It won’t come as a surprise to many readers that I think Donald Trump is a cretin. About a month ago I was feeling my usual sense of outrage about the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, but I was expressing this upset in a series of Facebook angry face icons, and article shares with like-minded lefties on my newsfeed. The problem is, it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to do more than be a social media activist – and marching at rallies is not my thing (too much walking!) Writing is my thing though: so I decided to mobilise my anger and tell someone that matters how I was feeling: the PM of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull and my Federal Member, Tony Smith MP.
Dear Mr. Turnbull,
I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling outraged and disappointed by the US political decision to ban refugees and immigrants from various, predominantly Muslim, countries. I am relieved that, for the time being, the judicial system has halted the travel ban, and that a US federal appeals court has turned down the White House’s emergency request to resume the travel ban executive order.
It’s a troublesome reminder of how dangerous and prejudice the Trump administration is promising to be. I am frightened by this explicit discrimination based on religion and the underlying tone of it harks back to some very dark times in world history. I don’t believe the rest of the world can sit by, mincing our words, trying to placate a bully.
It is easy for me to be a keyboard activist. To use the sad face and angry buttons on Facebook every time I see an article that disappoints/angers/WTFs me. But for me, it is now not enough to agree with my peers about how horrible the whole sorry affair is, or to share petitions, or shake my head and laugh at Trump memes.
So I am writing to you as the most senior representative of the Australian people, and ask that you convey what your constituents are telling you. That many of us; millions of us, are opposed to the actions of the US administration and we urge them to reflect on their history and role as providers of safe passage and opportunity for generations of refugees and migrants.
I would also ask the Australian Government to reflect on our own local pedigree of being the ‘lucky country’ and land of opportunity for many.
Let me be very clear: I am not opposed to Border security. My father enjoyed a long and respected career as an Australian customs officer. I get it. I’m not saying ‘come one, come all don’t worry about the process.’ I understand there are very real threats to the safety and security of the community. I believe that with appropriate checks and timely processing of asylum seekers these risks can be mitigated, and it is our global responsibility to offer sanctuary to the people who genuinely need it.
I don’t think your job is easy Mr. Turnbull. I don’t think that Mr. Trump is open to a fair and respectful discourse about the subject. I understand there is bureaucracy, and power hierarchies, political ramifications, and alliances that you need to consider.
But it is unethical and dangerous for you to be complicit in a so called ‘safety measure’ that specifically targets the Muslim faith. You own party touts to believe in the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association.
You recently said it was not your place to “run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.” You must understand this decision reaches far beyond the shores of the US. It is your responsibility as a leader to speak up about issues and conflicts that affect a global community. It is your role to try and assert your influence and to speak on behalf of citizens who don’t have a hotline to the decision maker’s office.
Given my own personal opposition to the discriminatory and inhumane approach to refugee and immigration intakes, I am putting my money where my mouth is. In addition to this letter requesting your action (cc’d to my Federal member Tony Smith MP) I am making a donation to the Unicef Syrian Refugee Fund and to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne.
Thank you for your time.
Last week Tony Smith MP responded to my email, and he acknowledged the points made in my letter. His office called me more than once to make contact; he wanted to assure me he had read every word. They were cordial, patient and pleasant to talk to. I feel lucky to live in a country where I have both the access and the means to be heard by members of my own government.
Tony towed the party line, and stated that the domestic policies of the US were not something the Australian Government should or would comment on or interfere with. He also acknowledged the points I made about Australia’s Border Security policies: he respectfully disagreed with my position on this; acknowledged my opinion, but stood by the current policies for offshore processing of asylum seekers.
I’m publishing this letter now because, whilst I am still not satisfied that our Government is meeting its ethical obligations of acting against injustice, Tony’s response proves that you can reach the decision makers in Canberra if you try hard enough.
Maybe you might like to express your thoughts on a particular issue that is important to you. If you do, follow this link and Contact your PM.
And if writing is not your thing, and you too are concerned about the global refugee crisis, why not send a few quid to the organisations who are doing their best to rescue those in need of liberation. Unicef, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
In short: If you see something, say something. (Seriously: say it.)