By Liam McLoughlin 30/9/2018
Mess with berries and you’re locked up for over a decade. Mess with the minds of refugee children and you’re a daggy dad with a half-million-dollar salary.
Last week, a Queensland man was taken to hospital with stomach pains after eating strawberries contaminated with sewing needles. Since then there have been over 100 reports of tampered fruit around Australia.
Judging by the reaction of our politicians, this is the worst thing to happen to this country since the unspeakable ball tampering incident of March 2018, both of which were apparently more monstrous than the genocide of Indigenous Australians.
If you thought the greatest crime in Australian history was the extermination of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, or the Myall Creek Massacre of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children, or the stealing of one in three Indigenous children between 1910 and the 1970s, or the over 400 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the Royal Commission made its 339 recommendations in 1991, or the contemporary imprisonment and torture of thousands of refugee men, women and children fleeing persecution by countries other than Australia, then shame on you.
Indulgent self-loathing doesn’t make Australia stronger. Being honest about the past does. Our modern Aus nation began on January 26, 1788. That’s the day to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, become, still to achieve. We can do this sensitively, respectfully, proudly, together. https://t.co/uM59Lwrr1p— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) September 23, 2018
The worst ever crime in Australia’s long history (or short, depending on whether you’re wearing your white blindfold), is of course sticking a needle in a strawberry.
And our most serious ever crime demands serious focus from Australia’s leaders.
The PM said,
“We have a real issue going on here … I’m not going to get distracted … I’m going to stay 100 per cent focused on those issues.”
I think we’re all sick of everyone getting distracted by those unreal issues of island prison child torture and burning enough coal to bring on a climate apocalypse which makes the film The Road look like The Pursuit of Happyness.
“Why don’t we talk about strawberries and not politics for a second”, he added, not as part of a comedy routine.
Now let’s hear from our big strong PM denouncing this heinous act of terror.
“You’re putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you’re scaring children and you’re a coward and you’re a grub.”
Meanwhile scaring foreign children is an act of bravery and you’re a Prime Minister.
If you put needles in strawberries, you are scaring children and YOU ARE A GRUB.— Tom Ballard (@TomCBallard) September 19, 2018
If you keep children on a prison island and make them want to kill themselves, you get a trophy.
It’s not so brave to terrify kids according to the federal court, which has intervened several times to protect refugee children from the Coalition.
Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie stated that the court ordered transport for a 10-year old boy who tried to kill himself three times and required surgery, and repatriated a young girl who also attempted suicide on three occasions.
Wilkie also said,
“The federal court had to intervene in the case of a 14-year-old girl who doused herself in petrol and set herself alight on Nauru … in the case of a 17-year-old boy who suffers from psychosis and needed to be reunited with his mother.
“The federal court had to intervene in the case of an adolescent girl suffering major depression and traumatic withdrawal syndrome … in the case of a critically unwell baby … in the case of a 12-year-old boy on Nauru refusing fluid and food for nearly two weeks.
“The federal court had to intervene in the case of a 17-year-old girl on Nauru refusing all food and fluid and diagnosed with resignation syndrome … in the case of a 12-year-old girl on Nauru who has attempted suicide several times, also setting herself on fire.
“The federal court had to intervene in the case of a 14-year-old boy on Nauru, suffering major depressive disorder and severe muscle wastage after not getting out of bed for four months.”
According to the Guardian Australia, at least 20 children on Nauru are refusing food and fluids and are “at risk of permanent harm or death”.
When you have a crime involving multiple fruits, you don’t muck around with lacklustre penalties.
The PM said,
“We’ve gotta send a very clear and unambiguous message.”
“If you do that sort of thing in this country we will come after you and we will throw the book at you.”
“What we will be doing is to be increasing the penalties for those who would be found guilty under the existing provisions from 10 years in prison to 15 years in prison. What you get 15 years for are things like possessing child pornography and financing terrorism, that’s how seriously I take this.”
On the other hand, if you incarcerate and traumatise thousands of refugees on remote prison camps in clear violation of international law, you’ll get years of government and a cool 538K reward.
Thankfully, Australia’s top political journalists are holding the government’s feet to the fire for this egregious double standard.
On last Sunday’s episode of Insiders, award-winning political commentator Niki Savva said of the Prime Minister’s response to berry tampering,
“It showed how quickly Morrison moves when there’s an issue like this happening which clearly effects the community. That is all anybody was talking about."
To which Barrie Cassidy responded, possibly ironically,
“Yeah, he’s very agile.”
Savva replied, certainly sincerely,
“He’s very agile, he’s very nimble and he’s using the power of his office, the power of incumbency. So he sets the agenda. Labor is pretty much forced to go along with it even though they have reservations about some of the things that he’s doing. So I think, you know, we can laugh about what he’s done and some of the excesses, but he’s actually looked on top of this issue and I think it’s played very well for him.”
Moments before viewers were going to hit themselves over the head with a frying pan to block out memories of this kind of analysis, Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor brought her trademark good sense to the discussion, saying,
“I do think we need to look at what he’s doing rather than just the fact that he’s doing something, and whether it makes sense.”
If it wasn’t for Taylor’s reality check and Katherine Murphy’s excellent piece in the Guardian, you’d think the Australian media had never heard of Nauru.
At this point political editor for the Australian Financial Review Phil Coorey chipped in with:
“I sort of agree (with Savva), politically it came along at a good time for the government because they were trying to get off the mat and this was a very simple issue that you could confront and it was decisive Scott. He announced the Royal Commission into aged care and then this came along and boom, we’re gonna do this. The legislation went through Parliament on Thursday afternoon, they flew the bill up to the Governor-General in the Northern Territory to have it assented…I thought it was pretty smart politics by the government.”
Agile. Nimble. Quick-moving. Agenda-setting. Decisive Scott. Smart politics.
I guess it does take a certain level of agility to violate the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, along with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and get paid handsomely for it.
Supporting the Victims
Say what you like about our pollies, but they sure know how to help victims, so long as they’re on the mainland, white, and male.
Politicians across the spectrum have been united in backing strawberry farmers.
The PM shared his wife’s strawberry pavlova recipe and called it “the best pav I’ve ever had”.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly brought a few punnets to the House of Reps and said “I call on every Australian household to get out there and buy not just one or two but at least half a dozen punnets of strawberries”.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urged Aussies to buy “a punnet for yourself and a punnet for the nation”.
It’s all very reminiscent of how Dutton and Morrison have spent years supporting victims of violent and sexual assault, anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation on Nauru and Manus.
Peter Dutton has supported victims by refusing a pregnant asylum seeker an abortion after she’d been raped, dismissing refugee claims of feeling threatened as “complete nonsense”, describing complaints of being denied food and water as “complete rubbish”, accusing refugees of self-harming and inventing sexual assault claims to get to Australia, disregarding the Nauru files as ‘hype’, and fighting court battles to prevent suicidal children from coming to Australia for medical treatment.
Scott Morrison has supported victims by campaigning for Australia’s withdrawal from the refugee convention, bullying refugees and inciting a riot on Manus which led to Reza Barati’s death, falsely accusing Save the Children staff of coaching asylum seekers in self-harm, and rejecting a plea by the President of the Australian Medical Association to bring families and children on Nauru to Australia due to the “humanitarian emergency requiring urgent intervention”.
No amount of contaminated strawberries could ever explain the gut-wrenching sickness of our politics.