Senator Nick Mckim’s release of the redaction-scarred official letter – denying him access to Nauru – is a chilling revelation of the depths to which our own, so called “free democracy” has sunk.
We elect and put in place – as our own democratic peoples’ tribunes – those Senators trusted with the duty and the responsibility to oversee and inspect, to hold all lower house acts, policy and governance under senatorial review and inspection all on our behalf: that is, under the Australian people’s oversight.
It is an utter disgrace that such a letter should be citing an Australian government agency’s “wishes” (for which, substitute “instructions”) as authority for Nauru’s denying our own Australian peoples’ elected senatorial representative.
Remember that our own elected senatorial representative was seeking only access to those whom we have sent – as non convicted prisoners, people whose only crime was a dream of a new life, in a new land – to Nauru.
But no one who is conversant with our own past history ought to be surprised by such events – I suppose – seeing that our own elected Australian leaders chose to ship offshore, and to send away unwanted peoples being transported, thus, to turn other islands into the kind of gaols which saw the first stain of European invasion and occupation of this continent.
The concentration camps that we established upon Nauru and Christmas Island are just another modern theme and variation upon that brutal kind of deprivation and transportation which helped to create the British penal colonies – filled with discards – whose guarding forces first invaded this land, nearly 250 years ago.
It is utterly unconscionable that so many suffering minds and souls still remain imprisoned – on Australian governmental behalf – on prison islands holding human beings remaining denied and detained, locked away by a vile, inhumane, totally unjust system of imprisoning concentration and containment camps.
I call them concentration camps for what we recreated – on Christmas Island and Nauru – are in fact just updated, better-appointed, offshore models of that army rounded up concentrated control and confinement of an imprisoned population: an old answer that was re-invented by the British, in the Boer War.
The British used their notorious Boer War camps to round up and “concentrate” a rural population of mostly old men, women and children, all forced from their often razed and burnt lands and homes – at bayonet point – as such people were working and maintaining the farms and food supplies that helped feed and sustain the guerrilla-fighting dispersed Boer armies maintaining a brave and continuing – grossly out-gunned and out-numbered – but skilful resistance fought against British invasion, oppression, and ongoing, commerce and profit motivated, war crimes.
The solution to this ongoing guerrilla resistance – for the British – were camps designed to do many similar things to what we are doing, now, with our own Aussie concentration camps, built on other people’s islands.
Both kinds of camp – set more than one hundred years apart, but all connected, by the common means, if not by exactly the same purpose and intent, through time – represent a common strain of cruel, brutal, de-humanising, deadly kind of “concentration and control” solution to a common sort of “unwanted persons” problem – again of a different kind, and with different aims and reasons – as those which the Nazis (inspired by the British Boer War model) also used to first concentrate and control (and then, of course, to eliminate) those “undesirables” being rounded up and carted off, in their own time and realm.
Concentration Camps will kill people, always – either directly and intentionally, or indirectly and unintentionally – but often by the same kinds of slower, more unseen reasons, in many different times, settings and situations.
People die when you concentrate and contain their free civil rights of liberty of thought, hope, dream and aspiration, as well as of their free choice in travel for work, recreation, play and movement, all because – even with better amenities, and with better kinds of even better provided intentions for feeding, housing, health and care – a prison is still a prison, while a concentration camp will be, always – a concentration camp – one that is attempting to define and confine, contain and control the free expression of the human soul and spirit,
What we have built, offshore, for the boat people, are concentration camps: do not ever think to doubt or debate that fact.
When you fence people in by surrounding them with wire or walls or by the sea surrounding tiny islands of oppression – and no matter how well you may seek to cater for, feed and care for such concentration camp inmates – still, because of the very substance, style and nature of what you are engaged in doing – that is, denying and depriving a person’s liberty and freedom, then, by the very fact of that act of isolating and restraining them – the soul and spirit must suffer within and beneath any extended period of confinement, especially one having no certainty of time of end, or of outcome.
