The system of excessive control, denials, dehumanisation and identity-emptying bureaucracy that determines existence in the Manus camp is the same one that we live with on the mainland, and that we experience day to day in our interactions with a myriad of institutions and authorities. However, as Behrouz Boochani says, Manus is the centre of this system.
This Bill then, supported by the crossbench and a range of NGOs and lobby groups, should only be seen as a deeply ambivalent ‘solution’. Just like the Kids off Nauru campaign – which created the hashtag #KidsOff – this Bill has spawned a campaigning hashtag (#BacktheBill) and provides a very partial remedy to a much larger problem. It is a crisis response to a crisis purely of the politicians’ making.
I want to tell you of the way in which two SERCO guards are present 24/7 in the room of a dying person, of someone who cannot walk, hardly talk, cannot eat, drink, function, and when communicating, communicates with absolute visceral fear of the knowledge that they (Australia) are killing her/him. I want to tell you of how these guards say ‘this is what happens when you come by boat’.
The left, for the past ten years (with some exceptions), has faithfully tailed the benevolence and generosity line of liberals and ‘refugee’-NGOs. The humanitarian line – that these are vulnerable people seeking safety and protection, and being treated as lesser human beings – is undoubtedly true. But it also fatally politically limited. If our demand is to ‘bring them here’, we have to ask: what will happen to them when then they arrive in Australia?