Shame Australia, Shame
Monday night’s “Four Corners programme” revealed what must be one of the most shameful episodes in Australia’s recent history, in relation to East Timor. Given the prolonged incarceration of refugees on Manus and Nauru that is some claim. Our political leaders decided it was ok not to take lunch to school that day, but steal it from the poorest kid in the playground – and they did it in our name.
Shame is one of the most powerful emotions felt by human beings, because it is closely connected to humiliation. In the mix of reasons why child abuse is so often experienced as a lifelong sentence by its victims, is because feelings of shame relating to childhood humiliation are so hard to remove. In some cultures, especially Asian, individuals are seen to bring unbearable shame, through their actions, on close family and community, even though the actions were restricted to the individual.
In other cultures shame appears to be almost extinct. Donald Trump appears to carry absolutely no shame for his words and deeds; indeed they seem to be carried as a badge of honour. The American electorate, not least the Christian electorate, so vociferous in its moral outrage on issues such as abortion and euthanasia, appears not to feel any shame that its chosen leader is a serial offender in relation to truth, misogyny, and racism, to mention obvious matters from a very long list of shameful behaviours.
Where does the Australian community sit on the shame measuring pendulum?
It is hard to imagine a more shameful action, performed in the name of all Australians, than bugging offices of the leaders of Timor L’Este in order to gain an unfair advantage in negotiations over oil and gas extractions in the Timor Sea. With thousands of other Australians I feel deeply shamed about this action and very angry. Why?
How can the present government not understand these actions were thoroughly shameful; that the public has every right to know about them, and if any are to be brought before the court of public judgement and censure, it is those, including the foreign minister of the time, who thought this was ok. Well, it is definitely not ok.
Australian security laws should seek out and punish those who are employed to keep us safe, but by their actions betray national security and the safety of citizens. Has Witness K done this? The court of public opinion, I believe will find to the contrary. Witness K has served our country well in highlighting that a redefinition of ‘harm’ to include legitimising subversive and highly illegal activity in trade deals is not ok and ASIO officers should not be deployed in this way ever again.
We are led to believe that witness K was permitted to seek legal representation and chose the Canberra based solicitor Bernard Collaery. There is thus far no evidence to suggest that Bernard Collaery has done anything other than faithfully represent his client to the best of his ability. The raiding of Mr Collaery’s office was itself illegal and the papers taken from that office were ultimately ordered to be released and used, as they were intended, to give East Timor a fair hearing at the Hague.
The pursuit of witness K and Mr Collaery through the courts is adding shame on shame.
The current government prides itself in getting out of the way, so that individuals can live as they choose. The current action against Mr Collaery and witness K indicates this resolve has severe limitations. Apparently, the government reserves to itself value judgements about the morality of actions in pursuit of national economic gain. Actions like this, performed in Australia by corporations against individuals or individuals against one another or against the taxpayer, would see the culprit before the courts. In this case the culprits are not before the courts, but those who have revealed the action are.
A more appropriate agreement in relation to the oil and gas. has now been signed by Australia and Timor. But this has not happened willingly on the part of Australia. It had to be taken to an international court in the Hague.
What is happening to Australia and its moral standing? Is there no one in the current government who feels deep shame about the actions of this previous government? I suspect there are many who do. But the way to respond is not to punish those who made this known, but to censure those who were responsible for this most tawdry of episodes.