Try stopping the bleeding hearts: @burgewords #CreatingWaves


There’s no use beating around the bush: The Abbott Government has stopped the boats.

I am arts columnist for No Fibs, and I probably should be writing about the Arts. However, like many artists in Australia at the moment, I am experiencing plenty of distractions of the political kind.

I find it difficult to focus on creative expression while we have thousands of innocent people locked up in Australian detention centres, their images and stories used very creatively as propaganda to prevent others following in boats from Indonesia.

When I come up for air from my writing schedule, I see a nation in a state of fear. Fear about money, the fundamental mainstream issue Australians have made out of immigration, the environment and climate change.

A fortnight ago, I interviewed an asylum seeker advocate in an article which was picked up by Radio New Zealand, who booked me for an interview on the Saturday Morning programme with broadcaster Kim Hill.

The producers had not been totally clear about what we’d be talking about – asylum seekers, freedom of speech, or both. I answered Hill’s questions as best I could, but, as we wrapped-up, what I realised I hadn’t done was get in touch with how I genuinely feel about the reasons Australia has lost its way on human rights.

Perhaps it’s wise I didn’t, because what I would have become, live, on New Zealand’s national radio broadcaster, was an unstoppable and very media-unfriendly bleeding heart.

There’s no use beating around the bush: The Abbott Government has stopped the boats. The odd vessel is still setting out for Australia’s shores, but there is no arguing with the statistics, and the right-wing media has started celebrating.

Well done, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison, Operation Sovereign Borders and its three-word parent ‘Stop The Boats’ has worked, and 60 per cent of Australians are happy about it. Well done Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd of the ALP for giving the Coalition plenty of ideas, avenues and deals to ensure its success.

We who are unhappy about it can do very little in the face of this bipartisan disaster for human rights – right now, Australians have no opposition representation against mandatory detention. Those who visit detainees are doing their best to ameliorate refugees’ suffering, but even that is being wound-back, with new restrictions on what sustenance or succour visitors to detention centres are allowed to bring to detainees.

Nothing is standing in the way of the dehumanising of people in Australia’s care. Nothing.

Whether Abbott and Morrison will now ‘Start the Processing’ of those in detention on Manus Island and Nauru, and in mainland detention centres, remains to be seen. History will judge these men by this moment.

All I really needed to prepare for my interview was to acknowledge their success, achieved whether I felt it was done in my name or not, and start the search for ways to counter the message of economic fear which has reared its ugly head in our country, again. That lives depend on the successful delivery of this message is to my shame. After all, another nation was listening.

The opposite message of economic fear is sharing, but sharing is a very hard sell indeed in Western economies.

Australians are known for voting through our bank balances – nothing like 60 per cent support could be found for Mr Abbott and Treasurer Mr Hockey’s Commission of Audit ideas today, including working until we’re 70, cutting social welfare, paying more for visits to the doctor, and a new (apparently temporary) debt ‘levy’ on those earning more than $80k to help get the nation back to black.

An attack on the human rights of people in need, and we cheer the government. An attack on our household bottom line, and we want to vote them out.

No wonder ‘Stop the Boats’ was the first, and to date, only one of Abbott’s big three items to get ticked off his Great Big Election Promises List.

On Saturday I told Kim Hill that what many need in this country is an end to the myth-making about asylum seekers. That was an awkward attempt at saying that what we seek is the truth, that which Operation Sovereign Borders does not trade in.

Under Howard, it was the ‘children overboard’ lies which got my goat enough to protest in 2002, and here we are again, marching, hoping for swinging voters to come to their senses about the lies of government.

Well, Australia’s lies have bolted, borne up by their three-word ease of motion.

And I suspect the elusive message of sharing is the silent score over images of the blood of the men who tried to hide from their attackers during the Manus Island riot. The undeniable red flow from hearts still beating.

This silence can really only be filled with waiting, simply waiting, for the truth to emerge.

You’ve stopped the boats, Mr Abbott, but just you try stopping my bleeding heart.

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  1. They’ve stopped the boats, so start the processing: me #CreatingWaves via @NoFibs

  2. Try stopping the bleeding hearts: @burgewords #CreatingWaves via @NoFibs

  3. Try stopping the bleeding hearts: @burgewords #CreatingWaves via @NoFibs

  4. Any other #BleedingHearts out there, concerned about the Abbott Govt halt on #asylumseekers processing? #auspol

  5. I seriously think for the average person in this country, the issue of immigration is far too intellectuallised and argued from series of divisive right or wrong emotional judgements. Many people simply don’t understand the reality of immigration and those seeking a better life in this country. They see it as having the jobs perhaps threatened by a base of cheaper labour, of their values being undermined by cultural differences, of their way of life being compromised by those from other countries wanting to squeeze in on the action. It isn’t a racist issue as much as a social and economic one for most. And unfortunately, those concerns of the average person are swept away, dismissed or labelled, only serving to further alienate and create opposition. There is no realistic view of what is goinset out for the Australian people. Refugees, those seeking asylum need a human face, a human experience. And if it is economic refuge they seek, then the government needs to explain it and make the call on whether or not it is an option. Otherwise, you sink back into the media’s labelling of refugee hand-outs, ingratitudes, terrorism, religious prejudices, whatever is in the box to pick from. People think of refugees of being those seeking to escape from inhospitable or life threatening circumstances. If these definitions have changed, explain it to the Australian people in simple straightforward humane terms, instead of the political, and even the divisive idealistic rhetoric that is just thrown out in efforts of justification of positions.

    • I think there is a lot of wisdom in this comment Skelly, but unfortunately the communication around asylum seekers has been so politicised that the clarity is lost almost completely.

  6. Um, I’m sure you know, but they have’t stopped the boats. They have in fact just started shooting at them tearing the bows off them, blowing them up towing them into Indonesian waters and setting them adrift, and forcing their passengers into “lifeboats” and letting them die in the Javanese jungle instead Sure they might not be arriving on land but they sure as hell haven’t stopped.

    Just a month ago Abbott cancelled what was to be his big symbolic “everything’s OK now” trip to Indonesia, because of an “on water operation” which had what he claimed the potential to “embarrass” President SBY (i.e. another one of our big orange lifeboats was about to wash up somewhere on Indonesian soil and Abbott sure as hell didn’t want to be there when it did).

    The accurate information and opportunities for the humanising of asylum seekers are plentiful. Australia’s problem remains as it always has been, one of willful ignorance.