In light of the so-called “Nauru files” questions are naturally being asked. However the questions being asked by decent minded people of conscious are decidedly different from the ones being asked by the government and our immigration minister Peter Dutton.
While those of us who would prefer our nation didn’t behave like a sub-branch of the Third Reich are asking questions like, “why are we spending billions of tax payer dollars torturing and imprisoning people who have committed no crime?”
And “How can we ignore blatant human rights abuses on our watch?” the government is asking questions like “Who told, who leaked the reports?”
Under the government’s carefully managed messaging the innocent victims of our concentration camps have, until now, been successfully branded as criminals in the broader public’s eye. But the cat is well and truly out of the bag. Everybody knows that we have not only been locking up innocent people, we have been systematically subjecting them to all manner of abuse, rape and torture on our watch.
So where to now for the government? At this point you would have thought someone in the LNP party room might have suggested they put down the shovel and step away from the hole, but no. They are sticking to their guns. In his Orwellian attempts to manage the message Dutton has chimed in with a range of assertions so patently absurd they would be laughable if they weren’t so agonisingly tragic.
From his accusing refugee advocates of encouraging suicide attempts, (an allegation that has subsequently been proven to be false), to claiming that allegations of sexual assaults in the camps are simply a misguided attempt to penetrate our boarders, Dutton is a man so deep in denial that he seems unable to contemplate the notion that any of the 2000 plus incidents listed in the Nauru files might actually be the awful truth. He has become little more than the unfortunate mouthpiece of a government so driven by distorted ideology and political opportunism that it has fully embraced the Seinfeildian logic of “it’s not a lie if you believe it”.
But if we are to figure out how to move forward we must first look back and understand where we have been and how we got here.
Howard started it all with the children overboard scandal. A false claim made to demonise innocent people and gain political advantage. Down in the polls and facing electoral defeat, 9/11 landed on Howard’s doorstep like a political godsend. Suddenly he had a new Muslim bogey man to with which to terrify the public. Throw a compliant media and boatload of middle eastern refugees into the mix and he sailed back into office on the back of his successful scare campaign. So successful was his little man hate campaign that from that day forward everything changed. Where we once recognised refugees as hard working, often highly educated and entrepreneurial additions to our society, we were now encouraged to view them as self serving illegal interlopers bent on milking our benefits system and destroying our way of life. The torture and vilification of refugees was etched in stone into the LNP party platform, and the Murdoch rags gleefully cheered them on from the sideline.
Some of you will be too young to remember, but before Howard cynically exploited the Tampa crisis and invented the lie that was children overboard, refugees attempting to come here where greeted with a broad smile and hand up.
So here we are several years later, one of the richest countries on the planet, with the biggest houses and the largest per capita carbon footprint in the world, thumbing our nose at international law. With absolutely no sense of irony we seem able to torture and persecute innocent people for the outrageous act of fleeing torture and persecution. And for what? Why are we doing it? It costs us far more to persecute these people than it would to resettle them.
If you analyse it, the reason is clear. It is not about the money. It’s not about these people being a threat to the community. (As if 400 refugees are going to bring down the nation? It’s utter garbage, we have taken in thousands of refugees in over the decades and they have been overwhelmingly good for the nation).
What it is really about is political opportunism and advantage. Just like the Nazi’s did in the 30’s, the LNP get a lot of political capital out of fear of the other. Fear has proven such an effective wedge against labor and the greens, or any other party that can be packaged up by Murdoch and sold to the public as “soft of boarder protection” that the LNP are totally unwilling to give it up.
But it is not just a matter of the political advantage the LNP garner from prosecuting the case for fear, they have made the lie so big, and told it to us so often they simply can’t back away from it, even as it is crumbling around them. Even though the truth has well and truly escaped their control they are clearly willing to push back hard. I’m sure they think that if they mount a good enough fight, with Murdoch on their side, they still might be able to save their precious rhetoric from being shown up for the lie that it is. After all if they back down now, not only will they lose one of their most valuable political cards, they are going to lose one hell of a lot of face.
In the wake of the Nauru files one thing has become abundantly clear. As human beings the LNP clearly lack the moral backbone and courage required to say, “we got it wrong”. Given the choice between owning their error and rethinking their policy or continuing on with the human rights abuses, clearly they prefer to keep torturing people.
So what now for us as a nation? More of the same I suspect.