THERE were equal measures of surprise and disappointment when earlier this month the darling of the left, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, not only in effect congratulated the Liberal Party for the turn-back-the-boats policy but affirmed his full and continuing support for the policy of indefinite and mandatory offshore detention.
Albanese was speaking on Sky News when he confirmed his support for turning the boats back and for a continuation of the existing zero-tolerance, mandatory, offshore detention policy. When asked if he believed that offshore detention should be time limited Albanese said, “no”.
It should be acknowledged, of course, that at least Albanese is being consistent. The policy of mandatory, indefinite offshore detention was after all introduced on July 19, 2013, by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, with the loyal support of then Deputy Prime Minister Albanese.
It will not, of course, have escaped Albanese’s notice that the policy of indefinite mandatory offshore detention is in fact probably the only policy of the Rudd/Albanese government that has survived, so one can perhaps understand Albanese feeling proprietorial about it and wanting it to be nurtured.
It is being said around the traps, in defence of Albanese, that he doesn’t really mean what he is saying about a zero-tolerance approach to asylum seekers and that he is simply positioning himself to knock off Bill. I am not sure what I think is worse. That he does mean it or that he is trying to knock off Bill. Heaven help the Labor Party if he does mean it, let alone if the other claim is true.
It is now exactly five years since the indefinite detention policy was implemented by the Labor Party. Just two months ago I wrote in “CityNews” about the desperate plea of a 12-year-old boy, Ali, who having been sent to Nauru by the Labor Party when he was seven has been detained there ever since.
In that article I detailed some of what Ali had said in a message to the people of Australia about his incarceration and the treatment he and his family had received, namely: “I feel helpless because there is no one to help us. There is no one to see our suffering. My mother is very sick and my brother is totally depressed.
“I feel all good people have died. No good humans exist in the world. Why is this happening to us? The people totally hate us.”
Four weeks ago Ali’s brother Fariborz Karami died; the brother that Ali had told all of us “is totally depressed” was reported to have died by suicide.
Following the death of Fariborz, his mother Fazileh Mansour Beigi wrote a letter to the people of Australia. In that letter, which has been published in full by the “Guardian”, she said: “For five years you incarcerated me and my innocent children in Nauru and ignored us. I know that your violence and cruelty is deeply rooted and against that I am a powerless woman…
“My 26-year-old son had his last breaths in your mouldy tents and closed his beautiful eyes to your abomination, injustice and disgusting policies.”
I am one of those who believe that there will at some time in the future be a Royal Commission or perhaps even possibly an investigation by a body or organisation such as the International Court of Justice into Australia’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
Mansour Beigi’s letter about the death of her son and Ali’s plaintive and sadly futile cry for help for his now dead brother will undoubtedly be among the reams of evidence of our neglect and inhumanity that will be scrutinised in any such investigation.
I do wonder, too, whether Albo has read Mansour Beigi’s letter. It is after all his policy that she is talking about.