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Media must ask LNP: Do you intend to allow the Manus refugees to die?

Since the days of the Tampa, seventeen years ago,  I’ve heard it said repeatedly that Australians don’t care about what happens to asylum seekers and refugees who arrived here by boat, perfectly legitimately, seeking only sanctuary.

Obviously after seventeen years, during which the treatment of boat arrivals has only gone downhill, I must finally accept that this is true. If enough Australians cared, refugees on Manus Island would not be suffering as they are. If enough Australians cared, Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull would not be conducting what amounts to a state-sanctioned experiment in torture: how long can people live without water, food, medicine, and medical attention in tropical conditions before they become extremely and or chronically ill, or die.

This is the experiment being conducted by our government. Australia is about to find out how long human beings can survive under these conditions. Australia is about to find out what the effects are on human beings of being subjected to these conditions if they don’t die. This is state-sanctioned experimentation on human beings. If you don’t agree, please, do tell me what you call it.

Every journalist should be asking every government MP they interview: Do you intend to allow the men on Manus to die? This is the only question that needs to be asked at this point. And nobody, but nobody, is asking it. The media are, with a couple of exceptions, as complicit in this state-sanctioned human experimentation as are politicians.

I am not particularly personally affected by which major party is in government. I’m not subject to Centrelink robodebt torment, for example. I’m not suffering the indignity of being unable to marry my same-sex partner. I don’t live in the vicinity of a proposed coal mine. I’m not desperately casting about for affordable child care so I can go to work. In terms of my material comfort and safety, either major party will, in general, do. Yet I’ve consistently, for decades, argued and fought for policies that seem to me fair and decent, whilst railing against injustices, not because they directly affect me, but because I’ve believed Australians, human beings, deserve the best and the fairest.

For the first time in my voting life, I understand the impulse to refuse the privilege of voting for any politician. This is not only because I am beyond disgusted over their collective treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Now I’m disgusted at Australians. The Australians I’ve always considered when I cast my vote. The Australians who don’t care what happens to the men on Manus and the families on Nauru. The Australians who enable, either actively or passively, this government’s experimentation on human beings who did nothing more than ask us to help them. That’s all they did. They asked us to help them.

To all the Australians who don’t care, I no longer care about you. I don’t care who governs you. It won’t bother me. It won’t affect my lifestyle. I’m not voting in your best interests anymore. I’m not voting at all.

There are 600 men on Manus Island who are, as I write this, being denied food, water, medication and medical care by your government. They are walking around leaking pus from wounds on their feet and legs. They are vomiting and shitting because the only water they have to drink is from wells they’ve dug, and it’s bad water. Your government destroyed their rainwater supply, and their means to gather rainwater. Your government has forbidden the Lorengau pharmacy to supply them with water purification tablets, and medicine. Your government is refusing to allow doctors from the AMA into the detention centre compound to treat their illnesses. They are perhaps only days away from outbreaks of dysentery and or cholera. They have no toilets. They have no power.

Remember, they have committed no crime. They simply asked us for sanctuary. They simply asked us for help.

And remember that while at the moment only the LNP can take any action to relieve their suffering, it has been inflicted on them by both major parties.

Are you proud to be Australian? I’m not.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


20 comments

  1. Andrew J. Smith

    The treatment of refugees even makes many rusted on LNP voters nervous and ethically challenged, but it is continued with bi-partisan bigotry of our culturally specific politicians, elites and media. Unfortunately LNP voters will follow the party line while in regions they watch towns decline… (occurring throughout Europe too).

    Tampa was the scab that festered throughout Australian society and the smell carries on further; seemed to be a line in the sand for the WASP nativists influenced by US/UK nativist movement. David Marr gave a description of events round Tampa, handful of anecdotal conversations between party leaders, their MPs and constituents led to both sides being locked into bi-partisan bigotry.

    Some months after Tampa one was involved in hosting a small corporate event in Central Europe including local Norwegian students and a middle class 40 something Australian professional couple from Sydney. When ask about Tampa, the woman, a school teacher, started shouting and venting ‘Fuck them, let them all drown, we have no identity’.