If you shut people in and then chuck away their keys of any foreseeable hope of choice for freedom, in the future, they will inevitably suffer, fret and fade away slowly into a sad and slow decline which – in many instances – may end in physical death or – even worse, at times, in that death of the inner life and spirit, in that death of morale and will to live that have been jointly worn down and assaulted by a deadly combination of anomie, family fragmentation, disconnection and separation from land, hearth and “homeplace”, and from community resource and sensory deprivation leading into grief and mourning for the lost dream of the past or of a future, all soon leading to a rapid decay of the resolve to strive and fight, soon obliterating all will and resistance against depression, decline, and disease.
Sound like aspects of the leaked reports and descriptions – coming from medical professionals – on what they had treated, witnessed and seen in Nauru, and upon Christmas Island?
The imprisoned, “concentrated” Boer farming families of old men, women and children soon started dying in their thousands – and it remains one of the darkest stains on all British and colonial and imperial history.
So what is worse?
Murder by the noose, blade or bullet brining a more visibly swift and sudden physical death and then quick decay of the flesh?
Or that invisible-at-first – but soon sensed, seen-in-the-face, and then heard and felt – slow internal decay of pride, hope and self-belief: a slow-dying and declining sense of all self-worth and of a will for life, one whose downward-sliding spiral will parallel and accompany a similar slow decline down into despair and death of the human soul and spirit, all coming, eventually, in the back-shade, wash and wake of an extended bout of imprisonment accompanying an extinction of all and any hopes and dreams for freedom of choice and a liberty to live, work and thrive, in a fair,prosperous and free future?
I call the Australian government’s offshore island imprisonment policy a set of acts creating places for concentration camps because that is exactly what they are: camps which concentrate and confine that human liberty in freedom of choice and movement in work and travel: camps which ensure that the human mind, hopes and spirit of those – who remain incarcerated – are left to decline, decay and then die slowly- from the inside out – as the stolen hopes of their human spirit start to wane and wither, and then rot away.
What has been done and that which is now still going on – with all offshore detention camp acts, agencies, outcomes and policy – is nothing short of inhumane, immoral, and criminal.
What we are seeing, taking place – with regard to Nauru – is the very worst form of Cold War perversion and corruption of all democratic human values and principles: all being done in the name of an outcomes-based policy which pursues cruel, cold, inhuman, soul and spirit destroying ways and means, all done, supposedly, to stop the exploitation of boat people!
The sheer, hateful, hypocrisy of the shoddy, shameful justifications of that utterly cynical claim – as given by the government, in our parliament, as reason and justification for pursuing a totalitarian form of continuing offshore imprisonment policy, would be utterly breathtaking, were it not something which makes any decent human being feel disgraced and ashamed of our own nation and national leadership.
What the government is saying right now, and has said, so often, so clearly – in the recent past, is this:
“As a warning and a lesson to all possible future boat people voyagers, profiteers and traffickers, let the now incarcerated victims of such trafficking suffer – first and foremost – the visible consequences of our offshore removal policy, one adopted as a “no gain or profit” message and warning for all future would be traffickers, as well as vessel voyagers.
“Let those who have come- last, and more lately – in turn become the ever suffering first line targets and examples of this policy.”
“Let those who have undergone dangerous, fearful, open-sea journeys in cockle-boats and unfit vessels – always at risk of danger and\or death from either piracy or by drowning, exposure and starvation – suffer still the full first effects of this policy, just as they have suffered, already, the ever-present risk of extortion, theft, rape, threat and abuse, feared or encountered, in transit.”
“Let them survive such mortal fears and horrors only then to experience, endure and suffer a mentally degrading and distressing torture of disenfranchisement, denial and dislocation, for an unspecified period of sustained confinement and absence of all fair rights of freedom of choice in abode, movement, work, and travel.”
“Let them, then, also suffer – most slowly – from an exquisite, drawn out, perpetual kind of not-directly-physically-abused, but, rather, a mentally, spiritually and psychically-abusive form torture, though coming to know, feel and see defined – within the surrounding fences or walls and imprisoning shores of the island that confines their freedom to move – a dawning understanding that they remain stuck, while being nowhere, remaining trapped in a kind of hideously constant, daily-waking nightmare-reminder of being left powerless, hopeless, stateless, and without any kind of known, definable, near or distant promised civic right or future.”
