The response of the federal government to the children in detention report has shocked me. The report reveals the shocking abuse of children in detention, yet the Prime Minister’s response is to shoot the messenger. The complete lack of empathy on display was chilling.
On Q and A last night Malcolm Turnbull was far better. There was no shooting of the messenger, there was a clear sense of empathy for the suffering children, and indeed Mr Turnbull made clear that the only issue was the children. He defended the government’s track record, pointing out that the number of children in detention had declined by 90% since the coalition came to power.
Yet it was disturbing that he refused to acknowledge the detention of children in Nauru. He steadfastly insisted there were only 136 children left in detention and that the government was moving to get them out as quickly as possible, and when challenged about the children still in detention on Nauru simply refused to acknowledge the reality.
This however goes to the nub of the issue. The government’s policy remains uncompromisingly harsh towards children who arrive on asylum seeker boats. Every child who arrives from this point on will be put into detention on Nauru and those who are currently in detention on Nauru will stay there. We know there will be abused, their mental health damaged, and hope will slowly drained from the young hearts. It’s simply not good enough to say “well we’ve gotten most of the children out of detention on the mainland. ” Yes that is something that I celebrate, but it is not sufficient. The scandalous truth remains. It is the policy of the Australian government to lock children up in detention. Until this ends surely we must maintain the rage.