Letters to the editor

August 5, 2011
Cartoon: Chris Kelly.

Australian detention harms asylum seekers

Australia is confronted by the tragic phenomena of detention centre deaths, with five suicides in the last 10 months, over 1000 suicide attempts and thousands of self-inflicted injuries among asylum seekers.

There have recently been two more suicide attempts at Darwin immigration centre. There will most likely be more to come.

One Hazara man suffered a heart attack following efforts to rescue him from his suicide attempt.

The answers to stopping these suicide attempts are not in diminishing the hanging points or in relying on a suicide watch.

The answers lie in treating people with humanity, in assisting these folk in their rightful asylum claims, in allowing them unfettered contact with the Australian community, with various experts, with the media and in ensuring they are not indefinitely detained in these unlawful facilities.

The dramatic rise in self-inflicted injuries is in itself not surprising. When pushed to the brink of despair, people often cry out in pain in one form or another.

We have long warned of the rise of self mutilation, mental breakdowns, physical breakdowns of irreparable damage, acute and abject clinical disorders, the various categories of depressions, of trauma and chronic trauma, of suicide attempts and multiple suicide attempts.

We have always warned of more detention centre deaths.

The government shall be culpable, as duty of care can be argued to extend beyond release and duty of care originates at the point of trauma, at the cause.

We have a duty to acknowledge impacts and the government cannot abrogate its responsibilities. There is a criminality within the practices of our government in the mistreatment of these peoples through a Gulag-type experience kept almost clandestine from the rest of Australia.

There are high levels of unemployment for those released. There are horrific incidences of despair and suicide attempts among those finally released who were evidently damaged by their detention center experiences.

The mere fact that someone is released does not immediately erase mental and clinical damage to the person. There have been scores of suicide attempts in Australian detention centers and there will be more, just as there shall be more post-release attempted suicides.

Over a recent period of time I have released various leaked statistics of self-inflicted injury, of medical incidences or suicide watches and of suicide attempts from Australian Detention Centres, of the training required by guards to “cut down” with “Hoffman knives” suicide attempts.

My observation is that the longer we incarcerate people in the manner the Australian government is doing so at this time, and with the difficulties our asylum seekers endure without unfettered communication to other peoples, it is clear that people break down and some will die in custody.

Those who eventually break down and die following their release will be even greater in number.

During the recent Christmas Island protests, our despairing asylum seekers were burying themselves in shallow graves. Many asylum seekers are coming out of the Australian detention center experience worse than before they went in.

Gerry Georgatos,
Convener, Human Rights Alliance (WA)

Carbon price opposition unsatisfying

Simon Butler’s “Green reasons to oppose Australia’s carbon price” (GLW #888) was unconvincing and unsatisfying.

Simon tells us how much coal exports, road transport, gas production and so on will increase under the carbon tax. But clearly these were all increasing anyway; it is misleading to imply (as the article does, by omission) that the carbon price is to blame.

What is most unconvincing is the notion that Simon is “opposing” the carbon price.

Is he phoning Wilkie, Oakeshott, the Greens to exhort them to vote against it? Is he organising street protests against it (or encouraging his comrades to do so)? Only Abbott is doing that, and there is no political space for the left to campaign against it.

“It’s no good, we’re against it” is a simple line to push, but gives no forward direction.

The real holes, weaknesses and fundamental flaws in the carbon price (and all emissions trading schemes) are there, as the remainder of the article points out accurately enough: in most respects it “sticks with business as usual”.

The polluters will no doubt want the community to assume otherwise, and stop campaigning against them. Instead, we need to continue with campaigning “business as usual” — pushing for an end to coal and coal seam gas mining; a fast transition to a 100% renewable electricity grid; and so on.

Some have accused the anti-carbon price left of “riding on Abbott’s coat-tails” which is an inaccurate smear. Yet Simon’s line in this article is also a rhetorical excess. His “opposition” is unlikely to ever get off the page it is printed on.

We need a more practical way forward than literary “opposition”. I would suggest to focus fire squarely on the big mining and energy companies that dominate our fossil fuel economy (who, in most cases, also “oppose” the carbon price) and keep pushing for that 100% renewable plan, a just jobs transition and so on — and simply note that the carbon price is not much use to us in our efforts.

Ben Courtice,
via email

Media failure on Norway coverage

Western and Australian mainstream media, including the taxpayer-funded ABC, have resolutely ignored the following two huge elephant-in-the-room realities of the Norway massacre.

1. Several days before 69 Young Labor activists were murdered by Anders Breivik they had publicly demonstrated for tougher Norwegian boycott, divestment and sanctions measures against Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians (for details see “Palestinian civil society expresses solidarity with people of Norway”).

2. Neo-Nazi mass murderer Breivik was also a pro-Zionist extremist who set out in his 1500 page manifesto his demand for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Europe, Turkey, China, India, Thailand, the Philippines and Palestine.

Constraints on free speech in Lobbyocracy Australia have prevented virtually any reportage of the above realities which, in marked contrast, have been reported by outstanding anti-racist Jewish commentators such as Stephen Lendman (US), Gilad Atzmon (UK) and Uri Avnery (Israel) and by pro-Zionist media (such as The Jerusalem Post).

For details censored in Lobbyocracy Australia of the mass murder of 69 anti-Zionist Young Labour Norwegians by the pro-Zionist mass murderer Breivik read US history professor Vijay Prashad's recent article in Counterpunch, “Palestine’s Norwegians”.

Dr Gideon Polya,
Macleod, Vic

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