By Situation Theatre 5/7/2019
As we approach the six-year mark of the Australian Government’s regime of refugee torture on Nauru and Manus Island, The Intercept and Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hasan interrogated the man responsible. It should be noted that given the dangers of government propaganda on this subject, Mr Dutton’s answers have been redacted where they are deemed to pose a threat to the national interest.
Mehdi Hasan: According to the UN, the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Law Centre, and 110 countries around the world, you have serially violated the most basic principles of international law. These include the UN Refugee Convention, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Why shouldn’t you be prosecuted in The Hague for crimes against humanity?
Mehdi Hasan: Omid Masoumali spent three years imprisoned on Nauru for fleeing persecution in Iran. In 2016, he was told by UNHCR officials he would remain on Nauru for another decade. Soon after, he doused himself in accelerant, yelled “This how tired we are; this action will prove how exhausted we are. I cannot take it anymore”, and set himself on fire. Waiting in agony two hours for a doctor’s care, eight hours for morphine, and 22 hours for medical evacuation, Omid suffered cardiac arrest and was dead upon arrival in Brisbane. He was 23. Your response was to charge Omid’s family $17,000 to return the body to Iran, sedate his wife, deny her a lawyer and refuse calls to family. Then you tried to persuade her to return to the country from which she’s fled.
Hodan Yasi also spent three years on Nauru before being brought to Australia for medical treatment. Like Omid, Hodan was also granted refugee status, this time from Somalia. At this time in 2016, Australian Border Force guards dragged Hodan from her Brisbane bed by the arms and legs as she begged to remain in Australia. Just days later on Nauru, the young Somalian refugee set fire to herself and “all of her clothes were burnt off”. She suffered severe burns to 70 per cent of her body. She was 19.
That same year during a 24-hour period, six people attempted suicide on Nauru. Adults swallowed razor blades, children ingested washing powder. This followed 188 incidents of self-harm on Nauru in 2015. Desperate human beings bashed their heads against walls, consumed poisons and hung from bed sheets.
You dismissed these incidents as “hype”.
Then there was Khodayar Amini, who feared a return to detention and burned himself to death in 2015 in bushland around Dandenong. He left these parting words: “My crime was that I was a refugee. They tortured me for 37 months…Red Cross, Immigration and the Police killed me with their slogans of humanity and cruel treatments.”
So how do you sleep at night? You must have one heck of a pillow.
Mehdi Hasan: You have repeatedly fought court battles to stop suicidal children accessing proper medical care. You are battling to repeal the Medevac legislation which helps provide this care. What distinguishes you from a psychopath?
Mehdi Hasan: You’ve said illiterate and innumerate refugees would take Australian jobs. Manus prisoner and Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani won the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Prize for Non-Fiction at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards by using Whatsapp. How many Australian literature prizes have you won?
Mehdi Hasan: You profess concern to “stop the drownings at sea” and to make sure the boats don’t start up again. You claim that indefinite detention on Nauru and Manus is a critical part of “strong borders” and that a “single act of compassion” would be an invitation for people smugglers to restart their trade. According to former officers of the Department of Home Affairs, former Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, as well as asylum seekers in Indonesia, this is false. All insist that it is boat turnback policy which effectively means “Australia is closed”, and argue that this policy is more than sufficient to stop people paying thousands of dollars to take the life-threatening journey. Why do you maintain the fiction that torturing people on mass in concentration camps is a necessary part of immigration policy?
Mehdi Hasan: Even if your line about stopping drownings at sea is genuine, rather than just a whip with which to lash Labor, why wouldn’t you consider the dozens of other policy alternatives to crimes against humanity? Why not give asylum seekers stuck in Indonesia realistic and timely prospects for being resettled in Australia? Why not close the detention camps and give the billions of dollars used to imprison asylum seekers to the UNHCR to fast track resettlement? Why not radically increase Australia’s annual humanitarian intake to 30, 40 or 50,000, or more? If you’re still worried about asylum seekers drowning, fly or ship them here directly for community processing. At the very least don’t destroy their boats so they are forced onto other more unseaworthy vessels. Why not compensate the many thousands of men, women and children your asylum policies have damaged or destroyed? Or even if you are too craven to bring them here, why not accept New Zealand’s resettlement offer? Why do you continue to lie to Australians and tell them the only way to save lies at sea is to torture people?
