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No one being tortured offshore?

By Jane Salmon

“We’ll Take That As a Comment.”

On QandA this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said no one was being “tortured” offshore.

Torture is a strong word, sure.

A relative, Ron Cruikshank, a banker like you, Mr Turnbull, was incarcerated by the Japanese in Singapore in WW2. He returned, but he did not return a whole person.

What these stopping-the-boats hostages are going through is, because of the amount of time involved, becoming almost as damaging.

Sure, there are fewer beheadings, less work and a bit more rice, but the mental uncertainty is what harms people most. The incessant threat of physical harm from locals, the danger of machete attack and permanent harm is terrifying.

Then we have the “on-off” medical visits, the addictions to medications with sudden discontinuation. We have the pointless trips to Port Moresby for dubious medical care and the rounds and rounds of legal action.

Detainees see that legal action sometimes leads to rescue in arbitrary instances. Their hope comes from that.

The detainees in PNG and Nauru are, in my opinion, being tortured in the sense of prolonged alienation, isolation, fear and uncertainty.

Worry about family back home, the day to day frustration, waste of hope and dynamism is the same as for POWs. And that’s without the local racial tension, punishment in the isolation unit known as “Chauka”, the racial slurs from guards, the lies and lack of power over their situation. This has happened wholesale.

Rotten food, tropical diseases, limited work prospects and minimal funds adds pressure. No matter how much the government spends, the detainees live badly. Aussie donors are feeling their discomfort too. They resent this harm and their own donor fatigue. They blame you.

As an autism Mum from 2000, I cannot imagine the living hell of mothering an autistic child on Nauru without proper supports.

My great uncle was never the same. It was just one of about 10 cases of post-war trauma in the last 3 generations of my family.

One of the most damaged colleagues I have ever met was also a POW. He could only scowl and curse at the sky while we slogged alongside him.

Please consider what you are doing more carefully, Mr Turnbull.

We reap the blighted harvest of such cruelties for many decades afterwards.

We don’t just want gay marriage and rainbows, we want a diverse colourful Australia. Boat turn-backs without bribes and refugee processing or uplift from Indonesia and Malaysia are more effective for “breaking the people smuggler’s business model” than ongoing cruelty.

Merry Christmas, Mr Turnbull.


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  1. Zoltan Balint

    You can not argue with someone who has made up their mind. You will only force them further into their conviction. There is only one way and that is to get rid of them from the situation and not involve them in any discourse.

  2. Regional Elder

    Thank you Jane Salmon for this article which speaks an ugly truth about what has happened to those now incarcerated on Manus and Nauru for up to five years.

    The Manus detainees have been political hostages or asylum seeker prisoners of the Australian government now for longer than most prisoners of war endured during World War 2.

    Some achievement Malcolm ! And nothing is going to change if the LNP has its way.


    I have a risky question. if manus island is such a hell hole then how is it ethical that the local indigenous of manus are also not considered by refugee advocates as good enough for resettlement in Aust or at least that minority indigenous ethnic groups on manus arent? why is it only those who sought to come to aust for whom sympathy has arisen and not for the indigenous poor and persecuted of manus? seems a bit odd and rascist to me. why are those that sought to come to Aust considered to be somehow more deserving by refugee advocates than indigenous manus islanders?

  4. Terry2

    When you have 600 young men confined on a small island with no idea when their detention will end, with no foreseeable prospect of marrying, having a family or a normal life, that is torture.

    At least had they been convicted and sentenced to a term in detention they would know when they would be given their freedom and with good behaviour they can hasten that date. Indefinite detention is a cruel and unusual form of torture.

    From Barnaby’s comments the other day to NZ radio, it seems clear that this detention strategy is part of a political fear campaign and is aimed at a gullible public. If the ALP and were to blink and say bring them to Australia, all hell would break lose as the Liberal spin machine labelled Labor forever weak on border security as part of a cynical ploy to get another term in government.

    I’m just thankful that I’m not in the predicament these people on Nauru and Manus are in with a man like Peter Dutton determining my fate.


    manus is not that small, they are not confined and they live in the same if not better conditions as the 50K manus islanders. why should they come here and indigenous manus islanders not?

  6. Terry2


    I’ve been to Maus on several occasions and it is a beautiful tropical island with the people living essentially a subsistence life of tending gardens, fishing and more recently producing palm oil and logging.

    Manus Islanders don’t want to come to Australia, they just want to be left alone and they certainly don’t want their island used as a detention center. You may argue that the men are not detained, that they can leave their new compound during daylight hours but these men are stateless, they will never be granted PNG citizenship and they will never be accepted into PNG society.

    The Manus and Nauru detention centres have been likened to the lyrics in the classic hotel California by the Eagles:

    **You can check-out any time you like. But you can never leave ...**

  7. Zoltan Balint

    The 600 have no job no money no propery no family no recognition as a citizen. Can they invite their family from their original country to join them on Manus.

  8. Ricardo29

    OTMP is there a persecuted religious minority on Manus wanting to come to Australia? Sounds like red herring to me

  9. helvityni

    Whatever you call it, they are treated inhumanely.

    That they are not allowed to go to NZ, it’s un-bloody-believable. Does someone here still believe that they would want to come back to Oz. WHY: for more torture…!

    How is the Liberals’ “Bash Kristina Blog” going…. Well. we truly have adults in charge….

  10. stephengb2014

    Who is stopping those men from going to NZ?

    How can Australia stop NZ from letting those men emmigrate to NZ?

    PnG does want them so how does PnG stop those men from emigrating to NZ.

    Sorry but is there something I dont understand about the soverignty of either PnG or NZ

  11. Terry2


    PNG have said that they don’t feel it is up to them to negotiate with NZ as this would imply that it is a PNG problem which, clearly it isn’t, it is an Australian problem.

    NZ have offered to help out as good neighbours should but Australia will not accept that offer and will not let the men go : they have no travel papers.

    It’s really quite simple former NZ Prime Minister John Key made the offer in 2013 and it was renewed by Jacinta Ardern recently on the basis that as Australia would not take any of these asylum seekers, the Kiwis said they would take 150 a year : had they started in 2014 the 600 on Manus would have been cleared by now. The Kiwis have just been trying to break an impossible political stand-off perpetuated by the likes of Dutton.


    stephengb2014 i agree. i dont think aust can stop these men from leaving manus to nz. they are not aust citizens and are not within aust jurisdiction anymore. nz can grant them what ever it wants regardless of any threats from turdball, barnyard or mutton head. whatsmore maybe nz should just go ahead and do it. it would be a sign of their independence and a great embarrassment to turdball.

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