Saturday, July 20, 2013

An open letter

To Mark Dreyfus - federal member for Isaacs, and my local member.

Today I write with a distinct sense of unease and disappointment.  The decision to shift the processing of asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, and in doing so circumvent both our obligations under the Refugee Convention as well as our obligations as decent human beings, has left me saddened and angry.

I am the son of immigrants who were able to find their way to this country and, in doing so, leave the Apartheid regime of South Africa behind.  They have made a good life here.  

I note that you, too, are the son of immigrants – refugees, even.  Refugees who were fleeing far worse circumstances than those even Apartheid evokes.  It seems that your family, too, has made a good life here.

Our families were lucky, I feel.

I also note that you are not a man averse to hyperbole; what with your likening of Tony Abbott’s climate change rhetoric to that of the Nazi party.  I will, however, out of expediency as much as taste, forego a prolonged comparison around resettling those deemed to be politically undesirable in to what amount to glorified concentration camps.

I will cast no aspersions on the nature of your character within this.  Having met with your volunteers a few weeks ago they described you as a good person – one even invited me to come to the office to meet you, on the basis that we would likely hit it off.  My quarrel is fundamentally with your party.

A party that has its gaze so fixed to the prize of power that it has become blind to the damage it is causing to the strength of our political system.  Blind to the damage it is causing to the health of our democracy.  Blind to the erosion of the compassion that once typified what it ostensibly meant to be Australian.  What it means to be a worthwhile person; what it means to be a society of caring and humane people.

I do not suspect that this is a blindness born of ignorance; although, in some ways, I wish it were.  If it were ignorance then there would be some hope that we might find our way out of this morass.  Instead we are left with cold-hearted realpolitik.

Trading the wellbeing of few thousand people for the promise of someone who isn’t Tony Abbott.

As such I will not be voting for you in the next election.  I understand that, in a practical sense, you hold a distinct buffer in this seat, and as such my efforts are not going to be particularly impactful.  In addition to this it is quite likely that my preferences will eventually flow to you – most likely from far more deserving candidates – like a sickening facsimile of the horrifying race to the bottom that your party has engaged in.

My parents were fortunate enough to find a new home in Australia.  They have paid back the faith the Australian government had in them not only in financial terms, but also through consistently engaging with their community – from things as simple as helping run a scout troop, to founding a charity that gave peace of mind to hundreds of chronic illness sufferers.

I do not write this letter purely out of a desire to see asylum seekers given the opportunity to come to Australia directly, although that is the thrust of it.  I also ask that Australians once again have the opportunity to engage meaningfully with those who would choose to come to our shores.  To welcome them, to learn from them, to have the fabric of our society strengthened by ever more diverse threads.

Llew Stevens

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