possible. Abbott deserves every bit of shame it can bring him (and all the moral midgets who go along with his sick rationale for imprisoning in concentration camps people fleeing persecution).

  9. Sally Westcott

    I want to know those answers too Eva. Thank you so much for putting your requests so politely and eloquently. I too look forward to a rational and reasonable answer but I am not holding my breath! Sadly I think you and I will be disappointed. I am very ashamed to be called Australian right now!

  10. John Kelly

    We as a nation, will carry an irrevocable stain on our character for generations to come. History will record our actions and the subsequent outcomes. It will be damning.

  11. miriamenglish

    Posted the link to Tony Abbott’s facebook page too, but couldn’t stay there long as I could feel my blood pressure rise by the second as I read so many unbelievably ignorant comments.

  12. Matters Not

    Good article Eva. but I can’t understand the emphasis on the ‘paying of tax’ as though it’s some how of ‘primary’ importance. It’s not!

    You say:

    The thing is, Mr Abbott, it is my taxes paying for those filthy facilities. My taxes paying for the guards to allegedly film themselves having sex with vulnerable and desperate women. My taxes, Mr Abbott, paying for a regime which includes rapes, sexual assaults on children and acts of violence.

    While I accept that all Australians pay tax (some more than others which an avenue worthy of exploration), it’s not the fundamental point. It’s not the paying of ‘tax’ that entitles us to a voice of concern or endorsement, (after all there are many, many other residents who also pay tax in Australia), it’s the fact that we are Australian ‘CITIZENS’ which entitles us to decide what should, or shouldn’t, be done in our name.

    As a citizen of Australia, and therefore entitled to participate fully in public life, I protest at what is being done in our (my) name.

    (By way of example, would anyone be more comfortable if Abbott et al responded with ‘proof’ (facts and figures and the like) that it wasn’t Australian taxpayers funding offshore processing in Manus and Nauru but taxes collected from foreign nationals and corporations?)

    I should stress that as an Australian Citizen who doesn’t pay enough tax, I would still be outraged.

    Any thoughts? As a citizen? As a taxpayer? Your choice.

  13. Florence nee Fedup

    As sure a night follows day, there will be a baby die. Not sure we will ever know about it, is another thing. I cannot understand the need this government has for secrecy. Secrecy in all they do. Can only come t the conclusion, they are all suffering from paranoia. Secrecy doesn’t only extend to the Opposition and the public, it seems that they don’t even trust those in cabinet, let along the front or back bench,.

  14. mars08

    The clueless, demented, evil wanker was on an Ameircan warship today… wearing a leather bomber jacket… complete with name tag. Has he no shame?

  15. Eva

    RE: Matters Not. Thanks for your question; I would be just as angry if I wasn’t a taxpayer. I’m actually more angry as a parent. However given Abbott’s continued reference to ‘lifters and leaners’, and tendency to write off any criticism, I thought it worth pointing out to him that I do pay tax. This isn’t the key point of the letter, just a passing note for Abbott’s benefit. Usually I wouldn’t think this was relevant, as every person, taxpayer, citizen, resident, parent or not, should be outraged, but contextually, and given Abbott’s ideology, I included it.

  16. Matters Not

    Eva, thanks for your response. Let me assure you, my concerns go way beyond your post, which I think is an excellent one. My concerns are primarily about ‘citizenship’ – rights and responsibilities – and the way it is and isn’t discussed in public discourse.

    My concerns are not confined to Abbott et al but also to Labor as well as those who also want to use taxpaying as a ‘rationale’. You say:

    Abbott’s continued reference to ‘lifters and leaners’ … and given Abbott’s ideology

    Yes he does but also does Hockey. But why play on their ideological ‘ball park’ (any more than necessary) as though they are entitled to set the agenda?

    as every person, taxpayer, citizen, resident, parent or not, should be outraged,

    Agree! But in any democracy, it’s ‘citizenship’ that bestows and demands unique rights and responsibilities.

    Time we returned to fundamentals re what a ‘democracy’ is all about. And being a ‘taxpayer’ is neither a ‘necessary’ nor ‘sufficient’ condition.

  17. kerri

    A Very powerful and very brave letter Eva. Thank you for articulating our thoughts. Abbott must be removed ASAP! This government is so corrupt and inhumane but more worrying is the alternative? If Shorten is prepared to sacrifice refugees to gain popularity with Australia’s underclass rednecks, and I can Say that as many of them are my relatives, then what hope does this country have?? Does there need to be blood on the streets? This is the one occasion where maybe access to guns could prove a point? My god what have we become?

  18. matters Not

    Does there need to be blood on the streets?

    Hopefully not!

