John Key is sending us a chilling message. From now on, we can’t be sure that if we somehow get into trouble overseas, the New Zealand government will help.
New Zealanders are being detained in Australia.
“Detained” is a polite word for what’s happening: they’re being separated from families and friends, flown to a distant speck of land, and incarcerated there in a structure that looks very much like a prison, and functions very much like a prison. Our Prime Minister certainly thinks it’s a prison. That can be the only reason for comparing it to Paremoremo.
Mr Key would not be speaking to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the issue, saying he would not expect an approach from his counterpart if Australians were caught up in a riot at Paremoremo Prison.
Christmas Island… it has such a pretty name, and yet it is such a nasty place.
For the most part, the people detained on Christmas Island are not what we might call law abiding citizens. Some of the New Zealanders that have been imprisoned are there for low level civic offences, such as repeated driving offences, but others are there because they have been convicted of much more serious crimes.
They’re being held there pending deportation back to New Zealand. Many of them are people who have lived in Australia as long as they can remember, under what used to be the very easy-going immigration rules between New Zealand and Australia. They were taken there as kids, grew up there, were formed by and in Australia, and in respect of everything that matters, they are Australians. The one thing they don’t have is Australian citizenship, because they’ve never needed it. So now, because they have served more than one year in prison, the Australian government intends to ship them back here, to a country that they don’t know at all. Because they won’t just leave, the Australian government is “detaining” them, in what can only be described as hostile conditions.
Of course, they have the “choice” to leave at any time, should they “choose” to leave their families, their homes, their entire life in Australia.
Some choice. It’s a choice so loaded with negative consequences for them that of course they are fighting to stay in Australia.
Ordinarily, when New Zealanders are in trouble overseas, the New Zealand government does its best to help. It checks on prisoners’ well-being, it makes representations on their behalf, it uses its contacts in the foreign country’s government to advocate for better treatment.
But not this time round. John Key and his mate Malcolm Turnbull had a nice little chat last time Malcolm visited us, and they were full of just what good mates they were. But not good enough it seems. John Key just doesn’t want to do anything for the detainees on Christmas Island, except demonise them.
That’s a chilling message that Key is sending. We should all take notice, and be very frightened. From now on, we can’t be sure that if we somehow get into trouble overseas, the New Zealand government will help. We no longer know that we can turn to our embassies and contact our diplomats to help get us out of a tight spot. If we’re too politically inconvenient, it just won’t happen. We are at the whim of a capricious government that wants to pick and choose which New Zealanders matter, and which New Zealanders deserve help.
John Key and his government have turned their backs on the New Zealanders in the Christmas Island Detention Centre. And there they remain, trapped on a tiny island thousands of kilometres from any place they could call home. And the government of the only country that they’re allowed to call home won’t help them. That’s an utter disgrace.