FEELING DEPRESSED ON THE WAY TO THE ‘LET THEM STAY’ RALLY
By James Branson
On my way to the Sydney leg of the recent “Let Them Stay” gatherings, aimed at forcing the Turnbull Government (and the Federal Labor opposition, mind you) to show some damned humanity and put a stop to sending Asylum Seekers to that god-forsaken hellhole, Nauru, I came across this article announcing the appointment of Phillip Ruddock as Australia’s Special Envoy for Human Rights.
“As special envoy, Mr Ruddock will focus on advancing Australia’s human rights priorities of good governance, freedom of expression, gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, and national human rights institutions,” said Deputy PM Julie Bishop.
Of course, Julez (I think she’d be cook with me calling her Julez) failed to mention anything about our country’s record on the human rights of those seeking asylum, because… well, it sucks, frankly.
And Philip Ruddock’s appointment as special envoy on Human Rights is a clear indication of just how hard it sucks.
Because way back in 2001, when John Howard cunningly turned Australia’s policy towards Asylum Seekers into an election-winning wedge issue, it was Phillip Ruddock who designed and implemented the policy. He was a pioneer of Australia’s “treat refugees like human garbage” approach.
So I was feeling naturally depressed on the way to yesterday’s protest – despite the fact that Sally Rugg, a Heaps Gay contributor, managed to call Bill Shorten’s office in front of 6,000 people in Melbourne, all of whom chanted “Let them stay” so little Billy could hear for himself.
The rally was, of course, satisfying proof that a large number of Australians have… what’s that word again? Oh yeah, compassion. Compassion enough to gather in their thousands and let the Government know that sending people to offshore detention is an abhorrent and cruel act.
But you’ll have to forgive me for feeling a bit down about its effectiveness.
Time and time again, successive governments have refused to listen to the medical professionals who warn of the psychological damage done to those in detention, the legal experts who have declared our treatment of refugees to be a violation of our international obligations, and those of us who just want to yell and scream about the fact that Australia’s policy towards asylum seekers makes a mockery of our self-image as a nation of good people.
Hopefully, at some point they’ll start listening.
But when Phillip Ruddock is given a position as a human rights envoy, well, you’ll just have to excuse me for feeling like that’s a long way off.