By BONNIE CAMPBELL
Remember a few years back when Kevin Rudd was garnering his media tart reputation and he appeared on Sunrise to deliver a particularly dorky duet with Joe Hockey?
Rudd rapped his aspiring political heart out to The Black Eyed Pea’s humanitarian hit ‘Where is the Love?’ – bleating out lyrics like: “People killin’, people dyin’ / Children hurt and you hear them cryin’ / Can you practice what you preach / And would you turn the other cheek?”.
Well Kevin, we now know the answer to that question is a resounding, yes.
You can turn the other cheek. In fact, you can actively ensure that people in need do not find ANY love in Australia. Not even a little bit. Where is the love? Definitely not here.
Shirking Australia’s humanitarian responsibilities for political gain is nothing new but this new ‘Papua New Guinea Solution’ for asylum seekers coming to our shores by boat, is a disgusting new low. To out right-wing Tony Abbott is a serious achievement.
It’s a bit like that scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary when Mr. Darcy loses the plot with rat-bag Daniel Cleaver and beats him to a pulp in one of cinema’s best fight scenes ever. Bridget turns to Mr. Darcy, shocked and aghast she says to him: “I though you were normal, and nice, and helpful in the kitchen!”
Well Kevin, we though you were relatively normal and nice and helpful when it came to abiding by the tenants of the UN Refugee Convention. Turns out we were wrong.
Rudd lulled us into a false sense of security. Kevin 07 was seen as the globally-minded yin to John Howard’s Bush-centric yang.
In 2008, Hilde Johnson, the deputy director of UNICEF, said the Rudd Government had shown “stronger support” for the UN and the “multilateral system overall”.
Watching Rudd converse in Mandarin was awesome. Our Prime Minister had a sharp intellect, and wasn’t ashamed to use it. He also appeared to believe Australia had to be a responsible part of the global community the UN is working to achieve.
Rudd’s 2008 Sorry Speech was a compassionate gesture that further endeared him to the nation.
In it he said: “We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians”.
And yet, now, he is implementing his own government’s policy that will inevitably inflict the same grief and suffering on the poor, the disenfranchised and the desperate people fleeing for their lives.
We should feel the same shame we felt over our treatment of Indigenous Australians about how we are currently treating refugees.
In the speech Rudd also said: “To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.” In fact, if you read the entire speech and swap the term “refugees” for “stolen generations” or “Indigenous Australians” – you may get an idea of what a future Prime Minister will have to say to the generations of refugees that were denied, by Australia, the right to seek asylum in our country.
The right to seek asylum and not be turned away, is a fundamental human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But apparently Kevin has decided the “rules have changed”.
Kevin, you have changed. And not in a good way. This is not what we expected from our Mandarin-speaking, climate-change acknowledging, social media supremo.
In his ‘address to the nation’ last week (essential YouTube viewing for anyone doing ‘Anti-Humanitarian Studies 101’), Rudd informed us with a self-important flourish: “people who come by boat now have no prospect of being resettled in Australia.”
One wonders how Kevin and his immediate family would feel – after risking their lives to escape ethnic or religious persecution – to then be told they had ‘no prospect’ of safe resettlement.
I doubt they would be happy little Vegemites.
We have a responsibility to take these people. We signed the UN Refugee Convention.
It doesn’t actually come with the caveat “take them OR just ship them off to the nearest bribable neighbour if that’s more politically expedient for your Prime Minister with an election looming”.
Papua New Guinea is not on par with Australia when it comes to things like healthcare, welfare, security and transparent governance – crucial elements needed to provide sound care to refugees.
We are obligated to care for these people and process them in here in accordance with refugee laws.
By putting the word ‘solution’ in front of a regional neighbour – whether it be Malaysia or Papua New Guinea – does not mean it actually is one. It’s time we tried the ‘Australian Solution’. It’s not a strong leader who sends some the weakest and most vulnerable people in society away from the very place they are seeking refuge.
Come on Kevin, where is the love?
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