The repeated and consistent claim from both the Coalition Government and Labor Opposition is that the offshore detention regime is necessary to deter the people smugglers. Neither major party wants to see a return of asylum seekers drowning in Australian waters. Neither major party wants to encourage desperate people fleeing warzones to take the perilous journey across the sea from Indonesia to Christmas Island. Both major parties have adopted an approach of ‘the end result justifies the means’.
The ‘end result’ is the prevention of men, women and children drowning in Australian waters.
The ‘means’ is subjecting innocent men, women and children to such appalling conditions that they would rather die in a warzone than seek asylum in Australia.
In an attempt to stop people drowning, or rather, in an attempt to spare the rescuers the traumatic task of pulling dead bodies from the water, both major parties have adopted the most extreme of approaches. The offshore detention regime is designed to be so horrific, that people seeking asylum would rather not risk the journey. It is designed to instil such fear in them, that if they survive the sea crossing, they will instead face years of torture, abuse and a slow death through loss of hope.
But the major parties know they can’t publicly trade off ‘death by drowning’ with the ‘torture of innocent people’. Instead they claim the harsh regime is necessary to stop the criminal activity of people smugglers.
Seeking asylum is not a crime. People smuggling is.
Yet both major parties fully endorse a policy which punishes those seeking asylum, with almost no negative consequence at all for those who are actually breaking the law.
The policy of both major parties can be summarised as follows:
‘The best way to deter criminals is to abuse and traumatise innocent men, women and children.’
When spelled out this clearly, one must wonder just how Australia got to this position? At what point did our elected representatives become so morally devoid and ethically repugnant that they were prepared to torture innocent people to stop criminal activity?
The slow march to national shame and disgrace has been so gradual, so carefully engineered by political campaigners aided by simplistic slogans, that Australia as a nation has come to accept cruelty, evil and insanity as ‘normal’.
The application of the policy is as follows:
Men will be housed in detention centres where they are set to languish, without hope, opportunity or any semblance of humanity. They will be subject to abuse, physical attacks and torturous conditions until they lose the will to live. They will be vilified and degraded. They will eventually reach a point where they will attempt or successfully commit suicide, or beg to be returned to the country from which they came.
Women will similarly be housed in detention centres, where they are set to languish, without hope, opportunity or any semblance of humanity. They will be subjected to abuse, physical attacks and torturous conditions. They will have to beg for basic sanitary items. They will have to shower and toilet in front of male guards. If they are raped, they will be denied treatment and forced to remain living in the same vicinity as their attackers. If they become pregnant, they will be used as political playthings by the Government, with the main aim to provide a deterrent to criminals. If they have a complicated pregnancy they will be forced to give birth in a third world hospital which does not have the equipment or facilities to deal with high risk, complex medical conditions in mothers or babies.
And the children? Regardless of age, children and babies will be housed alongside their parents in stinking hot, rat infested tents. They will be denied access to hygienic living conditions, sufficient fresh water and appropriate education. They will be deprived of basic sanitation and forced to shower in front of guards. They will be subject to sexual abuse, rape and physical attacks. Children who are sexually abused will be forced to live alongside their attackers. They will be so traumatised that children under ten years old will be suicidal.
If men, women or children disclose any abuse or assault against their person, the local police will ignore it. Australia will ignore it. Those who make complaints will be vilified.
Men, women and children will be pushed to the limits – so far that they suffer from serious mental illness and resort to self-harm.
Dare to flee a warzone? Dare to flee persecution, genocide and violence? Dare to come to Australia by boat? Australia will punish you.
The Australian Government is doing everything within its power to make sure the people who dare to help themselves by escaping traumatic circumstances are subjected to the worst possible torturous treatment. It has made every attempt to make the living conditions so devastating that the detainees will beg to be sent back to their former hell.
It matters not, to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Minister for Border Protection Peter Dutton and Shadow Minister Richard Marles, that the people being punished and effectively tortured by the Australian Government have not broken any law.
As far as both major parties are concerned, the best way to stop the people smugglers is to inflict as much pain, damage and trauma on their human cargo as possible.
The punishment for not drowning at sea is the state-sanctioned torture by the Australian Government.
The reward for people smugglers attempting to smuggle people to Australia is cash payments to return to Indonesia and/or freedom.
Both major parties know the offshore detention regime is repulsive. That is the only reason they both fully endorsed and supported the law which threatens doctors, nurses, counsellors and other professionals with two years in prison for speaking out about the abuse.
The offshore detention regime may be legal, but it is immoral. There is simply no ethical or moral justification for deliberately subjecting innocent people to abuse in an effort to deter those who will break the law.
The major party’s state they want to take a compassionate approach to asylum seeker policy while also ensuring the people smugglers are stopped. Perhaps then, instead of torturing people seeking asylum, the Government can quickly process their claims and free them. And instead of rewarding people smugglers with cash payments, new boats and freedom, they can arrest them, charge them and have them tried in a court of law.
The policy of punishing the innocent to deter offenders is a national disgrace.