“Let them suffer and be tortured, as well – again so slowly and insidiously, and without any first early visible forms of direct physical or bodily abuse – an unseen, creeping, at first hidden but ever-ongoing and emerging, ever crystallising and crippling sense of their own sagging loss of hope for freedom of access to those new-land, new-life dreams that first drove them to face so many risks and dangers: dreams that they will then, subsequently – as a result of our policy – slowly begin to see shall continue to be denied and deprived.”
“Let them suffer, finally – as the ultimate working action and quietly desired outcome of our offshore boat-people imprisonment and detention-to-decay policy – that ultimate loss of all sense of any human dignity and self-worth, as shared and expressed within their slowly eroding future-hope for liberty of soul and spirit – all being ground down to destruction, though the reduction of outlook, the redaction of optimism, and that torture of the heart and mind that is felt and suffered in the slow, ongoing deprivation-based decline and loss of faith and belief in all possibility of any kind of freedom and security coming, in a foreseen near-present or even distant future life.”
“Let all of that then be the ultimate point, purpose and inevitable human cost and outcome of our offshore-prison-policy, a policy that is aimed still – despite all present knowledge and future expectation of massive, ongoing, collateral human damage – directly at stopping all future boat arrivals of seaborne refugees and traffickers.”
Let us sacrifice, knowingly then, therefore – enough of those who have come, to make a sufficient point and example – in order to stop others coming, in the future.”
Above is what our elected Australian government is stating and saying – with regard to boat-people policy – both directly and indirectly, as well as inadvertantly.
These are the either stated or unstated means, aims, ways and desires which lie behind and within all of the deceitful, duplicitous, disgraceful parliamentary lies, deflections and defiance now passed off as legitimate policy statements, policies now turning this nation’s leaders into a rotten, lost, lousy, morally-corrupt and ethically-bankrupted gang of criminals citing supposed longer term “no trafficking” outcomes as their entire justification and defence of acts and policies that have devastating mental and psychic impacts on people whose only act or crime was to dream of a better future.
All of that rancid, rotten, repugnant migrant imprisonment-policy-filth now makes me feel just so diseased – as an Australian – so corrupted and contaminated does one’s own soul and spirit now feel, in being tainted by association – being Australian- with the foulest, lowest, most despicable acts and policies of those ministers responsible: those who signed their names and who stamped their souls in supporting cabinet decisions made and carried out by our own Australian government.
This shameful, horrible, ongoing nightmare of the whole offshore seaborne migrant-denial policy just makes me feel so downcast and diminished, just so utterly ashamed, right now, – to be an Australian, in such diabolical times – as all such acts of this kind are being carried out, so coldly, and with such low, slow, cynical, smiling-cruelty – all in my name, and in your name, as Australians.
It is all just so entirely evil and arrogant, so deviant from all of our former best democratic precepts, rights and oft-stated principles – of liberty, freedom and equality – that is has become utterly demoralising now, for this writer, in this times – to be an Australian.
We are supposed to be living in a so called free and democratic “fair go” nation.
This is not, now, the country that I grew up in, fifty years before, loving and liking.
It is not a nation that I am able – anymore – to admire, invest and believe in.
It is not that nation into which I once placed such bright, shining, youthful hopes for our own future world leadership, in teaching and upholding international human rights and values.
I grew up, not blind in my hope, but, nevertheless believing in a better more worthy future for this nation, even though I grew to maturity as one who had also suffered from the crueller taunts and physical acts of others, being a target of those who felt the need to inflict hurt or harm which might somehow help alleviate their own fear of change or difference.
I grew, however, still daring to dream that the many crimes and cruelties committed against the first Australians and against those of different race or gender, or of different sexual orientation or religious belief, of different origin or cultural background, or of just a different outlook, personality or appearance – all would be admitted, and redressed, within my lifetime – to be repaired and corrected, and in being compensated for – as best as maybe – in a new era of a bright new hope for reconciliation, recompense, acknowledgement, and forgiveness.
