I read this on Lana’s Facebook late on Thursday night. I started to reply to her post but it got so long it turned into this, something I have been writing since Lana posted over two hours.

It is time we stood up and did more.

Sickening truth.I feel like the whole issue of the census fuck up has overshadowed the Guardian findings. Also talking of fuck ups… I think I may have just described Peter Dutton.

Posted by Sharpest Pencil on Thursday, August 11, 2016

The cynic in me wonders (though I am certain it is not true) was #censusfail potentially orchestrated to perhaps divert attention away from the systematic human rights abuses occurring on our (Australia as a nation and the current voting population that vote for these horrendous people into parliament and in turn into Government) watch.

I saw this article on the ABC website about 830am Thursday morning. The brief version is PM Turnbull is angry that the census couldn’t be completed online and that the ABS servers could not cope with the volume or there was a DoS attack or whatever excuse is being currently peddled. PM Turnbull made comments such as “Which heads roll, where and when, will be determined once the review is complete,” Mr Turbull said.

And this “I made it very, very clear that what we needed to do was be absolutely straight and frank with the Australian people. 

There is conveniently no mention from anyone within the government of the budget cuts to the ABS and certainly no mention of the change to the NBN that PM Turnbull personally oversaw as the Communications Minister or the generally rubbish internet services that the majority of Australia has. PM Turnbull lays this blame squarely here “This has been a failure of the ABS.” The media, the head of the ABS, and many other government ministers are still talking about the #censusfail of 2016, days after the event!

Prior to the #censusfail there was the absolute hysteria around the privacy concerns of having to put your name and address on the form! Well of course you bloody do! If you don’t put the address on the form how will the ABS statisticians (who seriously live for the data from the census) be able to give the parliament the data for each and every area around Australia so that the services can be provided. This data needs to be accurate we need this information to know where to put schools, hospitals, universities, aged care facilities, childcare centres, police stations, roads and so much more. More important than the hysteria around putting your name and address on a form that will be kept for 4yrs, does everyone realise the government already knows everything that they want about you, mostly through your tax return that you lodge every year. I am yet to ever see the same kind of hysteria around lodging tax returns online.

Now, my memory isn’t great but I am pretty confident these forms are predominantly pre-filled these days. They have data from Centrelink, Medicare, Family Assistance Office, your Bank, your shares (if you have any), your superannuation (if you are lucky enough to be able to afford to make voluntary contributions), your employer/s. In fact any organisation that you have provided your tax file number, medicare number, or centrelink reference number to will have the information pre-filled into your tax return. Has it occurred to anyone that this means all of these systems are linked! Whoops, privacy did you give permission for that? And who knows how long the ATO keep your name and address for! Not only the ATO but every time you use Facebook, or go shopping or use your mobile phone that information is being tracked, right down to Coles & Woolies knowing you are pregnant by your shopping habits changing before you have even announced! But again no-one blinks an eyelid at quantity of data that is hand over willingly!

Wilcox ASIO

Image Credit: SMH


Where are the same levels of outrage (from the government or the public) for the children on Nauru or Manus?

Where is the outrage for the abuses being perpetrated in our name?

Where is our leader PM Turnbull screaming from the rafters and declaring that heads will roll for this?

It isn’t there! There is a deafening, uncomfortable silence from everyone that can actually make immediate change to the plight of asylum seekers. In fact I read here that even the Multinational that currently operates Nauru & Manus Island wants out! Their contract is up in Feb 2017 and they don’t want the job past that date. However, the government is exercising its right to extended the contract by 8mths! One would have to think if the government has already told Ferrovial this extension clause will be enacted that they are having trouble finding someone to undertake these systematic abuses on our (Australia’s) behalf anymore.

Remembering that PM Turnbull declared “heads will roll” over the #censusfail, the reaction to the “Nauru files” couldn’t be more different! In this article in The Guardian  Immigration Minister Dutton has  “… accused asylum seekers of setting themselves on fire, deliberately self-harming, or making false allegations of sexual assault in order to come to Australia.

He also said “… I won’t tolerate any sexual abuse whatsoever. But I have been made aware of some incidents that have been reported, false allegations of sexual assault, because in the end people have paid money to people smugglers and they want to come to our country.”

The response from PM Turnbull was “… the incident reports would be “carefully examined to see if there are any complaints … or issues … that were not properly addressed”.

Neither of these responses can even come close to the levels of outrage that PM Turnbull has declared towards the ABS and the #censusfail. In fact I would go as far as saying that Minister Dutton’s reaction actually makes me feel physically sick and weep for our humanity.

I am angry and just so desperately sad that our nation refuses to provide safe haven for people escaping from unimaginable horrors and we (as a nation) find it acceptable to put them in a place (because I am not sure I believe that the detention centres here are much better) that undertakes systemic human rights violations and abuses. It is really a case of which horror is worse where you are fleeing or where Australia detains you.

There is this concept that if a person who arrives in Australia by boat without the appropriate paperwork is sent to an offshore processing centre and detained there. Equally they are told they will never get resettlement in Australia. Somehow the logic is that the people that are in detention with no access to services have miraculous access to phones and they will get on the blower to their mates back home in war torn Syria or the cavernous hills of Afghanistan and tell them not to come. Let’s just take a moment to think about where they got the phone and the appropriate sim card etc, but the women can’t get access to basic sanitary pads or tampons, that makes perfect sense to me (not!) I get it that the government has this ridiculous argument that by stopping the boats they are saving lives and keeping us safe by keeping the borders closed. The reality of our borders is they will never be flooded with refugees or asylum seekers in the same numbers as are seen in Europe because of the tyranny of our location in relation to the rest of the world. We are simply too far away!

