My Daily Advertiser column for yesterday, 3 April 2018L Australia’s real shame is in our asylum seeker policy, not in cricket.

by ray goodlass

Australia’s real shame is in our asylum seeker policy, not in cricket.

The coverage of the recent cricket ball tampering in South Africa last week certainly dominated the media, which also covered the outrage many felt about the incident. The Australian newspaper described it as an act of “shameful ignominy”. The Fairfax press upped the hyperbole when it wrote “This is cricket’s #MeToo moment”.

Even the Prime Minister became involved. The Daily Telegraph reports that “Mr Turnbull said he had spoken to Cricket Australia chairman David Peever and hoped the sport’s governing body would take ‘decisive action’.”

This is the same Malcolm Turnbull who just lost his 29th Newspoll in a row. You’d be justified in thinking that perhaps he’d have “decisive action” of his own to take. But not Malcolm, unless for him this passes as decisive action. “I’ve expressed to (Cricket Australia) very clearly and unequivocally my disappointment and my concern about the events in South Africa,” he said.

It all made me wonder about our priorities. I’m not at all down-playing the seriousness of the incident, and the three cricketers involved certainly deserve the punishments handed down to them, but whilst this story was unfolding on our television screens millions of teenagers in America marched against gun violence. They shut down cities to protest the senseless murder of their school fellows. There are 33,000 Americans who are killed in shooting deaths every year.

In Australia, we are either hanging our heads in shame or having collective apoplexy about the surface texture of a cricket ball. Clearly, we must live in some kind of paradise, or at least our commentariat seems to think we do, given that they can so casually compare scuffing a cricket ball with the experience of stigmatised, systemic sexual harassment, assault, abuse and violent deaths.

This led Barrie Cassidy, the host of ABC TV’s ‘Insiders’ political discussion show to say “I’m sure you’re sometimes gobsmacked at what passes for news in this country”. Quite.
He then told the story of a 10-year-old boy who has lived in the significantly less paradisal circumstances of indefinite detention in Australia’s asylum seeker processing centre on Nauru for the last five years.

As reported in the Guardian Australia and other newspapers of serious intentions, the traumatised child had repeatedly attempted suicide. Human rights lawyers and doctors campaigned to relocate him to Australia for acute psychiatric treatment. The Home Affairs department and its minister Peter Dutton fought the action in court. It needed a judge, deciding that the boy’s life was in immediate danger, to overrule them.
Surely a government minister actively denying care to a suicidal little boy is guilty of something far, far more serious than cheating during a game of cricket?

Shouldn’t a ‘leadership team of Australia’s representatives who abandoned a small, terrified child to violent despair be the ones met with a bare flagpole and silence that met our disgraced cricketers?

Certainly Cameron Bancroft shouldn’t have cheated. Smith and Warner shouldn’t have told him to. We should be ashamed of our national cricket team’s cheating, but what we should really be ashamed of is our nation’s treatment of asylum seekers, from Tampa and Siev X right through to offshore detentions in hell-holes such as the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. This should be our cause of shame.

And those who vote the responsible governments into power are all complicit.