    This is the one occasion where maybe access to guns could prove a point?

    Possibly so. But what point would that be? (I am now concerned re the introduction of ‘guns’ into any solution. Surely the USA ‘common sense’ demonstrates the stupidity of that approach.

    As for:

    My god what have we become?

    Perhaps we are a society (and individuals) that appeal(s) for answers from a particular and peculiar ‘god’ that we ourselves created?


  19. Roswell

    I’d rather see marching on the street, anger even, but not blood.

  20. keerti

    From shouldabeenaborted’s point of view, it is probably a good thing that his mentor brought in gun control. Otherwise as well as wearing the mantle of australia’s most hated PM he’d be in line to be the first to be assassinated!

  21. miriamenglish

    I wonder what the numbers actually are. This is one of the problems with a government that distorts statistics for appearance’s sake and that imposes secrecy arbitrarily, again for the sake of appearance. It makes it very difficult to work out where we really stand. Are we in the majority or are the xenophobes? How numerous are they really? And how much is that a result of the Murdoch propaganda machine? How numerous would they be without the mainstream media distorting people’s minds? If Murdoch’s horribly irresponsible “news” machine could be broken up how much sanity would return to ordinary Australians, and how much lingering brain damage will remain? (Make no mistake, it is brain damage — not obvious physical damage, but genuine damage nevertheless.)

    I keep remembering something I read years ago. A German civilian who lived through the second world war didn’t hate the Jews at all, but was afraid to say anything because he thought he was in the minority. After the war he found that there were actually many others who felt the same way as he did, but they’d been cowed into being isolated and silent. They’d been persuaded to believe that most Germans hated the Jews, however to this day I don’t think anyone really knows how many Germans did hate Jews, and it is probably impossible to disentangle the effect of the anti-semitic propaganda in generating hate where there may not have been before.

  22. diannaart

    Thank you Eva.

    We may need another letter of similar righteousness, should Labor every back into office.

  23. Annie B

    As a regular reader / poster to AIM – I am grateful that I read your extraordinarily courageous and excellent letter to the current horror invading our political scene. … He has invaded, on a mandate he claims to have, but in effect does not ( the 2013 election fell to his favour, from preferential votes – and not outright majority percentage voting ).

    As a mother, and a grandmother, …. I feel utterly ill. …. I only knew very little of this situation, and now I know the full story – a half hour ago I was a different ( and ignorant of the facts ) person.

    I will do everything I can to make this public – although what that might be is yet to be decided. … Facebook in particular is just a social media outlet, that whizzes through ( at it’s discretion ) what it wants to be seen, and what it doesn’t want to be seen….. it contains hundreds of ‘yesterdays news’ pieces, as so many people post minute by minute, therefore, so much can be missed.

    …. I rather think my own website might be the go. … At least I can send a link to the relevant page, to many people.

    Therefore, I seek your permission to do so.

    Meantime, Eva – may I say, I have not ever read anything quite so powerful, truthful and challenging as your article here …. it is brilliant.

    I await your confirmation via this site – as to whether I have permission to reprint your letter in full. …. I do not reprint on my website, without permission.

  24. Matters Not

    Eva’s post raises an interesting point re the payment of ‘taxes’, and the implication that paying tax somehow implies a right as to how such payments ought to be (or not) spent.

    It seems to me that this view is not uncommon but rather it is widely spread. Strange but true (perhaps).

    When I hop on a bus and pay for a ticket to go from point X to point Y, regardless of whether it’s on a public or private bus, I have a legal duty to pay over some dollars. The same when I buy a ‘washing machine’, a ‘car service’ or indeed fulfil any other legally binding contract re the delivery of a product or a service.

    When Harvey Norman, for example, receives my payment, which she/he is legally entitled to, I have no expectation that he/she will or won’t spend what was once my dollars, in any particular way. It’s his/her choice, because it’s no longer my dollars. Put simply, once I hand over my ‘hard earned’ dollars to fulfil a legal obligation, it seems to me that I don’t have any control, nor should I, as to how those dollars are spent.

    Surely it’s the same with government, with some caveats.

    It seems to me that talking about the payment of ‘my taxes’ and how they should be spent extinguishes after the tax (the obligation) is paid. (Yes folks, while citizens have rights, they also obligations and tax paying is an obligatory downside).

    For sure, there are ‘checks and balances’ via elections every three or four years when one can decide whether the obligatory monies have been well spent but let’s not forget that the payment of tax is a legal obligation, not accompanied by rights as to how same is spent (at least in the short term.)

    Simply, when one pays tax, it’s no longer yours.

