There’s been positives from the Committee visit to Baxter I wrote about earlier this week. Thursday’s Age carried a piece by Michael Gordon which quoted the Committee’s Chair, Liberal MP Don Randall, saying “the consensus of committee members who inspected the Baxter detention centre on Tuesday was that they wanted to visit Nauru.” (Michael Gordon is the journalist who has just returned from Nauru and written some important pieces, mentioned here)
Whilst the Committee hasn’t had a formal meeting about this yet, there was a quick discussion in the plane on the way back from Baxter about the value of going to Nauru which I assume is the basis of Don Randall’s comments. I’ve been to Nauru twice, but I would be keen to go again to talk once more with the detainees left there. I believe there is great benefit in politicians seeing and meeting people face to face, particularly in instances like this where the circumstances people are enduring are such a direct result of decisions made by the Government and the Parliament.
Don Randall was also quoted as saying “what really stunned me was how many young men there are (in detention). I just think: what a waste of life.” I’d have to admit I didn’t know terribly much about Don Randall, as he is in the other House of Parliament to me and from a state on the other side of the country to me. I had a vague assumption he was on the right of the Liberal Party and mainly knew of him for one comment he made some years ago which caused a lot of media controversy (This often happens with politicians, especially backbenchers, who can work away for years on heaps of local issues, but in the media’s mind are ‘defined’ by one incident). Having now looked at his website, I see that he has made some hardline comments about mandatory detention in the past. This makes his comments this week all the more welcome.
I must admit I sometimes find it a little galling when I see media items suggesting that the possibility of the Government ‘softening’ their position on refugee issues is totally due to pressure from Government MPs, given how many years I’ve been bashing away at this issue. However, it is a political fact that comments such as Don Randall’s latest are more important at the moment than the same thing coming from me (although I’ll still keep saying them too). I should also say that most Government MPs would only be one tenth as interested in the issue or likely to make comment on it were it not for the continuing, genuine and growing actions by so many people at community level, getting in their ears and telling them that something must be done. This is not meant to be critical; it is a simple fact of political (and everyday) life that you will be more likely to act on something if you think other people care about it. So if you do care about the people who have been locked in detention for so long, please keep showing it and telling others about the urgent need for action – it is making an impact.
Don Randall also made a comment to the ABC that the Government should do something to address the problem of long-term detention once they get control of the Senate in July. On one level I find this comment absurd, as clearly if the Government was going to do anything positive in this area it could undoubtedly get it through the Senate now, as the Democrats would support it (as would almost everyone else I expect). However, the comment also reflects a probably genuine lack of awareness by Liberal members of the House of Reps, who have no doubt had Ministers (falsely) telling them for years that the Senate stops them doing anything.
Speaking of which, I spent Thursday in Melbourne having meetings to plan for the new Senate environment. Things are getter closer to being sorted out, and after the meetings today I’ve got a better idea of what the best approach to take should be. Whilst on principle I think it is unhealthy for any party to have sole control of the Senate, there will none the less be some positives to the new set-up, which I may write more about another time.
On the way home, my loathing of flying was reinforced by a two hour delay in departing, including boarding and going through the pre-flight announcements twice before being asked twice to ‘de-plane’, being directed to a different Gate, recalled and then getting on to a different plane all together. Having said all that, I actually really appreciate knowing that the pilot won’t take off if there’s a light flickering on the control panel that shouldn’t be. Whilst I hate sitting on planes and hate being late, especially when I’m heading home, I’d hate it twenty times more if I thought they were skimping on airline safety. To compensate a bit for the delay, the crew announced there’d be free alcohol for everyone on board, which seemed to make people happy. For me, the most annoying thing was hearing them use the word “de-plane”, and even that annoyance is probably just a way of keeping the spirit of my father alive, so maybe that’s OK too.