My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 12 December 2017

by ray goodlass

A week to celebrate but also a week for lamentation

What a week it has been. Some things to celebrate, such as Same Sex Marriage legislated for, and some to lament, such as President Trump’s unilateral decision to declare Jerusalem the exclusive capital of Israel, and to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

While Parliament was busy congratulating itself on the passage of the SSM bill I could not but remind myself that this was the result of the peoples’ overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote in the recent postal survey, and that Parliament could have passed similar legislation years ago, and indeed, had many opportunities to do just that. So don’t congratulate yourself too much Mr Turnbull, as most people can see you didn’t have the fortitude to take on the troglodytes in your party when you should have.

The ramifications of Trump’s decision will take a while to play out, and though of course they can’t be good, I will hold off commenting, in part because it wouldn’t surprise me if he quickly followed one foolish and inflammatory decision with another, namely his Two State solution peace plan. Given the rumours of it being a one-sided pro-Zionist scheme I hope it never sees the light of day.

So instead I’ll devote my column to something worth writing about, Professor Gillian Trigg’s sensible and humane analysis of our offshore detention regime on ABC TV ‘s Q&A program last week.

The former human rights commissioner described Australia’s offshore detention regime as designed to “break” refugees, warning the inhumanity on Manus Island had reached such a point that “as a nation, we have to respond”.

Labor senator Lisa Singh, whose party reopened the offshore detention centres in 2012 said they may not have done so if they had known the situation would reach this point.

Echoing Triggs, she said the government’s refusal to accept New Zealand’s offer to take 150 men suggested they wanted people to suffer or die.

That predictably provoked outrage from Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who labelled the comment as “highly offensive”.

But Triggs, a vocal critic of the policy, said the evidence suggested otherwise. “This program is designed to break these people. And to send them back,” she said.

Triggs went on to say said offshore detention regime had now become Australia’s shame. “It’s a difficult decision for both political parties,” she said. “But I think the inhumanity has reached a level where we, as a nation, have to respond.”

There was also some action on this issue in Parliament too, when a motion moved by the Greens’ Nick McKim and supported by Labor passed the Senate, calling on the government to support New Zealand’s offer to accept 150 men from Manus Island.

Commenting in the House of Representatives Adam Bandt, Green MP for Melbourne also noted that due to government sloppiness “The House passed a Greens motion calling on the government to accept New Zealand’s offer to take some of the refugees who are currently languishing on Manus,” he said.

However, through a tricky procedural move, the government got a ‘do over’ and voted again.

One MP said he missed the first vote on Manus because he was ‘detained’. If he went to Manus he would find out what detention really looks like. If such MPs can’t be bothered to turn up and vote for liberty, then they need to get out of Parliament. And take the whole rotten government with them. It is time to evacuate Manus now.

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