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What are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

An open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, said to be written and signed by the 600 men incarcerated on Manus Island, was released today, 30 November 2015. The letter is short. It acknowledges the hopeless situation of the men detained indefinitely by the Government. It acknowledges the necessity of the men’s detention to the Coalition’s cruel ‘stop the boats’ policy. It also asserts that the boats have stopped and therefore the men are no longer of use to the Australian Government. The men claim their job is done, and trapped on the island prison, without any possible end to their torture, they have presented Turnbull and Dutton with three possible solutions to end the inhumanity, the obscene waste of public money, and the ruination of Australia’s international reputation.

The men have requested to die.

“This is not a joke or a satire” the men say.

The options provided by the men appear harsh, but in the minds of the prisoners, incarcerated on the whim of the Rudd, Gillard, Abbott and Turnbull Governments, the options are a better alternative to dying gradually on Manus Island and where “every single day” they are “literarly (sic) tortured and traumatized.”

The letter is not framed by the men as yet another plea for help, or a request for fairness, a safe-haven or safety – the men have acknowledged that their requests to be freed continue to go unanswered. The letter is a statement of truth, of fact, of recognition of the abhorrent situation the men who have fled persecution, war and genocide now face at the hands of successive Australian Governments, and funded by the taxpayer.

So what are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

It is clear the current situation is unsustainable. Offshore detention currently costs over $1 billion a year, more than five times the United Nations refugee agency’s entire budget for South East Asia.

The indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island has been repeatedly criticised. The United Nations has found that the offshore detention regime and the conditions that people seeking asylum and refugees are held in, amount to torture. In the past week, the United Nations chief, Ban Ki-moon personally asked Turnbull to review the boat turn back policy and raised concerns again about the conditions in offshore detention centres. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, cancelled his Australian visit because the Government refused to guarantee that professionals and staff would not be prosecuted and face 2 years in prison, under the secrecy provisions of the Border Force Act, for simply speaking with him.

Asylum seekers and refugees have been murdered, pushed to suicide, and died from medical neglect while being held indefinitely under cruel, inhumane and torturous conditions as a deterrent to people smugglers.

The Turnbull Government claims the boats have stopped. If this is so, then the men on Manus Island are correct to say they are no longer needed – unless Turnbull and Dutton intend on holding them hostage forever just in case the slightest show of humanity leads to resurgence in on-water arrivals. However, the boats have not stopped departing Indonesia, they have simply been prevented from landing. It is clear therefore, that despite the harsh conditions the men on Manus Island (and men, women and children on Nauru and Christmas Island) are held in, that people will continue to seek asylum in Australia – as is their right under the Refugee Convention signed and ratified by Australia.

Still, Turnbull and Dutton are unphased by international obligations and humanitarian responsibility. Repeated and relentless criticism has simply hardened their resolve to further punish those detained in the island prison hellholes.

So what exactly are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

Are they intending to hold each and every man, woman and child in detention until they die? Are they hoping another riot will break out and a few more innocent men will be murdered? Are they hoping that a few more men will be taken out by preventable and treatable infections and illness? Are they hoping that if they treat the men cruelly enough, more will commit suicide, thus saving the Government money and negating the need to process any claims? Do they hope a couple of pregnant women will die in childbirth, or at the very least, their babies die, thus saving the Government the issue of what to do with their prisoners?

According to Dutton, it would be irresponsible to take steps that might see a resurgence in people arriving in Australian waters. In October, in response to the Royal Children’s Hospital refusing to discharge a mother and child to detention, he said, “The Defence and Border Force staff on our vessels who were pulling dead kids out of the water don’t want the boats to restart.”

Is this the worst case scenario for Dutton?

If so, what are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

If the refugees and asylum seekers are not going to be freed, if the men, women and children held indefinitely in detention are doomed to stay there, until they are murdered, pushed to suicide, or die prematurely through medical neglect, why not opt for a kinder option?

The men on Manus Island propose the following:

  1. A navy ship that can put us all on board and dump us all in the ocean. (HMAS is always available)
  2. A gas chamber (DECMIL will do it with a new contract)
  3. Injection of a poison. (IHMS will help for this)

The response, if any is given at all, is predicable. “Dumping at sea? A gas chamber? Injection of poison? But that is unconscionable. First world, democratic nations don’t commit atrocities against innocent people. That would be akin to genocide, a war crime, an abhorrent act of terror. Australia will not be blackmailed by these people. We stand by our commitment to keep our borders safe and to stop the boats.”

