Witness for the 630th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

'Witness' (detail), 2018, Ruth Halbert, Stations of the Cross.  https://www.perthunitingchurch.org.au/stations/view/station-6

'Witness' (detail), 2018, Ruth Halbert, Stations of the Cross. https://www.perthunitingchurch.org.au/stations/view/station-6

The Government of Australia knowingly denies the human rights of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru by illegal imprisonment (amounting to slavery) and torture. These crimes by the Government of Australia are racially motivated. The location of these criminal activities in two impoverished countries (Nauru and Papua New Guinea) is also an expression of Australia's racism and colonialism.

Do you back Peter Dutton?

Dear Prime Minister,

Foreign Minister Bishop refused to back Minister Dutton's claims that white South African farmers need special visas to flee to Australia.

You were asked at the ASEAN Australia summit in Sydney if you backed Minister Dutton's position on white South African farmers and his use of the word 'civilised.'

You did not answer.

Meanwhile the refugees imprisoned by us on Manus and Nauru for nearly five years, look on.


White South African farmers

Dear Prime Minister,

Peter Dutton, anxious about losing his seat at the next election, wants to import some voters to shore up his numbers. It seems however that the white South African farmers are not interested. How much damage to Australian-South African relations has Peter Dutton done with his comments about South Africa being 'not civilised'?

Australia has been locking up legitimate refugees on Nauru and Manus Island for the better part of two decades, trying, absurdly, to resettle them in Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, and offering them cash bribes to return to the countries they fled. Not only would that brutal treatment never be dished out to white South African farmers, but we are now proactively trying to add them to our humanitarian intake.
Australia’s disgraceful record of politicising refugee issues has rarely been more brazenly displayed.
— https://thenewdaily.com.au/money/finance-news/2018/03/15/malcolm-fraser-south-african-white-farmers/

Sack Dutton now.

Australia closes its borders. To everyone.

Dear Prime Minister,

Today's report of your "tough new stand on immigration" reveals the source of your and Australia's inhumanity to refugees. You use innuendo and negative stereotyping to imply that people who come to Australia either as refugees or immigrants are determined to be criminal, diseased, lazy and greedy. You inflame the paranoid feelings of a minority who delude themselves that their idea of a fixed, closed Australia which they can control is their right.

All of us except Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are migrants or descendants of migrants. Out of the other side of your mouth you would claim that Australia is 'great' because of the people who arrived in the last 230 years. Yet now you want to block entry to the very people who would add energy, creativity and wealth to Australia. Federal officials warn

The proposed reforms could undermine Australia’s social cohesion and potentially increase the risk factors that may lead to violent extremism by creating a two-tier society where migrants are treated substantially differently to Australian citizens.
— Katharine Murphy, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/apr/19/citizenship-changes-will-put-australian-values-first-malcolm-turnbull

I want to leave in a peaceful, outward-looking Australia. Your proposals will create the opposite.

For the 112th man on Manus Island

Dear Prime Minister,

I want these letters to draw attention to each of the individuals all currently detained and tortured on Manus Island and Nauru by Australia.

But today I must strongly protest to you about Minister Dutton's racist and inflammatory discussion with Andrew Bolt where he used emotive language to vilify groups of Australians as criminals and potential terrorists based on their or their parents' country of origin. His comments are gossipy speculation aimed to increase public anxiety and he is handing certain minority groups up for blame and potential racist targeting. Does Dutton use Mein Kampf as an instruction manual?

I call on you to apologise to the Australian people whom Dutton has so dangerously slandered and to sack him immediately.

Letters to Tyranny #46

Dear Prime Minister,


On behalf of Junaid aged 24, from Burma, on what possible grounds can you defend his incarceration on Manus Island? Junaid is stateless. His desperate journey to Australia was an appeal for refuge which had no alternative.

Countries with far fewer resources than Australia give refuge to many more people than will ever try to arrive here. 150000 asylum seekers were accepted into Sweden last year alone yet Sweden's population is less than 10 million. We hide the few asylum seekers (less than 3000!) in concentration camps offshore because of a political lie about "deterrence" and because of white Australia's racism, now directed towards Muslims. Prime Minister, resettle the refugees in Australia so that Junaid can finally be free to work and marry. To have a life.

Yours faithfully

Ruth Halbert