  25. olive

    Has this letter gone to Tony Abbott ????? can we crowd fund its publication ????? It is powerful and hits home .

  26. Kyran

    This compelling article has bothered me, more than most articles, since I first read it. Whilst pointing out the undeniable double standards of mandatory reporting of abuse on the mainland and the encouragement of such abuse in detention prisons (by enforced silence on the part of those charged with the protection of the inmates), it has taken me time to unravel the greater cause of my concern.
    The whole reason for this, as told by politicians, is humanitarian. We are told that neither side can stand idly by while these people, seeking asylum, risk the possibility of dying at sea. Introduce the ‘people smuggler business model’ for good effect. To continue that thought, one is left with the inescapable fact that these same politicians want to replace the POSSIBILITY of people drowning at sea and replace it with the CERTAINTY they will be subjected to physical, mental and emotional abuse, regardless of their age or gender.
    That this thinking is barbaric, cynical and shallow, does not surprise me. That is my expectation of the current government. As with most of the ‘open letters’ written on this and other sites, I admire the sentiments and encourage the authors. With regard for the addressee’s, of which I have none, I can only suggest you write in crayon and include stick figure drawings. Such is the level of their competence and/or intelligence.
    As with many other concerned Australians, I will walk in angry (but peaceful) protest at every opportunity, lest the irrevocable stain of their actions become confused with my inaction.
    Thank you Ms Cripps. Take care

  27. Eva

    RE: Annie B. Thank you and yes, I’m happy for you to post on your website. Please can you attribute first publication to AIMN?

  28. Kaye Lee

    “Simply, when one pays tax, it’s no longer yours.”

    I disagree. We hand over a portion of our earnings to custodians who are supposed to invest it in our best interests. There is a duty of care. We are not giving the money to the government in payment for goods and services they have provided – we pay it for them to invest in our future needs. Others make a very credible argument that taxation is merely a control on the amount of money in circulation rather than bankrolling government expenditure.

    Either way, it should not be regarded as the property of executive government to do with as they will.

    Speaking of which….

    “Tony Abbott’s hand-picked human rights adviser ran up more than $77,000 in taxpayer-funded expenses in his first year on the job, spending almost $15,000 on taxis.

    The government appointed Tim Wilson to the role of Human Rights Commissioner shortly after the 2013 election, drafting him from the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank.

    In the 12 months after he took up the position in February 2014, the former Liberal Party member charged taxpayers $77,763 for expenses. These were in addition to his $332,000 salary package and $40,000 accommodation allowance.

    He spent $14,562 on cab fares, including almost $3000 for family reunion travel for his partner, according to a departmental response to a Labor question on notice.

    Mr Wilson also claimed for an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop and a $1400 standing desk.

    The so-called “Freedom Commissioner” has roamed far and wide in his job. He has spent about $11,000 on business class airfares abroad – although about $2000 of this was reimbursed by groups that hosted him – and $26,000 on domestic fares, including $10,800 for his partner.

    The taxpayer also picked up a $17,800 bill for meals and other expenses while travelling.

    “You’d rather I sit in my office all day?” was Mr Wilson’s response when contacted.”

    And people wonder about our freedom commissioner’s deafening silence on children in detention…..

  29. miriamenglish

    I can almost understand this government doing such things to people — it is a bit of a stretch because it is difficult for me to imagine that people could deliberately put innocent people in harm like this and desperately try to cover it up. I can almost understand it because Abbott and co seem not to comprehend morality. It is weird though… if I wrote such characters into one of my stories I’d be criticised for writing cartoon-like one-dimensional bad guys, but the people in this government really exist and they really do this stuff!

    What I can’t understand is that the coverup couldn’t have been written into law without Labor signing on to it. How did they come to be so infected by evil? They are supposed to be the people’s party, looking out for the ordinary folk. It’s bad enough that in their term they put innocent people illegally into concentration camps too, but how did they decide to cover up and enable torture and sexual abuse of children! What are they thinking? Where is their common decency? What happened to their morals? I watched the talk Bill Shorten gave bemoaning the problem of refugees drowning. It was disgusting. So insincere.

    There is a sensible, moral way to prevent any more of the drownings that have occurred. The Greens have outlined it at this link:

    Currently we take only a tiny fraction of refugees that other countries do. Historically immigrants have created much of Australia’s wealth. I recently watched a documentary on Australia’s early rock music industry Blood + Thunder: The Sound Of Alberts. I still love the music of the Easybeats and AC/DC. They were fresh-faced immigrants who generated many millions of dollars for Australia as well as defining much of our culture. They came here to get away from horrible living conditions — “economic refugees”, as our vile prime minister is fond of scapegoating such people.