    How embarrassing, her husband (smart enough to keep his mouth shut while having dog whistled often) quietly shepherded her out.

    Evidence to me of the appalling apathy, complacency and victimhood of supposedly empowered middle class elites, hence Australia’s reputation of not just being ‘shallow and racist’, but whingeing and moaning about non issues?

  2. win jeavons

    I too am ashamed of the public face of our nation. Yet I know there are many as angry and disgusted and felling helpless about this criminal treatment. The media have a lot to answer for, for if they showed some conscience the bullies who are currently in power would have to act more humanely.

  3. S G B

    Are we there yet?

    Have we got to point of mass demonstration, of General strike mass civil diosbedience.

    Because it must happen

  4. Terry2

    Let us not forget about those on Nauru who we are unable to get any information or media coverage on. They are still there including children.

    As we know, a media visa to enter Nauru has an upfront non-refundable fee of $8000 – as it is anticipated that the visa application will be knocked back (unless it is News Corp) the money is lost.

    All we know is that Australian security and medical personnel have been deported from Nauru. We know that medical referrals from qualified medical officers on Nauru requesting medical evacuations are ignored or refused by non-medical ABF personnel.

    Whilst the men on Manus were able to mount a class action for unlawful detention and torture (which they won when the Australian government failed to mount a defence and damages of $70 million plus costs of $20 million were awarded against the Australian government) the people on Nauru cannot get access to legal resources and the rule of law on Nauru has collapsed.

    You may have noticed that the question was raised on Q&A as to why Turnbull continues with this stubborn refusal to accept offers from New Zealand – first made in 2013 – to resettle 150 of these people a year ; the panel were unable to come up with a rational answer other than Brandis harking back to stopping the boats and lives lost at sea.

    The situation on both Manus and Nauru are hopeless and the only solution I can see is taking Dutton out of the scene and handing the whole mess over to the UN if they are prepared to help out.

  5. clarelhdm

    It is indeed our collective shame. And a huge part of that shame and horror is that the majority of Australians don’t give a shit. Full of privilege, insulated from any real sustained trauma, they act as if these people are aliens or sub-human. Reading the comments on any number of articles about Manus or Nauru will confirm that many many Australians consider them to be less than vermin. These people, my countrymen, have no critical skills, cannot discern the lies in the propaganda, have forgotten the lessons of world wars and genocides and the reasons why we have international laws and conventions, and act like it is all some massive inconvenience, keeping them from another week’s vacation on the Gold Coast. We’ve become a vacuous pleasure palace for the empty materialistic souls that are currently winning this vile game. I am at a loss

  6. helvityni

    ‘Media must ask LNP: Do you intend to allow the Manus refugees to die?’

    And if he does, hating him will not help; majority of Australian people stand by him. That is if they happen to know that there are still suffering asylum seekers in Oz…

    Sport mate, that’s what interests us……

  7. diannaart

    Australia will discover the legacy Germany has lived with for so many years (no apologies for ‘Godwin’).

    I will vote, but only for independents or parties which have, consistently, opposed the treatment of boat refugees.

    I believe the 2PP is a failure – it does not work for a diverse population, nor for 21st century levels of communication and, indeed, education (I realise there is a decline in free education, but we are better educated, in fact we should know better).

    Have forwarded this article on to as many as possible.

  8. Phil

    I too am disgusted with Australian voters, and with Australia’s toxic politics and with the toxic ‘stop the boats’ mentality that infests the national discourse, the parliament and the grovelling media, with only a few exceptions.

  9. Kronomex

    Bread (if you’re lucky) and circuses while the country smoulders.