Equally we are forever punishing the wrong people. It is the people smugglers that should be in the detention centres the ones who make money off the misery of others.

Why not open a UN refugee camp here with the UN overseeing the processing (well that would be because the UN would oversee the operation and ummmm enforce basic human rights!), why not treat the arrivals as humans, can our leaders not imagine themselves in a situation so bad that they would put their partners and children (who can’t swim) on leaky boats (better called rafts that barely float) with no means to save themselves should something go wrong to a country in the desperate hope that might be safe from a horror that I cannot process. People say they should just go home, many can’t their homes simply don’t exist anymore.

My heart is just full of sadness and so heavy for these people. It would seem that we have not learnt a single thing from any of the Royal Commissions into Child Abuses (by the churches, state, schools, etc) or the Bringing them Home (Stolen Children) report, or the Stolen Children from Britain during WW2 that were sent all over the world and told their parents were dead. All of these reports and royal commissions mean not a damn thing if we don’t learn from history. The government and many in the wider population in Australia scream at the horrors perpetrated by Churches, the State (in children’s homes/schools/organised activities), other organisations and these are absolutely horrors that destroyed lives, robbed childhoods, destroyed families and still continue to have lasting effects today.

The thing with the ‘Nauru files’ is that this is not the first time that these allegations have been raised. Our government has through laws enacted under PM Abbott ensured that the Aid workers, Doctors, Nursing Staff and many others who go to the camps to provide the very basic welfare checks that they are gagged from speaking about what they see or hear. The media (those that would care to actually chase the story and investigate that is) are not permitted to go to the camps except with very strict reporting conditions. This investigation into conditions and treatment of refugees is also not the first that has actually been conducted. These allegations have been raised at least once previously and still nothing has been done.

Somehow in the minds of Australians they are able to divorce themselves of the very exact same horrors and worse occurring on our watch this current voting generation, time and again they accept the propaganda that is fed to them. The fear campaigns that are being fed through the media from the government that a potential terrorist could come ashore on a boat. I know I don’t have the answers to stem the flow but if there is a need to detain arrivals without the proper visas, then their processing MUST be quicker and while in detention they should have access to the very basic of basic human rights that many don’t. We (as a nation) need to stop looking to offload arrivals onto other countries that are third world countries in their own right, we need to stop offloading the arrivals to countries that have in some cases worse human rights violations than where they were fleeing from. And we need to act NOW to make huge changes.

History will judge Australia very poorly for our treatment of those in desperate need. In fact the International Community is gearing up to judge us now with the UK & NZ governments preparing to summon Diplomats to “please explain!”


Edited to add: In no way am I trying to imply that we the people can’t be upset about two things at the same time. My issue is with the people who can actually influence change in this area do not appear to have the same levels of outrage that some areas of the public are showing. I also agree with the suggestions that the media are part of the problem. They report some but not all of the news and through that they tell us what to care about.

13 Replies to “With a heavy heart and much sadness”

  1. I feel like our government can’t get it together. I had wondered how the census would fair with so many people online and would it be safe from hackers? It just feels in the last few years, any new initiatives that are put in place always stuff up. Great written piece here Kit. Voicing questions and opinions some of have been wondering ourselves. x

    1. Thanks so much Bec.
      I am actually now worried about the quality of the data that is being collected with so many people saying that the are going to flat out lie on the census which in so may ways makes the data useless.

  2. I think it’s a little unfair or maybe shortsighted to say that people can’t be upset about more than one thing. Being annoyed at the colossal fail of the census doesn’t mean you don’t care about the kids in detention. I don’t think it was a conspiracy, it just happened that things came out around the same time. I think it’s also pertinent to look to the media and what they gave most coverage to. The media is a big part of the apathy or ignorance towards the refugees in detention- they’ve ignored it. Why? There’s the real conspiracy.

    1. Apologies Amy I didn’t mean to say that people (as in us the people) can’t care and be upset at two things at once. I know we can.
      My biggest frustration is that the apparent lack of outrage from our leaders and politicians about things that are occurring on their watch to refugees.
      I completely agree that the media tells us what we “should” care about which can be quite us focussed. There certainly appears to be very little real journalism and a lot of opinionism these days. I personally have experience with the media from a PR role I used to have and they were starting to simply regurgitate press releases rather than do anything extra back then I think it is only getting worse.

  3. This is a very thought-provoking piece. I don’t think the #censusfail was orchestrated, but I do think it was jumped upon to elevate the concerns over and above what they should have been and take the media spotlight. I think it’s okay to be annoyed that the census was a shambles. I think it’s very important to be annoyed about – at the very least aware of! – what else is going on, and both the government of the day and the media have failed many of us there.
    Even today, headlines are all bout Hanson’s inability to accept a few squat toilets in a government building and her ironic statement that she shouldn’t have to decry a group of individuals who performed a deed linking to her name.

    1. I shudder at any media attention around Ms Hanson, mainly because there is very little balance in it. I think you and Amy have a solid point that the media needs to do more, present us more with balanced investigative journalism thinks to make us think and be outraged. But there is so little of that out there it makes me sad. Thanks for reading xoxo

  4. It is definitely time for me to write to my MP and ask for changes to be made. It is simply wrong to hide people away on a tiny island in the midst of the Pacific.

  5. I agree with Amy’s point about what media gives attention to. I don’t think #censusfail was a cover up, but definitely there was too much media attention on it. My heart bleeds for those asylum seekers too.

    1. I completely agree the media certainly directs the public conversation and it seems to always take the easy conversations not the hard ones. The census was an easy water cooler chat where the Nauru Files forces people to think about their own levels of what they would accept. I am just bewildered that some people in Australia think that what is happening is ok but should it happen to our children there would be outcry on mass scales. xoxo

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