Australia losing its international reputation for fairness and decency.
Dr Frank Hentschker wrote this comment on my letter published in John Menadue‘s blog – http://johnmenadue.com/blog/?p=7317 . A concerned indictment of Australia from a non-Australian observing Australia from New York.
I read Dally Messengers most serious and significant letter. The identity of the nation of Australia is at stake.
I am deeply concerned about the future of Australia. We hear more and more troubling news from this promising continent, all used to admire for it free, open and forward looking policies. The gutting of scientists working to reverse climate change; the rejection of same sex marriage equality bills by parliament; and the condemnation of the 2015/16 Amnesty International Report: “Australia jailed Indigenous people at a disproportionate rate to non-Indigenous people; some children were detained with adults. Australia continued its hard-line policies towards asylum-seekers, including pushing back boats, refoulement, and mandatory and indefinite detention, as well as offshore processing on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea.”
But there is more: “Staff and contractors who complained about human rights violations at immigration detention facilities could face criminal proceedings under new legislation.” That means doctors are prohibited by law to use their right of free speech and stay true to their Hippocratic Oath from the late 5th century: “Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free.”
Dally Messenger is an internationally known writer, editor, philosopher, social commentator and a leader of the Celebrant movement, a great Australian contribution to the democratic impulse of mankind. Whenever I meet him he speaks with pride of his deep love of his country, Australia. Dally Messenger wrote: “I am particularly ashamed to point out that in jailing people who ask for help we violate three international treaties — The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The United Nations Convention on Refugees, and the United Nations Convention against Torture.” And I, like so many others, share this.
I am asking Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and everyone concerned in this matter to take Dally Messenger’s statement at face value and give it the most serious attention. Future generations will judge Australia on what it did when it mattered when the world, in crisis, asks for help. It is time for Australia to share responsibility and burdens of the global world we all now live in, not just take part in the pleasures.
It is time for Australia to be a global citizen, and not just to think about its own world as an oyster. And, as the bible says in Matthew 16:26: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Dr. Frank Hentschker
The Graduate Center, CUNY
City University of New York