Ian Higgins

In sight, out of mind: QT protestors do nothing to break loop

protesters
Image: Andrew Meares

Approx Reading Time-10The protestors who glued their hands to a railing yesterday to prove a point about our refugee policy proved nothing. While a solution is needed, that certainly is not it.

 

 Response article to this piece by Brenton Moore can be found here


“Close the camps!”

“Bring them here!”

Familiar cries in an unfamiliar location, but the disruption at Parliament House during Question Time yesterday isn’t ultimately likely to cause much of a stir in the seemingly never-ending issue of refugee processing.

Members of the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance claimed responsibility for yesterday’s protest. An activist from the same group, you won’t remember, stormed the stage yelling obscenities at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as he gave an economic speech back in August, and the fact that you don’t remember that at all encapsulates the reach this level of protest will ultimately have on the hearts and minds of the Australian public and the policy makers.

Sure, these protests make the news and get a bit of air-time, and it will either confirm and strengthen your bias or make you smile that people are standing up for what you believe in. But will it change people’s minds about what is an already complex issue dressed as either black or white?

Absolutely not.

The immediately contrasting reactions of One Nation staffer James Ashby, who filmed the outcry with stern-faced conviction, and Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who met the protesters with a thankful embrace, is pretty much the perfect summation of one side of the fence vs the other. One side of Australia against the other.

The pictures make for strange viewing, because, as someone who will happily tip a barista despite getting my coffee order wrong, I can’t imagine ever feeling so passionate about anything that I would superglue myself to a hand railing and publicly embarrass myself in front of hundreds of onlookers and for the national media to freely broadcast with whichever angle they so choose.

My own opinion is that I think it takes a special kind of sociopath to scream “don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me” and to squeal like an infant as two security guards take you away.

I don’t care what your political preferences are, that is not normal behaviour.

But that’s not to say that the message that these protesters are sending is not an important one. What is happening in these offshore processing centres is devastating. The potential human rights infractions are boundless and well documented by people who have spent their careers addressing and fixing breaches of human rights. Additionally, to say that what is happening on Nauru and Manus Island is the best possible process is to purposefully blind oneself to the facts.

Out of sight, out of mind maybe, but ignorance is most definitely not bliss.

It was the Howard government back in 2001 who began off-shore processing. Kevin Rudd shut them down in his first reign as PM and Julia Gillard re-opened the processing centres a short time later. That in itself should describe to you how difficult an issue the refugee and asylum seeker issue is. I would like to think that the majority of Australians would want a better solution for these poor people than to stick them in a detention centre for years on end and with the potential to never be granted citizenship.


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But I also know that having thousands and thousands of unskilled, often uneducated immigrants who don’t speak the language and have no means to start a new life by themselves, is something that the existing community is not particularly interested in. And perhaps rightfully so. Compassion is an often forgotten principle in politics; and yet so is practicality.

There simply has to be a better way than what’s happening at these processing centres at the moment. What that is, I’m not sure, and I haven’t heard many good suggestions, but I’m convinced that there is a better way.

It’s my view – and somewhat instinct – to roll my eyes at the actions and execution of the Parliament House protest. But change can begin with the simplest of actions. The butterfly effect. Maybe these protests are seen across the country, across the globe, and begin a chain of events that leads to the humane, peaceful processing of hundreds of thousands of refugees, and a better life for people seeking asylum. That may take some time, but perhaps this is the beginning of something.

The likely reality? That none of this changes anyone’s mind and we’re stuck in the same loop we’ve been in for the past decade and a half.

 

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