In 2013, after Kevin Rudd had been reinstalled as prime minister, he bowed, quite disgracefully, to Coalition pressure and reopened both Manus Island and Nauru as detention centres for those refugees and asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat.
To his shame, he went one step further and made the political decision that such arrivals would never be allowed to come to Australia. In doing so, he believed he had shut down debate on the issue of the boat people. It was an attempt to clear the decks before calling a federal election.
He made it Labor policy, it was enacted by a Labor government, but also subject to review after 12 months. It was a disgraceful decision motivated entirely by the fear of being wiped out at the next election.
It was a blatant attempt to counter the relentless pressure being applied by the opposition who knew they were on an electoral winner.
As we know, the Coalition won the election (or Labor lost it, depending on which way you look at it) and the new prime minister, Tony Abbott, handed control of the boat people over to the new Immigration minister, Scott Morrison.
From that point on, the true colours of Scott Morrison and the more sadistic members of the new government were revealed. With the broader support of a soulless electorate, a quite deliberate regime of brutal, psychological bullying, that went far beyond anything Labor had intended, had begun.
It continued, despite riots, deaths and serious medical issues being ignored. It continued despite attempted suicides, hunger strikes, sewing lips together, bashings by staff, all well known to the relevant department at the time, but kept hidden from the Australian public, until a few brave whistle-blowers spoke out. While protests at their treatment were held in all capital cities, those protests fell on deaf ears.
But when the truth was out, it became clear to the government that their hard line was resonating favourably with the Australian people, so they did nothing to stop it.
Fast forward five years to today and it appears there has been a change of heart, a conscience kicker, that has impressed itself in the hearts and minds of that same, once-soulless electorate. How noble of them. How proud we should all be.
A galaxy poll this week tells us that 80% now favour the part solution offered by the New Zealand government to take 150 detainees a year.
What has changed? Perhaps it’s the realisation that five years of torture, five years detention for no crime, five years of children knowing no other life, now suffering mental problems, is enough. Perhaps we have come to realise what a wretched, heartless mob of bastards we have become. But now we need to call the dogs off.
So now we hear the calls…..Release them! Bring them to Australia. The punishment has been far worse than the crime. Think of the children, the poor children. Let them go to New Zealand. Bring them here. And so on. How noble of us. How Christian!
Yet still, the government, now led ironically by Scott Morrison, the original architect of a system that brought about the torture, the deaths in detention, both physical and mental, is holding firm. His asylum seeker solution, that previously carried the support of the masses, is now seen in a negative light by the very same people who once championed his heartlessness. But, thus far, he is not listening.
The bulk of the Australian people, these conscience-pricked weaklings who never meant it to go this far, have suddenly got cold feet. How pathetic of them. They are running up the white flag. How ironic! Where was their conscience, two, three, four years ago when we collectively turned our backs on defenceless families who fled tyranny and political persecution in search of a better life?
Well, Scott Morrison is having none of that. This self-professed Christian, this happy-clapper, reborn of, and celebrating the gifts, of the Holy Spirit, will not bend. He can’t. If he did, he would be admitting his boat people solution, the one he hypocritically blames on Labor, was wrong.
So now, the relentless pressure he once placed on Labor, is now on him. What goes around, comes around. The Australian conscience, the one that went missing for five years, has found itself again. How so conveniently noble!
If justice is ever to be served on this shameful episode in our short history, both Manus and Nauru must be terminated in totality. But not the memory. That should live on and forever be etched in our consciousness. Those camps should be retained as reminders of our past failures.
Now, for the first time in five years, there seems to be an end in sight. But don’t hold your breath. It will take some doing for any politician to admit it has been a failed policy.
And to help prevent it happening again, we should teach our children that just as we persecuted our indigenous population in past centuries, we also persecuted and tortured those who came here and begged us to help them, as recently as 2018.
Well may we say, advance Australia fair. Because nothing will advance this shameful legacy. Labor may have started it, but Scott Morrison will forever, own it.
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