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We can do better, Tony

Dear Prime Minister,

I recently saw the film Philomena and began to wonder whether we, in future years, will be making atonement for our current treatment of refugees. Will people be shocked when they find out what really went on? Will their hearts ache when they find out that these were desperate human beings and not potentially dangerous “illegals”?

The parts of our history which have been shrouded in secrecy have usually covered up wrongdoing on a shocking scale. I believe such matters have been kept secret because people rationalised about the ends justifying the means but knew in their heart of hearts that these means were wrong.

As a consequence, we have had inquiries and royal commissions into the stolen children of Indigenous people, abuse in religious institutions and the forced adoption of the children of unmarried mothers.

In history, we have been shocked by the German peoples’ complacency about the treatment of Jews in their society, but the German people were gradually influenced by their government in their attitudes towards the Jewish minority. With public opinion influenced in this way, it was so much easier for their government to eliminate them.

I see a similar approach in the present government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

It is an issue shrouded in secrecy and shock jocks have free reign to propagate any so-called information they like, which never seems to be refuted by officials really in the know.

How much better it would be if this issue could be dealt with openly, humanely and possibly at much less cost than now? Other countries have huge refugee problems to deal with and ours is miniscule by comparison. Surely we can do it better.

Our society has been built on the hard work and fine contributions of immigrants and refugees. However, I remember some very harsh attitudes expressed about Greek and Italian immigrants and later Vietnamese refugees. And yet, what a contribution they have made to Australia!

Mr Abbott, we do not want in the future to have to make atonement for our treatment of asylum seekers today. I would hate our next generation to have to make amends, always too late, for our short-term expediency.

Carolyn is a member of Mooloolaba Uniting Church.

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