More likely, there will be no comment at all, and Turnbull and Dutton, supported by Shorten, will leave the men, women and children to suffer indefinitely. The Government will ignore the men’s pleas and continue to support a slow, painful death for those housed in Australia’s concentration camps. There will be no festive cheer or hope for the future. Merry Christmas from Australia.

What a tragic state of affairs and how shameful for Australia as a nation.

The full transcribed text of the letter is below:


Hello Dear Mr Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton.

As the refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Manus Island detention we wold like to request you something different this time.

As previously we wrote and asked for help and there was no respond to our request to be freed out of detention we realized that there are no differences between us and rubbish but a bunch of slaves that helped to stop the boats by living in hellish condition. The only difference is that we are very costly for the Australian tax payers and the Politicians as our job to “stop the boats” is done.

We would like to give you some recommendations to stop the waste of this huge amount of money ruining Australian’s reputation and to keep the Australian boarders safe forever.

  1. A navy ship that can put us all on board and dump us all in the ocean. (HMAS is always available)
    2. A gas chamber (DECMIL will do it with a new contract)
    3. Injection of a poison. (IHMS will help for this)

This is not a joke or a satire and please take it serious.

We are dying in Manus gradually, every single day we are literarly tortured and traumatized and there is no safe country to offer us protection as DIBP says.

Best regards

Merry Christmas in advance
Manus refugees and asylum seekers.


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  1. Loz

    This imprisonment, torture and humiliation of asylum seekers is a vile act by this government.

  2. Terry2

    These people were sent to Manus and Nauru to take them out of the reach of the Australian judicial system which had they had that access could have resolved this situation one way or another a long time ago. As it is the folk are in a legal limbo with no way out ; we created this situation and we must resolve it.

    The tragedy is – and there is plenty of tragedy to point to – that these people have become political flotsam and it is clearly a problem that Malcolm Turnbull must confront and resolve.

    Let’s look at some of the realities :

    1. The governments of Nauru and PNG (Manus) have no intention of resettling these people, why should they ?

    2. Neighbouring countries including New Zealand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines and so on will not come to the party and resettle these people as they clearly see this as an Australian problem and, as a wealthy country they consider that we should be able to resolve the problem without trying to bribe others to do what we should be doing.

    There is only one way to give these people their lives back and that is to bring them to Australia, stop all the secrecy and live up to our international human rights obligations

  3. David

    Dutton and Turnbull have proved time and again they have no regard for the well being of any Asylum Seeker on Manus or in fact Nauru. The letter will end up being ignored as usual. Dutton has more important things on his mind…such as what grog to order for Christmas dinner

  4. mars08

    Dutton and Turnbull AND Shorten… have proved time and again they have no regard for the well being of any Asylum Seeker…

  5. diannaart

    When I consider just how long these people have been held in detention by successive governments claiming this is the only way to deal with people smugglers…..

    ….LNP & Labor cannot stop boats from leaving in the first place?
    …. LNP & Labor cannot work WITH Indonesia?
    ….LNP & Labor cannot stop bombing the countries these refugees flee?


  6. Roswell

    Gosh, can’t release them now. After all, the government will be telling us that they (conveniently) identified a few of them as terrorists. We have been saved by the vigilant members of Border Force. Just in time for the next election, too.

  7. mars08

    Neither the Coalition nor the ALP will make any real effort to take the hysteria out of this topic. They have spent far too much time and effort making it into a “big deal” and… apparently… vital to our national interest. Along with issues such as budget deficits and being “tough” on welfare fraud, asylum seekers are an indispensable blunt instrument which can be used to clobber the government… when in opposition.

  8. jim

    And Labor is just as bad? Ok

  9. stephentardrew

    When I was young the very thought of doing such a thing to refugees was absolutely appalling and unconscionable. Leaders are supposed to lead from the moral high ground supporting human rights and minimisation of suffering. We have become the people we despise and hated during the second world war for their torture and cruelty compromising the very values that make a democracy a legitimate democracy. We are not a democracy when politicians do not set the moral agenda but rather compromise every ethical value to get votes – the votes that in a true democracy no ethical party would ever consider encouraging.