  10. Kyran

    Mr Boochani’s appeal decision is expected soon. Some hours ago he tweeted;
    “Police and immigration are going to come inside the prison camp after the court decision today. They want to talk with the people to convince them to leave the prison camp. 421 people are still refusing to leave this prison camp for another prison camp.”

    https://twitter.com/BehrouzBoochani

    Over on Nauru, one refugee died on the 2nd November and another is awaiting evacuation for urgent medical treatment. His situation is stated as critical. The condition of the inmates on Manus have prompted the AMA to seek access, with a high likelihood of a cholera outbreak being considered.

    “New Zealand and Australian officials have begun talks about screening processes for asylum seekers who have shut themselves inside a Papua New Guinea detention centre, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.”

    “Ms Ardern said the conversations were about establishing the screening processes.
    “To be clear we have not started that process,” Ms Ardern told Radio New Zealand.
    “But I think that certainly we’re a bit further along than we have been before – we haven’t even had officials having those discussions in the past.””

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/11/20/australia-new-zealand-start-talks-about-manus-refugees-screening-process

    And then there’s this;
    “Papua New Guinea has signed a series of infrastructure deals with China as part of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the PNG Government has announced, with an intention to create “more efficient trade corridors between Asia-Pacific and Western Asia”.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-21/labor-warns-australian-caution-in-pacific-as-china-signs-png/9174272

    Dutton’s threats against NZ and PNG may be having a lesser impact than he thought. Certainly, the international pressure is ramping up. Whether Australians care or not has become a secondary issue, due to the urgency of the situation and the incompetence of dutton.
    With regard to the media, I could not agree more.

    “Do you intend to allow the Manus refugees to die?
    And nobody, but nobody, is asking it. The media are, with a couple of exceptions, as complicit in this state-sanctioned human experimentation as are politicians.”

    Perhaps a variation of the question;
    “How many deaths are acceptable?”
    There is some difference to the Tampa incident, though. Back then, the Australian people were lied to. Overseen by the little rodent, himself. As another commenter noted, David Marr’s ‘Dark Victory’ was an expose of the deceit.
    “They put lives at risk. They twisted the law. They drew the military into the heart of an election campaign. They muzzled the press. They misused intelligence services, defied the United Nations, antagonised Indonesia and bribed poverty stricken Pacific States. They closed Australia to refugees – and won a mighty election victory.

    Dark Victory is a thrilling and provocative account of events that shattered many of the myths Australia had about itself and changed profoundly how Australia is seen in the eyes of the world. It is also a potent reminder of the fleeting nature of truth in politics.”

    http://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/academic-professional/politics-government/Dark-Victory-David-Marr-and-Marian-Wilkinson-9781741144475

    By virtue of Beazley’s acquiescence, what should have been a precedent for exposing the deceit became a precedent for accepting the deceit.
    We are, undeniably, being lied to by dutton and pezzullo.
    This time around, the Australian people cannot say, in any good conscience, that they didn’t know.
    “Remember, they have committed no crime. They simply asked us for sanctuary. They simply asked us for help.”
    Thank you Ms Wilson and commenters. Take care

  11. diannaart

    Kyran

    I have NEVER forgotten Kim Beazley’s complicity in the entire lie. I had been increasingly concerned by Labor (Hawke & Keating’s economic “reforms”), but felt utterly dismayed by Beazley.

    🙁

  12. John L

    In our household, my wife is an irate “f*ck em, it’s their choice and they aren’t refugees anyway or they’d have stayed in the first country outside their own that they came to and they’re all young males and the money should be spent on the homeless in Australia” type. I’m from NZ, where we lauded the Tampa captain as a hero, and I’m totally appalled at the sheer wanton brutality of the whole scenario!. After many arguments (as,also, the Israeli scenario), I just don’t talk to her about it. She calls herself a realist…….I’m just saddened and appalled by the whole thing. Is it the country – she’s been here nearly 40 yrs, I’ve been here full time for 12? I’m afraid I just don’t understand her, and all those that think like her!

  13. Jennifer Wilson

    Thanks everyone, for the comments. I haven’t forgotten about Nauru and the families trapped there. And I fear things are getting worse for them.
    I doubt anything will change while LNP are in power. I’m not sure what difference the ALP would make, apart from releasing 150 Manus men to New Zealand.
    It’s a terrible situation. I see no happy ending.

