What has happened to this country? – By Julian Burnside

A concerned member of the public recently sent me a letter which, in my opinion, captures a large part of the problem Australia is still wrestling with: the problem of how we respond to people who are not the same as us.  Her letter includes this:

Despite  the  challenges of nature  and distance and its relatively  small  population,  Australia has always had the opportunity to be the best and fairest nation in the world.

Resource rich and fuelled by determined folk, the country has produced ample to provide for all. Inheriting a tested system of law and growing a new expectation for fairness and democracy, the possibility that the country could mature into a relative utopia was always in reach.

 I was born in WA, grew up proudly Australian, worked in public service and as a self–employed businesswoman, married  and had children  who  I expected  would  have the  advantages  of  a generous, intelligent, compassionate and wealthy nation.

 How wrong was I? The blinkers are off and things have changed greatly over the past decade or so.

 The opportunistic swindling of funds from those who most need them, the persecution of the most vulnerable in our society and the utter torment inflicted on people seeking asylum – all perpetrated by our government in an immoral grab for votes and control and enabled by mainstream media  – have overtaken all efforts towards social conscience and benign leadership.

 What frightens me most is the sheer number of Australians   –  including members of my family, despite my efforts to enlighten  – who have fallen under the spell of disinformation.  Paranoia is rife and the ugly fear that others may be receiving ‘more’ at our expense is too easy to incite in a poorly educated (by design?) and insecure (also by design?) public.

 Im no longer proud to be Australian.   I feel personally degraded by the inhumane treatment of refugees desperately seeking our help.  I go to bed each night and wake each morning with the burden of humiliation in my mind. Not just the humiliation of those in detention, but my own. How am I to deal with having this shame forced upon me by my own leaders? This may seem selfish, but I’m seriously concerned for the welfare of those detained on the islands and I know I’m not alone. It’s depressing to the point where the emotional and psychological impact on everyday Australians is apparent.  I was sad at Christmas and find it hard to be positive going into the new year.

 No amount of propaganda or deceit by government or media will assuage the guilt in anyone with an ounce of compassion, or the good sense to see the damaging consequences to the refugees and to Australia.  Many simply don’t see that if our government is comfortable treating human beings as disposable,  it won’t stop  with refugees, ethnic and indigenous people   –   it will extend  such ruthlessness to mainstream Australians too.  Think Centrelink and Medicare. …”

It is a sad thing when an Australian citizen no longer feels proud to be Australian.  Today’s politicians betray the country in various ways:

  • they make up reasons for putting a ring of steel around the country
  • they seek to avoid the obligations we voluntarily undertook when we signed the Refugees Convention
  • They cause Australia to breach our obligations under the Convention Against Torture
  • They cause Australia to breach our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • They cause Australia to breach our obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

No wonder Australians feel ashamed, when they cut through the political dishonesty peddled by people like Abbott, Morrison, Turnbull and Dutton.

Facing the fact that we are punishing people who have committed no offence is very painful.

Facing the fact that we are breaking our promises to the international community is very painful.

Facing the fact that we are behaving like a rogue state is very painful.

Facing the fact that we are behaving in ways which contradict our image of ourselves is very painful.

So all credit to Justine Pitcher for capturing the problem so well, and thanks to her for letting me quote her letter.  Join with her in expressing your disgust at our political “leaders” and what they are doing to trash this country’s character and reputation.

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