Mehdi Hasan: Since 2013, your government has spent well over $5 billion on concentration camps. It costs more than $570,000 per year to detain one refugee on Manus Island or Nauru. You’ve also wasted $187 million opening and closing Christmas Island for no reason other thank naked political opportunism, and you’ve extended the exorbitant contract for beach-shack-based Manus service provider Paladin. According to Julian Burnside it would be significantly cheaper than the current policy suite to assume the peak asylum seeker arrival rate from a few years ago, resettle all boat arrivals in regional communities and then give them full Centrelink and Medicare benefits. This policy would have the added benefit of filling the 90,000 available jobs in regional areas. Do you have no qualms about instead wasting taxpayer money on cynical political ploys, corrupt contracts, and torture regimes?
Mehdi Hasan: Your public statements are consistent with Joseph Goebbels’ 19 Principles of Propaganda, codified by Professor of Psychology Leonard W. Doob in 1950. Like the Nazi war criminal, you “label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans” like “illegals”, “unauthorised arrivals”, “stop the boats” and “losing control of our borders”. You use propaganda to “create an optimum anxiety level” by calling refugees rapists, paedophiles, and murderers, saying they will steal jobs, welfare, and hospital beds, linking them with terrorism, and warning of Australia being swamped by boats. You show awareness of Principle 16, which warns of the power of peace propaganda, which is why you smear refugee advocates with allegations of coaching self-harm. You deploy Principle 18, which “facilitates the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred”, in your case deceitful people smugglers, refugee advocates and refugees themselves, who you say use abortion and rape as plot to get to Australia. In 1945, Goebbels and his wife committed suicide and poisoned their six children with cyanide. What are your plans for the future?
Mehdi Hasan: It is clear that you suffer from what social psychologist Albert Bandura describes as moral disengagement, which helps explain how you avoid shame and guilt for your own immoral actions. There are four stages of moral disengagement. First, you argue that your actions are morally justified, which is why you frequently refer to stopping drownings at sea. Second, you minimise harm to the victims, which explains the secrecy around your policies, the remote prison locations, the denial of journalistic access, the punishment for whistleblowers. It also explains the cold, anodyne language with which you describe some of the greatest human rights abuses in Australia’s history. Your obfuscations deceive yourself and the nation about the immense harm you have inflicted. Next, you dehumanise and demonise the victims with references to terrorism, racketeering, blackmail, rape, paedophilia and murder. Finally, you displace responsibility onto others, such as Labor, refugee advocates, people smugglers or the Papua New Guinean or Nauruan governments. Does it bother you that your actions are a textbook case of barbarism disguised as morality?
Mehdi Hasan: In the book Eichmann in Jerusalem, philosopher Hannah Arendt described Eichmann’s failure to critically reflect on moral questions and to believe and recite the lies of the regime. She wrote “German society of eighty million people had been shielded against reality and factuality by exactly the same means, the same self-deception, lies, and stupidity that had now become ingrained in Eichmann’s mentality. These lies changed from year to year, and they frequently contradicted each other…but the practice of self-deception had become so common, almost a moral prerequisite for survival, that even now, eighteen years after the collapse of the Nazi regime…it is sometimes difficult not to believe that mendacity has become an integral part of the German national character.” How do you feel about your leading role in sewing mendacity into the fabric of Australia’s national character?
Mehdi Hasan: And do you see yourself as more of a Goebbels or an Eichmann?
Mehdi Hasan: Mr Dutton, thanks for your time.
*As expected, the AFP have again raided the ABC, then stolen and destroyed all evidence of this interview. Fortunately this transcript was leaked to Situation Theatre just in time. Instead, the ABC broadcast Peter Dutton cooking a delicious casserole with Annabel Crabb. You can watch an alternative Mehdi Hasan grilling with Blackwater founder and former CEO Erik Prince below.
**Some social media responses make it necessary to clarify that this interview is a piece of satire and did not actually take place.