    We should release the refugees and lock up this government.

  30. Annie B

    Eva –

    Thank you for your permission to reprint your letter, on my website, which was initially structured to reflect family life, Australia, photography, poetry / literature, articles of achievement and also of advice.

    If writing something political or topical ( e.g. bush fire safety ) … I usually do a small pre-amble. … and in that I would most certainly acknowledge both yourself by name ( as well as your signature as shown on the letter ) … and where I first found your letter – which is the AIM Network.

    I will advise when it is up and published. ….

  31. Sarah

    Asha’s mother has told the #saveasha group that she has run out formula to feed her baby. She needs formula in liquid form to be able to feed her baby safely, as breastfeeding was interrupted as mother and baby were forcibly separated during transfer, and Asha gets sick on S26 formula. The detention centre will only provide S26 powdered formula and does not have appropriate facilities for washing feeding bottles for Asha’s mum to be able to safely use powdered formula.

    This is a serious situation – Asha is in danger of dying!
    Please phone your MP to demand that they provide nurture gold formula in liquid form now. If we all put pressure on, then the government might take notice.

    Eva – please can you help?

  32. Eva

    RE: Sarah. It is a truly horrible situation. I definitely encourage everyone to contact their MP; phone, email and social media. finally covered the story only a couple of days ago, so pestering the mainstream media might help too. I’ve sent my letter to Abbott and also every federal MP and Senator. Unfortunately I don’t expect anything other than a standard, form letter reply, but all we can do is keep on at them.

  33. Matters Not

    Kaye Lee said:

    I disagree. We hand over a portion of our earnings to custodians who are supposed to invest it in our best interests.

    Kaye, I think in terms of a rational discussion we need to draw a distinction between what ‘is’ required and what is ‘desirable’ or if you like a distinction between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’.

    As you would appreciate, there can be a significant difference.

    You speak of ‘handing over a portion of our earnings’ and ‘not giving the money’.

    It seems to me that ‘handing over’ and ‘giving’ indicates that such actions are a matter of free choice while I am suggesting it’s a matter of legal obligation. In short it’s not a ‘choice’ (defined broadly in terms of a free decision) but an ‘obligation’, (defined in terms of what one must do) if one, as a citizen wants to escape the ‘force of the law’. Perhaps I am wrong?

    You go on and assert:

    we pay it for them to invest in our future needs

    Again you are being ‘aspirational’ (not that I disagree with the sentiment) but in terms of ‘conceptual clarity’ I think it’s useful to draw a distinction between what actual constraints (or lack thereof) governments operate under and what might be (desirable).

    One could go on.

  34. Annie B

    To Eva and Michael.

    I said I would let you know when I had reprinted this article ( with thanks to Eva for her permission ).

    Well hell !! …. My main website “Greener Pastures” is available on line for anyone to see / look through / and leave comments on. … But I have been locked out of editing it – mainly because the web hosting service is currently ‘migrating’ to another service, and that service would ( apparently ) require domain rights to be paid substantial sums for – something I don’t wish to do at this stage.

    I had / have a very small linked site to that – which I have now used to reprint your article / letter, Eva. The editing there is atrocious, but I managed to publish it ( after 2+ hours of fighting with html – weirdest behaviour of html I have ever seen ). My main site falls around 380 short of 100,000 hits, but the small linked site has no accounting for that ( being a link off the main site ) …. so I doubt it will be read by any more people, than those on my original mailing lists when I send it out. I was also unable to add comments to it, or change it’s site-name, so it comes up as the original ( which has nothing whatsoever to do with politics !!! ) ….

    I had hoped to make it a blog called “What’s What” … but will pursue that on a totally different website hosting service, from now on. I have also written a preamble to the article, mainly to cover my own backside from backlash, from some on my mailing list !!! ( I think we all know about back-lash !! ).

    Meantime, I can print out your article for a few other interested persons, and as mentioned, send this link to my mailing list.

    It is all I can do … apologies – it didn’t go quite according to plan 🙁 …. but the link works.

  35. Annie B

    Thanks Harquebus. … Forgot to mention that I intend to send the entire thing to various members of Parliament, including the Victorian Labor lot here. ( not that they can do much ) … but the standing member for the Liberals in my electorate will be getting one that is gold plated !!! 😉 – that’s Jason Wood MP. !!

    At this point, and I am not opting out, it must be left to Eva to send it to other members of Parliament and whoever else she decides upon, although it would not hurt me to whip one off to the link you have provided, as a person who was interested in this article / letter. … In fact, why not. … will do. …

    But further action would have to be taken by Eva. …… I cannot and would not presume to, take full responsibility beyond being an interested party, for her article.

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