There is duplicity around Turnbull’s conversation about refugees on Manus Island with Trump earlier this year when he explains to Trump that “If you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you’re the best person in the world, even if you are a Nobel Prize winner, we will not let you in.”
Then, in an obvious effort to satisfy Trump, he says reassuringly (hoping that Trump will accept some of these refugees), that “they have done nothing wrong.” In other words, although we have illegally deprived them of their liberty for the past four years they are really good people.
No wonder Trump saw duplicity and insincerity in Turnbull’s words.
Australia is hoping to be granted a seat at the UN Human Rights Council in October. I feel I am living in a parallel universe to Canberra. “If successful, Australia would use the position to push for gender equality, freedom of expression and the rights of indigenous people around the world.”(Miller, 28/02)
Gender equality? I acknowledge the achievements of women in sport and recognition of domestic violence but political parties in Australia are heavily weighted in favour of selecting men over women in elections. Australia ranks 46th for overall gender equality. Rights of Indigenous peoples around the world? Well, the government has not yet managed to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our own constitution, so why would an Australian representative fight for the rights of indigenous people in other countries when we neglect our own indigenous people?
Australia’s record on human rights during the last several years has been deplorable, to put it mildly. This week sees yet more cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees originally brought to Australia for medical treatment. They’re losing income support and accommodation and told they must find work to support themselves, something they have been denied permission to do for years, or live on $200 a fortnight. “This is an act of shocking cruelty” to quote Hugh de Kretser from the Human Rights Law Centre.
In a report from the Uniting Church publication Crosslight in 2017 about Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention Centre, the article reveals extreme bureaucratic and harsh treatment of these people. A desire to learn English has led to more restrictions placed on their activities than we impose on our most hardened criminals and remember that these people are not criminals. These people have fled brutal regimes and torture. Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion?
A year earlier, the UN Committee Against Torture reported finding Australia's detention of refugees amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" forbidden by international law.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells said recently that Australia was the "gold standard" in the resettlement of refugees and in other human rights areas, for example in tolerance and respect of other cultures. Excuse me? There is my parallel universe again. Our Karen community in Bendigo now faces extremely harsh standards of English, to university level, before they can be accepted as Australian citizens. That ruling threatens their dreams of a permanent life in Australia.
This community has been welcomed in Bendigo and has already contributed richly to our community. I don’t include Lisa Chesters MP in my criticisms of both parties, as I know she supports the Karen community and has expressed her concern for refugees many times. Good for her.