23 year old Reza Berati was viciously murdered in Australia’s one of a kind gulag-like detention system. No other nation on this planet has a detention system targeted at Asylum Seekers the likes of what Australia has – we are the world’s 12th largest economy, the second wealthiest nation and with the world’s highest median wages per capita. Many Australians are chanting ‘not in our name’. Australia’s human rights and social justice reputation has been smashed and the whole world is saying so.
Both the Coalition and the Australian Labor Party are misusing the tragic loss of life at sea by drowning of Asylum Seekers who in the first instance are fleeing the life threatening persecution and unbearable conditions. In the one instance the Coalition and the ALP are pleading their concern for humanity in wanting to end the drownings and in the next instance they find every one of a kind of claim to justify the gulag-like detention system unique to Australia – where people have died and the majority have been psychologically damaged. Effectively they do not care about Asylum Seekers at all, they would prefer them to languish within troubled homelands even if persecuted, tortured, forced into militant organisations, pillaged from pillar to post, rather than show them the humanity that arduously had been crawled to by Australia in the last seven decades since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however over the last fifteen years it has become evident that Australia does not respect human rights, not domestically when we consider the tragedies that befall one third of First Peoples in this nation, and the tragedy of more than one hundred thousand homeless Australians of whom 18,000 are children under 12 (living on the streets), and the 70,000 Asylum Seekers we have tortured with a never-before-seen detention/prison system in Australia during the last decade and a half.
We can no longer call offshore and onshore detention just detention, it is now a prison system. The Australian Government has no intention of processing Asylum Seekers applications for the majority of Asylum Seekers in detention. Hence, the detention centres are officially prisons, for them to languish within till as such time as they are returned to homelands they fled from or till they are moved on to other nations who may have a little more humanity than the world’s 12th largest economy.
An Asylum Seeker on Manus described to an ABC journalist how a local Papua New Guinean attacked Mr Berati.
“When Reza came up the stairs, (the local) was at the top of the stairs waiting for him.”
“He was holding a large wooden stick, a metre-and-a-half long. It had two nails in the wood. The nails were sticking out.”
Unlike Australia, Papua and New Guinea is one of the world’s poorer nations, and within its extreme poverty there lurks dangers not known to a country such as Australia. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s madness in stamping his imprimatur on the Papua and New Guinea proposal for the shuffling off of Asylum Seekers directly contributed to Mr Berati’s death and fuelled hatred and racism and racial tensions in the impoverished nation. It is arguable where at fault Prime Minister Rudd was in regards to the deaths of the pink batts insulation victims, but it is not arguable that Prime Minister Rudd and his Cabinet and his advisors have blood on their hands from the Papua and New Guinea fiasco and in the death of Mr Berati. Geopolitically, the majority of Australians understand the impoverishment of Papua and New Guinea, and we understood from the first moment the deal went public that the events that have transpired would come to pass, and we understood that the whole concept of the Papua and New Guinea deal, like the Malaysian proposal, like the East Timor proposal, like the Nauru disaster, would never succeed. So how is it that the Government did not know? And, they were warned, by the Australian Greens and a few other parliamentary voices let alone by a suite of high profile Australian and international human rights organisations – a multitude of voices.
The local man screamed out, “Fuck you m***** f*****!”
He took a big swing at Mr Berati, “hitting him on top of the head.”
The ABC reported that the account suggested the presence of two Australian G4S security personnel.
“Ten or 15 guards from G4S came up the stairs. Two of them were Australians. The rest were PNG locals. I know who they are. I can identify them by their face,” said the Asylum Seeker.
“They started kicking Reza in his head and stomach with their boots.”
“There was a local… I recognise him. He picked up a big rock. He lifted the rock above his head and threw it down hard on top of Reza’s head.”
The investigation, currently underway, into Mr Berati’s death should be crucial in a number of ways, particularly in exposing the Kafkaesque terror the Australian Government has led the national consciousness into, and more importantly in the effectively orchestrated brutalisation of people who are merely seeking asylum, the right of any human being on this planet, that is if we are to believe in equality and social justice.
We need not hold our collective breath that the Australian Government will be portrayed and indicted by the investigation for what it is; a racist Government with now never-before-seen Orwellian controls over the nation.
The Pacific Solution was supposed to have been dismantled in 2008, where in the preceding years we had sadly succeeded in turning away desperate and persecuted peoples from attempting to reach our shores. But the Pacific Solution is not dead, and it has been rebadged in even uglier ways than before.
Mr Berati died within the Pacific Solution which started in 2001 and was supposed to have been done away with in 2008. But Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd not only brought back the Pacific Solution, they elaborated it.
Both Gillard and Rudd bowed down to what they had once decried, to the John Howard line, “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” Gillard and Rudd joined in the chorus of racism, the claptrap of “queue jumpers”, “illegal arrivals”, “people smugglers”, “people smugglers business models”. They took racism to more Australians than what Prime Minister Howard did.
This Australian generation’s debacle with its maltreatment of Asylum Seekers has exposed the keystone nature of Government, the ugly will to power by politicians and political parties, and that a moral compass does not underwrite electoral and Government policies. It has shown up the very frail and vulnerable nature of Government and this should be a disturbing concern to all Australians. If we cannot trust our Governments who can we trust? If we cannot trust that they abide by a moral compass then what can we trust in?
