This Saturday tens of thousands of Australians all over the length and breadth of the continent will be assembling in protest demanding the closure of the refugee detention centres in Manus and Nauru, and for Australia to adhere to the universal principles of human rights in its refugee and asylum seeker policy. This Australia has not been doing since the advent of mandatory detention in 1992.
I will be co-chairing the Melbourne rally, where it appears some 5,000 people may assemble. I am preparing my remarks, so I won’t go into great detail here.
But I will say this.
A lot of people from all walks of life are working *really* hard *all* the time in defence of what is right, of what is decent, of what is compassionate. I have seen it all; from leafleting all over Melbourne to non violent civil disobedience to the most wonderful of conversations to vicious racist attacks. The people involved in this campaign are an inspiration, and I am very happy to be associated with them.
The Saturday rally comes at a critical juncture. The Government’s policy is under great strain; we have seen the Nauru files, the PNG Supreme Court decision, and a slow but discernible shift in public opinion. Now is the time to keep up the pressure. To keep fighting. To keep mobilising.
The essence of Australia’s refugee policy is cruelty; this is a direct consequence of the logic of deterrence. Once you accept this all else follows.
Our task is to develop a counter-deterrent, a countervailing force based upon a growing social movement.
The camps will close and the policy will be based on compassion and not deterrence when dissidence and resistance becomes of sufficient scale and sufficient frequency that the hand of the Government will be forced.
I am committed to this battle until the very end.