Columnist Caroline Hutchinson.
Columnist Caroline Hutchinson.

MY SAY: Prime Minister, I am watching you

IS IT just me or have you never had your house bombed?

I've never had police knock on my door and take a family member away, I've never been excluded from jobs, education or health care because of my religion or ethnicity.

When I need food or medicine for my children I go to the shops and I buy it.

In the coming days Australia is going to have to make a decision about 900 men in detention on Manus Island.

This week the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled the Australian-built detention facility is illegal, unconstitutional and must be closed immediately.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has re-stated the men will not set foot on Australian soil but I am urging him to re-consider.

Regular readers will know I have high hopes for Malcolm Turnbull. But, Prime Minister, I am watching you closely.

Since the turn of the century politicians have been in a race to the bottom on asylum seekers.

Refugees arriving by boat have been demonised by both sides of parliament. Like many Australians I can't believe that we are content to turn away desperate people.

Over the past 15 years, 94% of boat people have been assessed, by us, as refugees genuinely fleeing the fear of persecution. The men on Manus are no different.

In fact, the men of Manus are not different in any way. Some are brave, some are sensitive, some are angry, some are frail and some are strong.

They are normal blokes, some are smart, some are serious, and some are funny.

They are all someone's husband, brother, father or child. Some of them are very young men away from their mothers for the first time.

You might not know but back in 2013 the women and children detained on Manus Island were brought to Australia without being processed.

They live happily amongst us and the sky did not fall in. They were returned to Australia because Manus Island was considered unsafe and unsuitable for women and children. I don't know what made it safe for men.

And while I've got your attention, Prime Minister, what are we doing about the people who have fled Syria? Your predecessor promised safe haven for 12,000 Syrians.

The last time I checked, Australia had settled just 26. In the same period, the Canadian government has flown in 20,490 Syrian refugees.

I don't know what the hold-up is. In the case of a natural disaster Australians are faultless in their generosity.

The people of Syria are fleeing a similar disaster. They are fleeing because they are starving, or because their town has been destroyed and basic services no longer exist.

Asylum seekers are just people like you and me dreaming of a better life for their kids. That kind of person is good for Australia.



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