Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Dear Mr Abbott, I am dissatisfied with your response

You may recall a couple of months ago I wrote to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in relation to the UDHR and people seeking asylum in Australia. See here for a copy of the original letter.

Tony responded to me personally. See his response here.

Here is my response to him. The original will follow by post. 

7 May 2013

The Hon Tony Abbott MP
Prime Minister of Australia
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Mr Abbott,
Re:         Your ref C14/20782
                Asylum seekers – dissatisfied with your response
Thank you for your response dated 24 April 2014, I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
In your correspondence you’ve said:
1.       Illegal boats put lives at risk…[and that] The Government believes in a strong migration programme and won’t sacrifice that under a guise of “false compassion”  that, in turn, encourages more illegal arrivals on unsafe boats”.
With respect, the Government’s current immigration policies are also putting lives and people at risk. It seems (among other things) you’ve missed a larger issue I’ve raised: how people seeking refugee status received by Australia are being treated, which is (by all accounts) very, very badly. Aside from the death of Reza Berati, I have heard eye witness accounts of, and read countless reports on, the terrible conditions at Manus and Nauru, Mr Abbott. Disease and mental illness in the processing centres is prevalent and on the increase.

2.       [Paraphrased] “the policies are rebuilding Australia’s confidence in the immigration policies”’. How can you say that with a straight face? I enclose an article (marked "1"), published today in the Guardian. I don’t know any Australian who has any sort of confidence in the Government’s current immigration policies. If anything, confidence is dropping.

3.       The number of “illegal arrivals” has dropped since the Government tightened its policies.
Why would this impress me, or any Australian?
This concerns me. UNHCR statistics show more and more people are being forced to leave their war torn, poverty stricken countries. The fact they’re no longer coming to Australia is not something to brag about. Your assertion is superficial and in my view takes us further from the principals under the UDHR. And I’m dumbfounded you admit to thinking this is a productive measure of success.
Also, are the number of boats really dropping, Mr Abbott, really? Almost every day there is bad publicity for Australia on the disastrous outcomes relating to your asylum seeker policies. I believe you use manipulated statistics to justify your reasons for these policies. I enclose an additional article (marked“2”, source UNHCR) and note these are the statistics I choose to rely on, Mr Abbott, not yours, and they do not make Australia look good.
This is what the Australian people are seeing, Mr Abbott.
Further your referring to these people as “illegal arrivals” demonstrates your complete lack of compassion. To me it demonstrates a total disconnect between you and the issues. They’re people, Mr Abbott, humans: who, in the face of adversity, are willing to risk their lives in leaky boats. How bad must it be on their end for them to do that, to justify such an enormous risk?
You may as well wave a big flag in the air that says “I have no empathy for humans!” I’m aware you’re a busy man, Mr Abbott. I’ll make you the flag and post it to you by separate correspondence.
You and I, Mr Abbott, we’re lucky: the luckiest. We were born into a fantastic set of circumstances where even the lower middle classes are comparatively affluent by world standards. Lucky us.
But what if that changed, Mr Abbott, and we needed assistance and compassion from a neighbouring country? What if these people seeking asylum were our parents, our spouses, or our children?
How would you want to handle those people, Mr Abbott? How would you expect that we be treated if we needed assistance and compassion? Would we expect or hope that we would be processed legitimately? Would we expect or hope that we would be treated with respect and treated well during the time that processing takes place?
I would.
You claim Australia’s successful resettlement programmes are “among the top refugee resettlement countries”. The truth of this is highly dubious, but even if it were true – I do not believe we are a country that treats people seeking asylum with dignity and respect.
Do not make the mistake of believing that people born into more difficult circumstances do not have incredible value, Mr Abbott. They do.
Before you dismiss what I’m writing, consider this: if you want to keep your election promises, keep them. I vehemently disagree with them but I didn’t vote you in.
Whatever your promises, you have no right to mislead the public. You have no right to mistreat humans.
At the very absolute, bottom-line minimum:
1.       Make sure the people seeking asylum are actually processed, on a genuine case by case basis.
Surely you must be aware of the whistleblowers coming out of the processing centres who’ve indicated people seeking asylum are not actually being processed.

2.       Make sure people seeking asylum are treated adequately during the time they are processed.
By all reports they’re currently under appalling conditions. You need to ask yourself if you would ever want to be an asylum seeker under your own Government.

3.       Stop lying.
The response you gave me in your letter was superficial and flimsy. It lacked any real conviction and made it abundantly clear to me that you should not be running a country. I am seeing more and more Australians agreeing with me on this, Mr Abbott.
And it’ll cost you votes.
And honestly, I am astounded [emphasis added] that you’re able to sleep at night.

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