Our tainted love for America and its values eclipses what Australia promises; if anything was promised at all.
As Australians, we should be ashamed of the continued inaction on our many haunting human rights issues and by all means, we should be (and some are) rioting in the streets against our governments total inability to recognize the rights of our offshore prisoners.
But Australians have no right to be mad… right? We have nothing like the Americans do in terms of promises and rights. We have nothing like the Statue of Liberty gracing our nation, I mean, besides the occasional colonialist in bronze soaking up the sunlight like the earth soaked the blood of the countless lives he was responsible for taking.
We have no monument declaring our dedication to freedom, opportunity and equality and why should we? Our constitution doesn’t support the values of a forward-thinking society.
Americans should be mad, they have a Bill of Rights that promise personal freedoms. A constitution laid down as the bedrock of American society and your eyes can easily glaze over the hypocrisy of freedom and liberty laced throughout the constitution as the amendments were written on paper in a nation that was built by slaves and signed by slave owners.
Now the Australian constitution on the other hand, though an achievement in itself, was implemented in the same period, and if not by the same people who championed the first infamous White Australia policies like the Immigration Restriction Act and the Pacific Island Labourers Act.
In all, it has five passages that allude to human rights and are as always, subject to loopholes. The constitution allows the right to vote, protection against acquisition of property on unjust terms, the right to a trial by jury, freedom of religion and the outdated ‘prohibition of discrimination on the basis of State of residency.
So, besides these five, we rely on common law, statutory law and the UN (whom we habitually ignore) to afford us human rights.
Australia is missing too much in our constitution and our legal framework for us to champion human rights and if anything, the very little rights that we hold dear in our country are being methodically stripped and ignored by our government.
But in essence, we weren’t promised very much anyway, just the five laws in the constitution and some relics of the British common law system. We did sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we habitually ignore. We do have some wonderful acts that have been passed by parliament over the last fifty years, though, these can easily be undone. I am not just saying they can be overturned, we have literally seen it happen over the last few years.
Australians might very well be institutionalized because for some reason we all seem to believe we would never have our rights taken away from us, or at least not without reason. Tony Abbot proved that we are asleep to the issues of our rights with the introduction of his draconian counter-terrorism laws and Malcolm Turnbull cemented the fact we are in our very own Australian Dream when his government pushed through laws in 2016 that authorizes unlawful detention of people who have already served for terrorism-related crimes.
No, I’m not talking about the Australian Dream of a suburban house on a quarter acre block and a Holden (or god forbid, Ford) rumbling in the driveway. Although, that is definitely a conversation for another time, as many Australians young and old struggle with the reality that they may never own property and will for eternity be stuck in the mud with all the other serfs paying a huge chunk of their income for the privilege of living underneath a roof. This generations nickname has been coined, it’s Generation Rent.
I’m talking about a fugue-like state that Australians have been living under since before the enactment of the constitution.
I only point this complacency out to add with even more gravity that at this pivotal point in our society we are cornered by corrupt banks that charge our dead transaction fees, Super funds that rip hard earned cash out of our workers hands and a government that doesn’t seem to represent our values in almost any capacity, be it the insane corporate tax cuts which borrow from our healthcare, welfare and education, dissolution of workers’ rights that will leave many Australians out of pocket by the end of the weekend, the myriad of Indigenous issues like over incarceration, a despicable failure to close the gap, a failure to produce or even acknowledge the possibility of a treaty, the abysmal lack of environmental policy and finally, the horrid and continuing mistreatment of asylum seekers in our offshore prisons.
Our now PM Scott Morrison (one of the key architects of the offshore detention centres) said in a video recording played to every asylum seeker residing on Manus Island that “You will NEVER be settled in Australia. The Australian government will NEVER change its mind. You will NEVER call Australia home”
And why would the government care about asylum seekers? They’re not even bothered about the rights of First Nation’s, the consumer rights of their citizens and environmental rights that need to be implemented now more than ever. The world is hotter than ever and the 29th Prime Minister of Australia has just been ousted over an energy policy.
The amount of fuss the Murdoch press made over Turnbulls prime-ministerial duties were irresponsible, Alan Jones a Sky News commentator and radio host told ABC’s 7:30 called several MP’s and urged the change of leadership in the coalition. Malcolm even cited media powers as a reason for his eventual political demise. In some conspiratorial eyes, Murdoch was the instigator of the entire debacle with the Liberal spill happening only ten days after his arrival in Australia.
Perhaps in this age of information, the media needs more regulation, not to curtail their responsibilities as a fourth estate; to protect democracy by being the revelator of crucial ongoings in parliament house and the misdeeds committed by our representatives. But to ensure responsible reporting and to make sure the media takes the time to look through thinly veiled prepackaged politics.
The digital age has pushed already questionable journalistic integrity to a tipping point by forcing journalists to churn out dribble consistently. No wonder we don’t question the publics continued trends of disinterest in political ongoings and elections.
Winston Churchill said “Never let a good crisis go to waste” and our media has gone ahead and used the refugee crises to gain a political foothold, to feed into the fears and minds of our country and pit us against each other. We are being divided day by day, it is seen with the right and the left feeding on each other to gain views on YouTube and likes on Facebook.
The Australian government is culpable of tearing our fragile multicultural eco-system apart with their outrageous campaign that leverages the fears of the white and elderly with the appalling ‘Sudanese gangs’ ‘issue’. Racist and preventable, these tactics show a government out of touch. Mungo called it in April saying the coalition would resort to tactics worse than Abbots ‘ditch the witch’ campaign and that the budget will be a mixture of bribery and spin.
The bribery spoken of seems to be the governments unfathomable miscalculation of their constituent’s intelligence by dropping 444 million dollars into a private foundation (that has links to major energy corporations) knowing full well that the corporation who staffed only six workers at the time of the grant wouldn’t be able to spend that money by 2020 which is, as we now know, the deadline for a 714 million dollar commitment to UNESCO to preserve the Great Barrier Reef.
So why does the Australian government consistently ignore our rights? Is it because they don’t respect the culturally diverse landscape they helped build? Is it because they are putting profits over people? Is it because they are (said satirically) being realistic?
Our environmental rights, our humanity and our freedoms are put on the firing line every day by the people we vote for in our very lucky country.
Australians just like Americans, are tearing each other apart, the picture of those two elderly republicans wearing T-shirts saying “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat” comes to mind. The observation of parallels and contrasts between the American and Australian political climate is necessary to realize that we, as people, are more than our political party or our viewpoint because above all else we are all human.
We need to recognize the lessons of America and come together and look past our differences to realize our rights, the rights of our environment, the rights of the disenfranchised and the basic rights of all humankind.
I’d rather be an Australian than an asylum seeker.
I’d rather be aware than an Australian.
I’d rather be human.