The world abhors the senseless deaths of the children shot down in the MH17 air tragedy.
International condemnation is levelled at the hundreds of fatalities in the Gaza conflict, many of whom are reported to be children.
Yet Australia, arguably still the world’s “lucky country” with its high standard of living, wide open spaces and freedom, currently and quietly incarcerates up to 1000 innocent children of asylum seekers, and barely a murmur is heard.
I use the word ‘quietly’ because under the Government’s current border protection policy many inquiries to relevant government departments and ministers are met with stoic silence.
Reports abound of children self-harming in detention and others threatening self-harm. Heart-breaking drawings from very young children occasionally make their way to the media. Are they genuine?
It is difficult to tell. The current inquiry into health and mental health impacts’ on detainees seems to be raising more questions than it answers.
It beggars belief that an inquiry into the mental health of detainees and their children is told by Dr Peter Young that Department of Immigration officials have requested data be removed from his report. This data apparently pertains to the numbers of children and young people facing significant mental health issues in the detention centres.
Dr Young is a psychiatrist who has headed up International Mental Health Services for the past three years and has worked on Christmas Island with detainees for that time.
“Officials have asked us to withdraw those figures from the report,” said Dr Young.
It was even more confounding for the Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, speaking on the ABC’s “Insiders” programme to respond: “I mean, in these meetings there is (sic) always two sides to these stories.”
It is difficult to see where there is a second side. Why would a group of professionals, presumably wishing to continue to work in their fields, make false allegations?
Perhaps a better question to be asked of Mr Morrison might have been: “Minister, you will of course be following up on this issue with your department, since at this point you have no knowledge of the situation. Will you give an undertaking to the Australian people that you will give a statement on this matter within the week?”
The media is operating with professionalism and clear ethical boundaries that are not reciprocated by the majority of our government representatives.
I understand why such a question was not asked. Mr Morrison’s disdain for the media becomes more palpable at each outing. I find his attitude condescending and as a member of “Joe/Jane Public see that the media stands ‘in locus’ for us, the punters.
I take this condescension personally.
So Minister Morrison, I would be grateful if you could respond to the following: “Minister you will not explain to the Australian public why these children pose a threat to border security. Will you then explain it to UN representatives, perhaps by inviting them into the detention centres to inspect for themselves?”
If indeed these children are housed in comfortable conditions and have access to appropriate medical support and education why are these images not released to the Australian public? After all we are paying for these centres.
It is more than time for the public to be informed of the accurate numbers of those in detention. A comprehensive break- down of the numbers of men, women and children needs to be provided. Australians need to know the exact cost per capita of detaining these people on a daily basis. This analysis must include the exact ages of these children and any specialised medical conditions these children may have.
Further costings need to be provided for every child under the age of 14 and young person under 18. This costing should detail money spent on a daily basis on health, education, medical and mental health support.
Minister Morrison might also like to detail the exact threat to national security these children pose.
Questioned in Hobart last weekend, about the treatment of the estimated 1000 children currently in detention the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott responded: “They will be dealt with in the normal way.”
There is nothing ‘normal’ about incarcerating children behind barbed wire.
There is nothing ‘normal’ about refusing basic information to the media.
I fear that history will judge ‘the lucky country’ of the early 21st century with condemnation.