  14. Kyran

    Mr Boochani has been tweeting for a while now. It would appear the ‘authorities’ have moved in, under AFP guidance.

    “Too much tension in Delta compound. Hundreds of refugees gathering in Delta right now. An Australian Federal Police officer is guiding PNG police mobile squad, there are about 50 mobile squad police that are threatening people to leave.”

    “Immigration and police started searching the rooms and are saying “Move Move”, you only have an hour to move. Too much stress and tension here in Delta. Some refugees are crying.”

    “The police, special forces, police squad are now in their hundreds, spreading through the prison camp and around the prison. Navy soldiers are outside the prison camp. We are on high alert right now. We are under attack.”

    https://twitter.com/BehrouzBoochani

    “Do you intend to allow the Manus refugees to die?”
    Dutton has responded.

  15. Harry

    Unless people are personally affected, either by their sons dying in a useless and unwinnable conflict, such as Vietnam etc, they tend to ignore these events or rationalise that it’s necessary to avoid encouraging people smugglers, “we are full”, or “I have my own problems” and so on.

    Couple that with the secrecy surrounding the Manus situation and you have the answer why people are not engaged in mass protest about the way vulnerable people are being treated.

  16. ceridwen66

    The unwarranted Australian exceptionalism which has insidiously bred in the hearts of minds of suburbia over the last half century is alive and well. Successive Australian governments have been quite clever in cultivating it and a lazy public has been too apathetic to bother fighting back against the effects of this ongoing socio-cultural and political manipulation.

    Last Wednesday I went into the local Centrelink office to sort out my Medicare card and unwillingly struck up a regrettable conversation with a mid 50’s aged woman and her daughter who came in and sat at the same table I was at. Amongst other obscenities, this woman in all earnest seriousness mandated sterilising the global poor and the execution by firing squad for anyone who came to Australia by boat – Manus detainees included – and when prompted, she said that such a measure would not only deter others from coming to Australia but would also ‘clean out’ the current ‘problem’. I initially thought she was jesting, I really hoped she was joking because that mindset is completely repugnant to me and I take great pains in avoiding people who hold it, but no, she was dead serious in her vile dystopian ideology.

    When I finally asked her why she believed the lottery of her birth entitled her to forgo humaneness, empathy, compassion and an adherence to and recognition of global human rights she replied “oh, you’re one of them hippy bleeding heart leftists, you’re a weirdo, fuck off”. Her opinions and beliefs are not unusual, I hear them all the time, on the street, I read them on social media, in the supermarket and sadly even during university tutes. Sometimes it feels as if I am fighting a lost battle, that truth and justice are dead and corruption, vilification and manufactured ignorance are all that is left.

    From this conversation I learned that the fear which has bred ignorance and intolerance in this country is now mainstream and normalised. I also learned to remember to always carry a book to hide in next time I need to enter a Centrelink office.

    Every day I too become more deeply ashamed of this country.

  17. auntyuta

    ceridwen66 You say: “From this conversation I learned that the fear which has bred ignorance and intolerance in this country is now mainstream and normalised.”
    This is what it seems to me like too. And our politicians do their best to reinforce this fear in the Australian population.

  18. ceridwen66

    Auntyuta, we’re not alone in believing it thank goodness. It is not just an underground movement any longer, there is a burgeoning mainstream awareness – even an awakening – that successive governments have lied to, manipulated and acted in corporate collusion to deceive the Australian people and instil a tangible sense of fear and uncertainty. May it grow and prosper 🙂

  19. townsvilleblog

    Jennifer, from my observations in my community “Since the days of the Tampa, seventeen years ago, I’ve heard it said repeatedly that Australians don’t care about what happens to asylum seekers and refugees who arrived here by boat, perfectly legitimately, seeking only sanctuary.” I’d say that view is pretty accurate. North Queensland is a strange place in many aspects.

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