When has the suspension of the rule of law ever been a win for humanity? asks Fr Rod Bower @FrBower


A version of this piece first appeared on Anglican Parish of Gosford Facebook page.

There is a great evil being perpetrated in the name of the Australian people and up until this point in time, with the compliance of the majority. That popular amenability must now quickly become a minority if Australia is not to be considered among the ranks of international pariahs and rogue states. States from which refugees flee seeking protection from countries with compassionate and decent governance.

The recent ABC 7.30 Report identified the trauma caused by the policies executed by successive Howard, Rudd, Gillard and Abbott Governments. Australia’s detention of refugees, including children, is ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ forbidden by international law, a United Nations report has found.

The report released in Geneva by the UN Committee Against Torture called on Australia to stop putting asylum seekers into mandatory detention, and to make sure that asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru are treated more humanely, and their claims are promptly and properly assessed.

“The combination of harsh conditions, protracted periods of closed detention and uncertainty about the future reportedly creates serious physical and mental pain and suffering,” the report said.  The Australian government has rejected suggestions from the UN that Australia’s asylum seeker policies are embarrassing.

“I don’t find our border protections embarrassing because they’re saving lives,” Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.

Morrison’s language betrays his deeper motivations. Saving lives for him is not about ‘saving lives’; it is about border protection. Which, considering the pitifully small numbers attempting to enter our country, can be about nothing other than wedge politics.  There is, however, a much deeper and frighteningly more sinister issue in play here.

We have an Immigration Minister who is charged with a portfolio dealing with the most fragile of lives, and this man has proven over a long period to be deficient in the moral competence to hold such a ministry.

“On asylum seekers, Australia is acting in absolute defiance of international law and is being condemned on the world stage for doing so,” the Human Rights Law Centre’s Daniel Webb said.

Celebrated psychiatrist and author of The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck defines evil as “consistently self-deceiving, while scapegoating others.” He says evil commonly hates with the pretence of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others. Again he describes evil as “the abuse of political power while maintaining a high level of respectability”, and having a “covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.”

Morrison continues to tout his policy as one of compassion and saving lives, all the while scapegoating the former Government, people smugglers and asylum seekers themselves. Never conceding that there may be a more humane and economically sound policy that would be equally if nor more effective in “saving lives”. In fact, the ultimate outcome of Morrison’s policy will be that asylum seekers die a slow and painful psychological death in our concentration camps, or simply drown in the Mediterranean rather than in the Timor Sea.

This cruel and inhumane policy continues to be used for political purposes and for these purposes alone. Following the UN report, no reasonable person could possibly maintain that these policies contain any humane or economic value. In order to maintain that spurious argument, one would require an identification with another of Peck’s definitions of evil, that of “rampant and wilful unconsciousness.”

All criticisms of the policy are met with a blank form of unbelieving denial. Only someone who is totally and wilfully unconscious of the reality of others, and so deeply imbedded in chronic pathological narcissism could make such a statement and expect to be taken seriously.

In the light of the UN report and the Ministers response, no reasonable Australian could possibly continue to condone this morally bankrupt policy, or to consider Scott Morrison a fit and proper person to function as a Minister of the Crown.

Furthermore, the legislation passed in the final sitting of the Parliament now grants unprecedented powers to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, placing the Minister’s decisions out of reach of the courts and giving him permission to act contrary to international law.

The Prime Minister called this “A win for Australia, a win for humanitarian values, a win for human decency”.

When, in the entire scope of human history, has the suspension of the rule of law been a win for humanity?

Evil is a strong word, but it is the only word that is fitting to describe this Parliament’s behavior.

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  1. <

    Fr Rod Bower you are not alone.


  2. Rosemary Smith says

    It sadden me to hear and see Scott Morrison on the last sitting day of Parliament proudly pontificate ‘how he has stopped the boats’. Well, if he feels this is the Christian and humane way of dealing with Refugees heaven help us all if he had no ‘spiritual’ belief.

  3. I felt pretty sure that other people thought Scott Morrison might be a borderline sociopath. Clearly I’m not alone.

    When faced with an inconvenient fact, Morrison simply says that’s not true.(because Scott Morrison is becoming a little God-like in his belief that he can ignore mere earthlings). It worked for John Howard (what WMDs?), so why not Scott Morrison? Morrison lives on another planet where right and wrong mean different things to the earth-bound meanings we understand. Is Scott Morrison our first true interplanetary Aussie space cadet?

    Thank you Fr Rod, for so beautifully responding to a typical dismissive Morrison.statement regarding the horrendous circumstances that Nauru and Manus Island refugees face – “Only someone who is totally and wilfully unconscious of the reality of others, and so deeply imbedded in chronic pathological narcissism could make such a statement and expect to be taken seriously”.

    And Tony Abbott probably thinks Morrison was one of his best appointments! Sometimes the world’s a scarey place.

    You know what else is scarey? The right wing in the US (and Australia) for more than a decade makes/made a point of attacking and/or deliberately ignoring the UN. (see how easily Morrison disregards the UN’s report). Is It that they want the option of committing war crimes should the need arise? You want to see real sociopaths? Go and watch the Tea Party/US Republican Party operate, or watch Fox News. Truth means nothing to these people, as they have strong guiding principals – “the ends justify the means”/”just so long as the rich and powerful win”.

    Abbott and Christopher (the Mincing Poodle) Pyne are of course, also busy Americanising our universities and health system.

    The Abbott Government appears to be trying so hard to damage the very fabric and nature of this country – in so many ways (they call it ‘reform’, the rest of us calling it ripping the guts out of our Universities, health, education, Aboriginal affairs, foreign aid, manufacturing, welfare, scientific research, any preparations to meet climate change challenges, and much more) – that at what stage can we start calling Government Ministers traitors? Joe Hockey is on record as saying we should receive welfare/income support equivalent to that which operates in Hong Kong (i.e. virtually none). Just who is he working for?

    Thank god they don’t have the Senate, but as the recent Morrison legislation, shows, if you promise to persecute enough innocent children, good people will eventually give in. You just have to be a truly rotten human being to punish the innocent – and for that we have Scott Morrison.