24 February 2014

Riot

It’s been a big week for the asylum seeker issue here in Australia. There have been riots in the detention centre on Manus Island. Tragically, a person has been killed.

In the last few days commemorative vigils have been held across the country to remember the life of Reza Berati. Thousands of people have attended, proving that people really do matter, and people really do care about this stuff. It’s moving and encouraging.

I don’t really know what to make of the whole thing. I've written about it before, but I still don't see the whole thing in black and white nor do I pretend I know the right answers.

I don’t know what started the riot. Some say it was an inevitable consequence of intolerable circumstances. But the same people send me tracts, petitions and requests for donations condemning violence in any context. Violence is never the answer.

Some say it was the act of malicious insurgents, exactly the kind of people we should be keeping locked up. That sounds equally ridiculous. Let me take away your freedom, your hope and your family and let’s see how long you peacefully behave yourself.

And as always, my Facebook newsfeed is full of articles, blogs and memes blaming everything on Tony Abbott. Well I guess that was inevitable. I’m sure Kevin Rudd would have done a much better job of … doing nothing while talking a lot.

I don’t know what started the riot, and neither do you.

What I do know is that I’m sick of the politics. I’m tired of the government’s secrecy and mistrust of Australian people. I’m tired of the assumption that by appearing tough on border security you make yourself seem like a strong leader. I’m tired of campaigns from the left side of politics pinning all this on Tony Abbott and his government, glossing over the fact that the policies Kevin Rudd’s Labor took into the last election were even more draconian than the Liberal set up. And I’m tired of the language from the Liberal government making us all sound like overly self-confident high school quarterbacks.

We don’t even play American football in high schools in this country. It’s un-Australian.

Today we saw calls from the Labor party for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to resign over what they called ‘disgraceful’ handling of the crisis. Labor Senator Sue Lines posed her own question and conveniently answered it herself when she told the ABC “Does Scott Morrison have blood on his hands? Yes, he certainly does” This after Tony Abbott helpfully suggested that we “don’t want a wimp running border protection, you want someone strong”.

This is utter stupidity, from both parties. Instead of working on ways to improve conditions in the detention centres, or speed up the processing of asylum requests, they’re slinging paper-thin rhetoric at each other in the hope of scoring political points. This isn’t some high-school debating tournament where the most powerful sounding speaker (top tip: it was usually me. Don't know what went wrong) wins on manner points: This is now literally a life and death issue.

I’m not saying the centres need to be closed down, but if they stay open then conditions inside need to improve. The detainees are not criminals and they need to be treated with more respect. And our leaders on both sides of the house need to show their constituents more respect and bring us some action that blind Freddie couldn’t see through with his head in a sack.

Make of that what you will.



Garry with 2 Rs
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