I grew up – believing in this nation – believing in a coming fair and principled-people, a society and state whose governance would reflect the very finest, world’s best practice and pursuit of the very best and bravest acts and principles of universal humanity, of the rights of all to be able to live within a fine, fair and just nation and community.
But I have lived, too long now, it appears: in outliving all such dreams.
I have lived to witness my own once-beloved country become a pariah state, a nation now shamed by what has been done and is still being done – in its name, in our own name, and to all of our shame – acts of slow pernicious cruelty being inflicted upon helpless, hapless, innocent people whose only non-crime was to dream of a better future for their families.
I feel personally disgraced, diminished by, and ashamed of what our government agencies have done to migrant families.
What had these people done or deserved: to be thus shuttled off and then shut away – put out of hope and sight and mind on offshore prison islands, and in camps – merely because they braved a dangerous sea journey while hoping and holding in their heart ideas of a better place to go to, for a better, fairer, kinder, safer place to find?
I once saw this nation as a land of smiling hopes being shared by a free and generous people- upholding and keeping-dear – their all-Australian belief in an equal chance of peace, prosperity, and opportunity, for all, within our most fortunate, wealthy land, society and community.
I have lived now, I can see, for far too long, for I have lived to see such such low cut smiling kinds of sunshine-lies and dismissive deceit just tossed off and away from any real attempt to hold to account and to confront the truth – in the parliament – questions answered with with smug, trite, contemptible little whoops and quips coming in reply to fair and rightful questions put but which are then shrugged off, as those responsible condemn and then ship away the innocent.
I have lived too long, to see, from this land, refugees being hunted down, rounded up and then shipped off – just as were the Jews and unwanted minorities were once forcibly shipped, to extinction – in past evil times.
I have lived too long ,to be a citizen of this fallen, now contemptible little nation lugging and dumping families, offshore, with innocents being then condemned to a form of mind and soul oppressing, utterly callous, civil-barbarism being carried out by – or on the behalf of – our own elected government.
It is brutal, ruthless, and barbarous.
it is an assault upon the minds, souls, hearts and spirits of those that we keep locked away – out of sight and conscience – behind walls and fences, or contained upon a prison island, all in our own nations name, and at the behest our own, weak, disgraced, most contemptible leaders.
If it was up to me – and at all within my power – I would have all those involved charged and hauled before the world court, at the Hague: I would have all responsible for such crimes against humanity put before an international panel of judges, and tried.
I would have the whole sorry lot of them indicted.
I would send, for committal, every single prime minister, cabinet minister and immigration minister, past and present, Liberal or Labor – who has either voted in favour of, or who has overseen the implementation of – this shameful, sinful, offshore-boat-people-concentration camp-policy.
We – the Australian people – must must now put all of our elected representatives on final notice.
If not now, then, soon – in the coming years – those in government who instigated, signed off on and supported acts and decisions leading to the creation of shamefully dehumanising offshore camp detention of innocent boat-people, must all be brought to book, and held accountable.
They must be charged, and tried, for many most callous, cruel, egregious acts of unwarranted, immoral, physical deprivation of freedom, justice and hope: they must be tried for crimes against humanity.
*Paul Healy writes that he is: “A poet, writer, and social and political commentator who once had the heads of three different university faculties – all at the same time – sharing their best scotch, after hours, discussing the best path forward, for his Phd, each to be written under their own departmental aegis. They all missed out when the sudden, most surprising love of a beautiful woman led him – most sanely, and eminently more sensibly (in pursuing a longer term mental survival) to an equal love of the land, of heirloom poultry breeding, and of organic farming and food growing. He then fell – quite by accident – into the easy, smiling arms of the press, writing his weekly “Good Earth” column for more than twenty, mostly-muse-wasting-years, of serving that most vile of all inexcusable masters: the self-censoring, weekly, mortgage-meeting sinecure.”