Dear Mr Morrison,
As promised in February, in the tradition of William Wilberforce, I have continued to write to you regularly even though I rarely receive a reply. I also write consistently to my local Member of Parliament. She always ends her responses with, “Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further queries regarding this or any other issue.”. However, she has now requested that I focus solely on writing to you directly. She says that you are best placed to address my concerns. Therefore, although I suspect that you will not reciprocate, I have decided to write you this Christmas greeting.
Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.
I wonder how you will send your Christmas greetings this year. Will you choose cards emblazoned with words such as ‘peace’, ‘hope’ and ‘joy’? I wonder how you will reconcile those words with the turmoil, hopelessness and despair inflicted on lives by the policies and legislation you have put in place. Will you write a Christmas letter this year? Perhaps it will be full of the news and happenings of your family life. Perhaps it will contain photos of your wife and your two children, and detailed explanations of their activities and their achievements. For those whose lives you have suspended in unending separation and statelessness with your Temporary Protection Visas, the exchange of letters will be one of the few experiences of family. Their letters will be written with longing and sadness, instead of with celebration and pride. Instead of outlining happy events, those letters are more likely to be filled with tales of the terror of ongoing persecution at one end, and of loneliness and desperation at the other.
Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison. I hope your Christmas greetings are written with sincerity.
Will you wander the shopping centres this Christmas, enjoying the cheerful decorations and selecting gifts for those you love? I read recently that a man on Manus Island only had the set of clothes he was wearing, and that he walked barefoot because he had no shoes. His frequent requests for these basic items were refused. Perhaps you could add some shoes and a shirt or two to your Christmas shopping list. I also read that babies on Christmas Island have no safe or clean spaces to play or to learn to crawl. Perhaps you could gift-wrap some floor rugs, playpens and toys and send them by express post.
Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison. I hope your Christmas gifts are chosen with love.
Given the proclamation of Christian faith in your maiden Parliament speech, I expect that you will probably attend a Christmas service. I wonder which carols will be performed, and if you will lift your voice to join with others singing the words. Will you sing about a tender, mild infant sleeping in heavenly peace? I wonder how that will resonate with you, given that you have just classified babies, born to asylum seekers, as ‘unauthorised maritime arrivals’ and ‘transitory persons’ and are in the process of rounding them up to send them to Nauru.* I can’t imagine there will be much sleeping in heavenly peace in Nauru amid reported instances of child abuse and the threat of Malaria.
I wonder which Scriptures will be read in church. Perhaps you will hear the passage from Isaiah 61; the prophecy that the Messiah would be sent to the earth to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to bring freedom from darkness for the captives. There are few more broken-hearted people than those who were forced to flee their homes, their loved ones and everything they hold dear, only to be punished by the use of arbitrary, indefinite detention. There is little worse news than being told that new laws mean that you have no chance of ever being given the opportunity to start your life afresh in peace and safety, and that you could be sent back to torture or execution at any time. Perhaps you will hear the passage from Matthew 2; the part where Mary and Joseph were forced to flee to Egypt to save Jesus from being slaughtered in Herod’s Bethlehem infanticide. I pray that this will give you a greater understanding of why Hazara mothers put their unaccompanied minors in the hands of people smugglers to whisk them away from the reach of the Taliban.
Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison. I hope the ancient Scriptures speak directly to your heart.
I wonder how you will celebrate Christmas Day. Will your family meal be a traditional Christmas feast? Or is a relaxed Australian barbeque more your style? Either way, there is bound to be an abundance of delicious food and festive drinks. I wonder if the men in detention on Manus Island will be limited to 500mls of drinking water for the day as Amnesty International found when they visited one of the compounds. I wonder if the same mouldy yoghurt will be offered to the children in detention on Nauru.
Will your table include candles to symbolise the light and hope that Jesus brought to the world that very first Christmas? People’s hope of freedom and safety has been destroyed by your new legislation; legislation which allows you to return people to persecution in their homelands regardless of the protection obligations that are due to them under international law. Australia’s humanitarian light has also been extinguished by your new legislation; legislation which allows Navy and Customs vessels to disregard maritime safety laws and to tow boats to any location at sea and leave them there, unsafe and ill equipped.
Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison. May your Christmas table be set with goodwill.
I don’t much feel like celebrating Christmas this year. I carry a heavy sense of shame for what Australia has become. My heart aches for my brothers and sisters in humanity, and for people who have become my very dear friends. But I will choose to celebrate regardless. Jesus, whose birth we reflect on at Christmas, taught us to extend peace, hope, joy, love and light to our fellow humans. While your new legislation gives you an enormous amount of power and control, it can never stop individual, decent people from doing that.
So, Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.
*News released on December 18 advises that Senator Ricky Muir and Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have been able to prevent babies who were born in Australia before 4/12/14 from being sent to Nauru. Babies born after that date, however, will still be transferred to Nauru with their families as per the new legislation.