This is a speech transcript that was written by stand up comedian and regular on The Project TV, Lehmo after speaking at the “Light the Dark” rally in Melbourne. “Light the Dark” vigils were organised around the country as a protest to Australian immigration policies and particularly in response to the death of an Iranian asylum seeker at Manus Island last week.
I was in Sydney this morning and I got a cab out to the airport. My cab driver was an Italian guy called Vince. He would have been in his 60s and had been driving cabs in Sydney for over 30 years.
He was a funny guy. I really warmed to him. And we got talking about how the cab business had changed, how safe it was, how it was tough to make a good living and the types of people he has through his cab.
I asked if he ever refused to pick people up. He said to me, “Everyone is welcome inside my cab and once they are in my cab I treat them like a family member.”
My first thought was, ‘surely you’d drop a family member to the airport for free’.
My second thought was, ‘what a beautiful sentiment’ and how nice would it be if Australia could give that guarantee to anyone arriving here. To be able to say, ‘as soon as you cross into Australian waters, no matter who you are, we will welcome you, put our arm around you and treat you like family.’
That’s a country we all want to live in. That’s an Australia we could all be very proud of. Not the Australia that deprives people of their human rights, offers no care and detains them in horrific conditions in places like Manus Island.
Vince went on to share a story about a girl he picked up late one night during the week. She only had $20 on her. They drove and they drove and the meter hit $20 but they still weren’t at the girls home.
He said ‘how much further are you?” She said, ‘about 2 kms’. So Vince turned the meter off and took her the rest of the way home. He said he did it because it was the right thing to do.
And that brings us back to the right thing for Australia to do, most specifically when it comes to helping vulnerable people who come to our country seeking help.
Closing the Manus island detention centre is the right thing to do.
Protecting people like Reza Berati (the asylum seeker who died on Manus Island last week) is the right thing to do.
Treating people humanely is the right thing to do.