    The upshot is we have joined the dystopian capitalist race to the bottom and as you now see the low income, poor, sick, pensioners, disabled, metal health victims have become no more than a burden to be swept away at the earliest convenience. Rather than finding democratic solution we have been convinced to hand welfare to the corporations while denying the citizens that suffer through no fault of their own the right to a descent and dignified life.

    Our politicians have willingly succumb to a global corporate hegemonic drive for profits over all other considerations by providing the minimum possible value to the society they extract wealth from. The disgusting excuse is they are doing it because we have too to compete with the lowest common denominator as if there is no choice but to follow the worst of the worst.

    In point of fact we are given no choice when political parties conspire and connive to undermine the very values that a democracy and ethical society should hold sacrosanct. Dear people you have lost your choice so all you have is two wrongs to choose from so let the poor refugees suffer and die while you wallow in your ignorance and immorality. This is not a society I wish to belong too as it is demonstrating the very seeds of its moral and inequitable destruction. A country of intrinsic wealth that promotes such blatant inequality is a country on the road to corporate dictatorship. Meanwhile just close your eyes and look the other way celebrating your cruelty with gratuitous consumption. One day the people will rise up and when they do everyone will suffer for your greed immorality and cowardice.

    What a sick nation we have become under capitalism. Capitalism is not democracy and in this respect is an abject failure.

  10. guest

    It was a cynical move by Turnbull to put Dutton in a ministry where he can hide behind operational secrecy so he is unable to talk about certain aspects of his portfolio.

    When we look over the various portfolios, we do not see a great deal of success overall. Even Turnbull himself, recycled, carries his own baggage and, so far, has taken it upon himself to carry most of Abbott’s baggage as well. Should Turnbull move too far to the “left” as some discontents fear, he could be in for a torrid time within his own party. If he sticks with the Abbott line, he will lose credibility from other quarters.

    Turnbull seems hog-tied by the big end of town, and as we know, the big end of town, world-wide, has problems of its own which affect us all.

  11. Miriam Possitani

    mars08November 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    “Dutton and Turnbull AND Shorten… have proved time and again they have no regard for the well being of any Asylum Seeker”

    And they won’t either all the while 70% of the voters are opposed to Asylum Seekers coming according to surveys .
    Unless voter opinion changes , neither will they .
    If’s called trying to win elections

  12. mars08

    By hook or by crook….

  13. mars08

    @guest… True, Turnbull “has taken it upon himself to carry most of Abbott’s baggage”. But he is getting a lot of praise and good will simply by dumping Abbott’s most repulsive piece of baggage… being Tony Abbott.

    That sort of acclaim will carry him a long way with the electorate.

  14. Sen Nearly Ile

    When I was young unionists unbelievably deposed Labor and elected pig-iron bob.
    When I was young the refugees were white europeans, fleeing communism and/or poverty.
    When I was young the PM lied and used the media to frighten those refugees and unionists into joining the ‘santamatians winning 6 elections, luckily in 1954 but stern and vicious in his last 4 wins.
    The children and grand children of these refugees carry the baggage of menzies and are wary of labor, feared of ‘communism/socialism’
    QED Refugees win power.
    600 men leaving hundreds of women and children in situations they assert makes them a refugee?
    QED refugees win power.

  15. Do Youself a favour

    “What are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?”

    What the bloody hell are we ( Australia ) waiting for? The injustice goes way back. this is not something new…

    Roll Call, Australia
    by Mary W Maxwell

    The Port Arthur massacre of April 28, 1996 is an ongoing tragedy for all of us. It seems to me that there are many important persons who realize that there is something very rotten in the state of Denmark but who can’t face up to it. This would be a good time to face up to and get it over with. Lets do it! [Read more…]

    Roll Call, Australia

  16. Do Youself a favour

    News just in…

    “State and territory leaders have unanimously endorsed Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to keep jailed terrorists locked up — potentially for life ”

    well, if its good enough for kids on Naru..

  17. mars08

    So…. how do we define “terrorists” these days?

  18. OldWomBat

    Dear Roswell, “Gosh, can’t release them now.” Of course they can. It’s easy. Just like when the ‘budget emergency’ disappeared overnight the LNP can declare that there is no longer a ‘threat’ from those in detention. Note the LNP will have to use the word ‘threat’ because to say ‘excuse’ or even worse ‘reason’, well that would be open to too much potential for negative interpretation.

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