And now a short break from our regular programming.
The refugee issue here in Australia is a highly emotionally charged one. So much so that both major political parties pander to the public’s xenophobia and racism rather than meet their international legal obligations. While Australia likes to present itself as an easy-going multi-racial society it is reality far from it. The country has an appalling record when it comes to institutional racism. Our country still sees the aboriginal peoples as second class citizens, and although under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd the government issued an apology for past wrongs still effectively has a defacto form of apartheid that keeps aboriginal people in crushing poverty that directly reduces their life expectancy and sees them in virtual continual conflict with the legal system. Many Australians would emphatically deny this and say that using names like boong, nigger, blacks and gins are just good-natured fun. In fact our new government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott is in the process of altering the Racial Discrimination Act so that it is perfectly legal be a racist bigot and engage in racial vilification. If it waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck then it must be a duck. Australia talks like a racist and behaves like one, so Australia must be a racist country.
So we come to the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. For as long as I’ve been in Australia the issue has been the major focus of every election. Politicians from all sides have incited intolerance, racism and hatred against anyone who comes to Australia seeking asylum. Refugees are seen as being morally deficient, as though what they are doing is somehow “un-Australian” and should therefore be punished. And punished they are, for if they are fortunate to survive the tribulations of getting to Australia to ask for asylum the government imposes upon them mandatory indefinite detention in off shore Australian camps. When visiting one of these camps ABC correspondent Liam Fox found the conditions very confronting. Life is brutal in the camps and many of the detainees develop severe psychiatric conditions as a result which cause significant numbers to commit suicide and para-suicide.There have been well documented cases where staff from the private security companies administering the camps have physically and sexually assaulted detainees. On 17th February 2014 this culminated in the murder of Reza Barati, an Iranian asylum seeking being held at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea in an Australian off shore facility. Initially the government’s response was that Barati had brought this on himself by seeking asylum in Australia. Since then there has been silence with the issue being swept under the carpet by both the Australia and Papuan governments for the sake of political expediency. Tony Abbot’s government has made the issue of asylum seekers a matter state security and says that it is not in Australia’s best interests to inform its citizens of what it is doing in their name. Effectively Reza Bararti was killed by the Australian state as a direct result of current government policy, and because that policy is now out sourced to a company that has a long international history of abusing and violating those who are put in its care.
Mr Abbot believes whole heartedly that he and his government are acting in accordance with Australia’s wishes and that he has a mandate to deny asylum seekers of their civil liberties, human and legal rights. He maintains that racism is not the motivator, but every year hundreds of Europeans and Americans overstay their tourist visas to live here. If caught they are processed in a facility in a major city rather than be sent off shore. If you are white you get to present your case to stay, if not you get shipped out to Manus or some other off shore camp and detained indefinitely.
Mr Abbot when elected some six months ago said he would govern for all Australians. Well on Palm Sunday this year in the state capitals thousands of ordinary Australians from all walks of life said “Not In My Name”. In a loud clear voice they said that they wanted this policy to end and justice be done.