CHOICES (by Julian Burnside QC)
The sad fact is that neither truth nor moral arguments get much oxygen in Australia these days. If the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were being debated now, Australia would oppose it.
|We have fallen a long way. We have squandered the legacy of our past. Our prime minister, who regards himself as walking in the footsteps of Robert Menzies and calls himself a Christian, is in fact immoral, hypocritical, un-Christian and – as an enthusiastic proponent of mandatory detention – guilty of crimes against humanity when judged by his own laws. He must take personal responsibility for the Pacific Solution, which is the most disgraceful and cynical enterprise ever undertaken by an Australian Government.|
Mr Ruddock continues to wear the badge of Amnesty International, in the face of sustained criticism from that organisation; he chants the Liberal mantra of family values while having locked families of innocent people behind a 9000 volt ‘courtesy fence’ at Baxter. He pretends to be Christian, while the leaders of all the Christian churches in Australia condemn his policies. He is responsible for instructing counsel to argue that we do not have solitary confinement in detention centres, but if we do the courts must not interfere, that we must send terrified people back to torture or death; that we can lock them up for the rest of their lives if need be. In the epilogue to his six-volume A History of Australia, Manning Clark wrote:
This generation has a chance to be wiser than previous generations. They can make their own history. With the end of the domination by the straitener, the enlargeners of life now have the chance … It is the task of the historian and the myth-maker to tell the story of how the world came to be as it is. It is the task of the prophet to tell the story of what might be. The historian presents the choice: history is a book of wisdom for those making the choice.
Australia has made a choice with terrible consequences. We have chosen lies instead of honesty; self-interest ahead of social conscience; hypocrisy instead of decency. We have chosen a government that shows contempt for human rights, while posturing as a champion of family values; a government that has made us relaxed and comfortable only by anaesthetising the national conscience.
by Julian Burnside QC.
Has much changed since Julian Burnside wrote this book, a collection of essays on Human Rights, Law and Justice in 2007. Sure there has been a change of government (or, more precise, a change of parliament). We have a new (non-democratic, thrice un-elected) Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and an unelected Foreign Minister, Bob Carr. But are they doing anything much, really different to what the previous Howard Parliament and Administration did do, or will do?
James Johnson, Independent Federal Candidate for Lalor