There are three broad avenues into any conversation on this debacle. One is the brazen illegality of what transpired. Another is the cultural mourning. And the last one is a concentrated nausea toward developers who act unscrupulously. A general revulsion at what went on is the communal hangover.
Eastward from the mountain haze across the bays enduring gaze
Over soft white sands that surround the sleepy islands shore
Through tea trees softly swaying is a lake neath a bunyips playing
It was Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who encouraged us to hate those he regarded as ‘the absolute scum of the earth’ who ‘should all rot in hell’. A few years later, Tony Abbott would argue that people smugglers were ‘cruel, heartless and careless’. Journalism of substance did little to disabuse us of a one-size-fits-all image; Sarah Ferguson’s 2012 investigation on Four Corners interrogated the masterminds’ motives but stopped short of shining a light on those who ran the highest risk of arrest and prosecution: the crews. The other boat people.
After 40 months – more than three years – no-one has been settled on Manus Island. The few in Port Moresby are struggling to survive. Now several more of us have been attacked by local people who do not want us here. Therefore we can only say that we are official hostages.
We were part of the anti-Vietnam War movement and we were angry. For more than a year LBJ had been escalating the war in Vietnam. US planes were bombing large swathes of Vietnam back to the Stone Age (to use a phrase attributed to US air force chief Curtis LeMay). Hundreds of thousands of American troops were battling peasant guerrillas in the paddy fields and jungles of Vietnam and villages were being napalmed.