A Plea for Compassion

The refugees on Manus have written a letter to some of the leaders of the free world (I have corrected a few spelling mistakes):

To the Honourable: President Donald Trump,

Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau and also humanitarian people of those countries

We, refugees and asylum seekers in Manus Island detention, are writing to you to explain our terrible condition and also our request. The condition in here is out of humanity. Australian government cut food , water and electricity for 5 days. They also cut toilets and everything for around one month. There is no medical clinic in here if something happened for us. We are refugees or asylum seekers and we are not criminals. Even criminal have the right for food and water. This type of torturing is new and Australian government have been torturing us in many ways for more than 4 years. Crime against humanity have been exactly happening in here. To sum up, President Trump, our processing for the USA is running. We want you to please notice some genuine refugees have detained in here. We have no any other choices except for remaining in here. We also ask from Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau to help us. We are skilled or educated from University. We can participate in the way that your countries are heading.

Please help us as much you can. We are in critical condition right now.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Detainees in Manus Island

5th of November 2017


– All humanitarian people all over the world.

Acknowledgments to:   Letter from Refugees on Manus | Julian Burnside


Our government shames us.  This letter ought to be posted on the doors of parliament house and in every public venue in the land.
Only the most selfish or cold-hearted could read such a simple and poignant appeal and yet continue to mount their fallacious arguments in justification (excuse) for the treatment our governments have given to asylum-seekers, refugees, and others simply seeking a reasonable safe haven and way of life for themselves and/or their children.
It disgusts me that materialism, selfishness, irrational fear and even blind hatred causes so many Australians to support the incarceration and appalling treatment of people who, in the overwhelming majority of cases have lost or left their homes because there was little or no alternative.
I have heard all the arguments from the Australians who agree with this and previous recent government policies in regard to “boat people”.  They amount to nothing more than the irrational ravings of bullies, the world over.
Oh that I could put them to the test. – To see, were they to suffer the conditions of the people they reject, that they would become supporters of my belief that we should welcome and assist these people in a generous and compassionate way.
I migrated to this country in 1971, with little more than I stood up in and a wife and child.  I landed with $1, the equivalent of approximately $10.50 today. At that time, this nation was vibrant, generous and alive.  There was a decided belief that we were ‘The Lucky Country’ and that society was improving the lot of all. That feeling was so tangible that you could almost feel it in the wind or sense it in the air.
How very different is the feeling in the air today.  Materialism, egocentrism, celebrity, and insularity seem to be the watch-words for ‘success’.  Disadvantage, poverty, disability, mental illness, and indeed DIFFERENCE of any sort is suspected, feared and often reviled.  Cheating and corruption on both a small and a large scale have become so commonplace that they barely make the news and even more rarely result in any penalty.  Indeed, it would seem that some even applaud the ingenuity with which some individuals and businesses enrich the 1% whilst operating at the margins of the law and certainly crossing well over moral and ethical boundaries.
Virtually the whole population appears to be disaffected with our politicians and our politics and parliament has deteriorated into a morass of nasty name-calling and muck-raking, polarisation of the views of major parties simply for its own sake, and the rise of populist independents and minor parties that are taking advantage of public ignorance and the general weariness and malaise or which Australia now wreaks.
As one of the richest nations in the World and one of the most sparsely populated, with rural infrastructure and towns dying for lack of population, we are in a position to do far more to alleviate the enormous refugee crisis currently facing the World.
Yet our government, even when our neighbour New Zealand offers to take 150 of the unfortunates, refuses the offer and, instead is content to let that 150 continue to suffer.  It is bad enough that we haven’t simply re-settled all of those that arrived but after several years, to argue that they can do no more while rejecting offers of assistance, is simply unforgivable.
I’m not sure how the people of this nation got here, though I do believe that the fraudulent dismissal of Whitlam, with the connivance of the Governor-General and the knowledge of the Monarchy, heralded a major change that was heartily reinforced by Howard and his eagerness to copy the neo-liberal policies and ethos of Thatcher and Reagan.
Indeed, it was Howard who had the insane and nonsensical notion of declaring parts of our offshore territory to be *not* Australia, in order that people couldn’t land there and claim to have arrived in Australia.  I think that it is not too far a stretch to see that move and the Howard era genrally as the catalyst that gave momentum to anachronistic views, pseudo nationalistic sentiment, pompous posturing on the World stage and increased sycophancy towards the United States on the one hand and the British Monarchy and class system on the owther.
There is no doubt that the Australian ethos of ‘a fair go’ has taken a battering and I know that I’m not the only one to find it difficult to feel proud to be an Australian citizen, whilst our governments, politicians of virtually all persuasions, and a large percentage of the population have given away compassion and caring, forgotten that they, themselves [with the exception of the First Australians] are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, and that many of them who are now well-heeled only became so because of the generosity offered to them in earlier times.
I am sickened by the lies, deceit and bloody-mindedness of our Prime Minister and his Cabinet and confounded that otherwise intelligent people will accept arguments and decisions that fly in the face of all evidence, logical argument or rationality.
Gough, please come back and inject some sanity, equity, vibrance and compassion back into this nation.

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