Letters to the editor: Open letter to immigration minister Scott Morrison

November 14, 2013
Scott Morrison defended keeping a mother and her newborn separate.

I am a 32-year-old mother of two from suburban Perth. I am writing in regard to the case of Latifa, a 31-year-old woman of the persecuted Rohingya people of Myanmar [Burma], who recently gave birth in immigration detention. Her newborn child is in NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] and her access is strictly limited due to the harsh and inhuman policies of your department. The child has never had any contact with its father also held by your department. 

Recent child development studies have shown the extreme stress that a newborn feels in the absence of their mother. Removal or restricted access to a newborn is also a major risk factor in postnatal depression for both the mother and the father. The actions of your department are putting the mental health of this entire family at risk. I urge you strongly to reunite this family, allow the mother to be housed with the child and allow immediate access of the father to his child. 

The policy that your government has chosen to pursue is that of deterrence. Deterrence means making our country less desirable than those refugees are fleeing. Your government is aiming to do is to make our country worse than the brutal dictatorship of Myanmar. Worse than the stagnation of a decade in limbo. Worse the horror that this family has faced. Minister I say with great sadness in my heart I feel you have succeeded. 

Look to your own heart, to your own future and ask 'what do I want as my legacy'? It shouldn't be this. Please reunite this family immediately. Please release all families from detention. 

Justine Kamprad
Perth, WA


The breakdown in unity talks between Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative is disappointing, but in the context of history at least, not totally unexpected. The road to socialism is littered with splits, divisions and diversions down dead-ends.

The Communist Party of Australia [CPA] managed to split less than two months after it was formed in October 1920. If prior precedent is preferred, we can reach back to 1846 when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels purged the Communist Correspondence League of those suspected of deviation — and this in an organisation whose membership stood at a total of 18.

There are members of both socialist organisations who are part of a dissident communist tradition that began in Australia in 1931 when supporters of Trotsky established the Workers Party of Australia in Sydney with the assistance of communists expelled from the CPA.

The CPA managed to split on four occasions from 1963 and was divided over its own dissolution in 1991. The 1980s initiative for a new party of the left which involved the CPA and the Socialist Workers Party eventually came to nothing. A New Left Party formed on the initiative of ex-CPA members closed itself down in 1993. By this time a number of small radical left organisations had also disappeared. Such is the history.

Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative are tiny organisations funded on a frayed shoestring knotted together by dedicated volunteers. We are part of the 99% but if between us we had a combined membership of 1% of the 99% of working-age Australians we would have 150,000 members.

Our combined membership is probably about half of 1% of this figure. So we should neither exaggerate our importance nor inflate our ability to connect with the great mass of Australians.

Despite the confident declaration of Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto 165 years ago, there is nothing inevitable about the fall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat. It is often overlooked that when they wrote that the written history of all hitherto existing society was the history of class struggle, they asserted that this history leads us to two possible results from the uninterrupted fight between these rival forces.

The first is a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large; the second, “the common ruin of the contending classes.”

In 1842, Marx wrote: “The fate which a question of the times has in common with every question justified by its content, and therefore rational, is that the question and not the answer constitutes the main difficulty.”

The relevant question of our time has been posed by Terry Eagleton: “One question that therefore arises is how long would it take us to unlearn the ingrained habits of pathological productivity, which after a while acquires a well-nigh unstoppable momentum of its own. Do we have enough time — will an already crippled and wounded Nature yield us enough time — for this massive re-education of the senses, the body, the psyche, the dispositions of desire itself?”

The irreversible climate change which is now underway will turn Marx’s possibility of common ruin into a certainty if we cannot win enough support to prevent it.

So, it seems that for the foreseeable future we are left to go our own separate ways. As we do, the measure of our political maturity will rest on the respect we show for the right to express different views and our capacity to take united action on the many issues that we agree on. To do otherwise would be, to borrow from Borges, like two bald men fighting over a comb.

John Rainford,
Wollongong, NSW

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