Asylum Seekers came to Australia during the late 1970s and in increasing numbers during the 1980s. The Australian Government decided to help them without making it a public affair. 70,000 were resettled in Australia from 400,000 that would flee such troubled nations as Cambodia and Vietnam. Those that reached our shores from 1976 onwards were resettled by Australia, and the majority came through Galang (Indonesia) and Hei Ling Chau (Hong Kong) immigration camps. Australia processed applications faster than did Canada and the United States. The Government of Prime Minister Fraser stood by them, and he was fully supported by his Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock who was prepared to resign from Cabinet if they were not assisted. Fraser and Peacock were morally supported by the Minister for Immigration, John Menadue, and by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Fred Chaney. Only junior minister John Howard objected but Fraser and Peacock were steadfast and were prepared to risk party turmoil instead of abject inhumanity.
This begs the question why have our incumbent and the preceding two Governments failed us. What do they stand for? The Fraser Government did risk everything by staking a call in standing by Asylum Seekers, and also in its stance against South African apartheid. Fraser’s predecessor, Gough Whitlam staked everything on the rights of First Peoples and on free university education. Even John Howard staked his Prime Ministership on gun controls, but what about Rudd, Gillard and Abbott and their Governments? – what tangibles did they stake themselves on? Certainly not Asylum Seekers. Maybe Rudd wanted to, I know enough from within his Cabinet to know that he fought for certain causes, the mining tax, pensioners and indeed Asylum Seekers but he was shot down by the new wave of neoconservative servants and on Asylum Seekers he was not morally as strong as Fraser and Peacock in being prepared to risk his Prime Ministership. The Abbott, Gillard and Rudd Governments have blown away the humanity that at least previous Governments did example.
In 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating introduced Mandatory Detention, another disaster, but he and his Cabinet had not intended it for what Prime Minister Howard would do with it. Keating had intended Mandatory Detention for quarantining only in order to mandatorily assess all Asylum Seekers, but with expediency. But such was the poorly scripted policy that it could be so easily misused by Howard. Once again this is an exposing of how our Governments are fallible and how the House of Review, the Senate, often fails us.
The Pacific Solution took shape from the 2001 Tampa Affair, one of Australia’s greatest shames. The Norwegian freight ship, Tampa, at the request of the Australian Government rescued 438 Asylum Seekers, mostly Hazaras, from a sinking vessel. But the Australian Government refused to clear the Tampa’s passage into Australian waters and onwards to Christmas Island. This maritime breach by Australia and the act of racism that underwrote it was disregarded by the Tampa’s captain who entered Australian waters. Howard wanted to get rid of Asylum Seekers. The Nauru deal was struck by Howard, who wanted to shuffle Asylum Seekers out of sight out of mind, and subsequently only 40 per cent would as a result be resettled in Australia from Nauru’s detainees. Howard, with the surprise support of the ALP’s Kim Beazley excised Christmas and Cocos Islands from Australia’s migration zones. Another international breach.
The agreement with Nauru was followed a month later with an agreement with Papua and New Guinea for Manus. With the September 11 terrorist attacks Howard then had free reign to ram racist diatribes and mantras to the Australian nation and for a while much of it was bought. However no matter how much of it has been understood in the years since by many Australians as a racist sell, the fact remains that the consciousness of Australians has been unsettled by the racist dialogues and voluminous assertions – to this day. To the point that many Australians do want Asylum Seekers to stop coming to Australia even if they do not buy any of the racial profiling.
Ever since Howard and his mob, every Government has followed suit with Border Control, or by whatever racist tag it goes with, Sovereign Borders, etc.
But let us never forget the hypocrisy of contemporary Australian parliamentarians. There is Rudd dismantling the Pacific Solution in 2008. Then one year later he suspends the processing of applications of Afghani Asylum Seekers. Then he backflips the day before on his way out of the Prime Ministership in arguing “we must not lurch to the right”. It was only a couple of weeks before – on June 9 – we had spoken about Asylum Seekers and how the national consciousness was being damaged by the “language”. Foreign Minister Bob Carr had his two cents of damage too, pushing the line of “economic refugees”. Then Gillard, in 2013 excises the whole of the Australian mainland from the migration zone, something akin to excising the whole Australian mainland from the Australian Taxation Office, just Machiavellian. And then the Rudd disaster, the Papua and New Guinea deal. The whole time we had the Coalition with their bent to fuel racism by counting the boats in a disgraceful never-before-seen public spectacle.
The Coalition lapped up the boat counting as means to an end, to win Government but at the expense of humanity, just like the Tampa Affair and its perceptual misrepresentation to the Australian people.
The network of detention centres in Australia are not detention centres, they are prisons. Nauru detention centre is a prison. Manus detention centre is a prison. They are Australia’s Gulag archipelago. Reza Berati was murdered.
The Australian Government is racist. It has damaged Australia and Australians. But worse it has cause such hurt and multiple trauma among those who come to our shores in their seeking of Asylum, that not only will they suffer but the ordeal will be passed down to their children.