By Bob Ellis
On Manus, there are a 100, 300, 700 men – some of them fathers of children, all of them sons of mothers – thirsting to death.
Some have willed their organs to sick Australians, so some part of them will get here though they, while alive, do not. In punishment for this grand gesture Tony Abbott, an English migrant, is thirsting them to death.
Some of them are what we call “genuine refugees”. They have a right to be here. We are obliged to take them, under a UN convention we signed sixty years ago. And we are subjecting some of them to capital punishment, for wanting to come here.
Some of them have wives and children already here. And new Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has told them, you will never get to Australia, get used to it. You will never see your children again. Get used to it. You can have the next 50 years in PNG, never leaving it. Get used to it. If you try to leave PNG, you will be arrested and imprisoned. For trying to see your wife and children. That can never be. Get used to it.
A few questions arise here, apart from the obvious one, how dare we? One is, can their wives and children visit them? Not just in PNG hereafter, but on Manus, now? Can that visit be conjugal? Why not? Can they, as PNG citizens, visit Australia? Why not? Can they overstay? If they do, what happens to them?
Curiously, this coincides with the Je suis Charlie saga. We are Charlie, but these refugees are not. They cannot be heard. We have freedom of speech, but they do not.
They are being locked up and thirsted to death because they escaped a regime, Iran, or Sri Lanka, where some of them were genuinely persecuted – the ones who are genuine refugees – and they have a right not to go back there. But they do not have a right to come here. Though their wives and children, or some of them, did.
This is a crime against humanity so manifest that Dutton, a former Queensland policeman who will in his time have heard the phrase “death in custody” should be considering his position. If one of these young men dies on his watch, as Reza Berati did on Morrison’s, he should consider his position.
If, however, we no longer believe in the rule of law and we are in a Mugabe-Zimbabwe kind of nation, of course none of this matters. We can kill whoever we like. We can let them thirst to death. And harvest their organs, the way the Chinese do with their executed criminals — dead of a single bullet to the back of the head.
What are we coming to? Two years ago, with Bob Carr as foreign minister, we were admired as a nation — as a liberal, generous people, whom poorer countries looked up to. Now we are refusing to pursue and arrest murderers – Berati’s murderers – and thirsting, in hundreds, or dozens, young men to death.
It may or may not be possible for Premier Palaszczuk’s Attorney-General to report Dutton to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and put him through the difficulty of testing in our High Court the constitutionality of his defiance of the laws of the nations. It may or may not be possible to refuse the donated organs of a genuine refugees with children here.
Into what a cesspool Morrison, Abbott and Bishop – and, yes, Rudd and Burke – have drawn us.
Will we ever be clean again?
I doubt it.