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Dutton’s statement about the “release” of children in detention has received quick scrutiny, but there’s an important part of the dialogue missing.
Arguably the most marginalised man in Australian politics, Peter Dutton has performed a rather elegant backflip…with a twist. While he may have stuck the landing, there are those on the judging panel who are not entirely sold by his routine. It was announced yesterday, any asylum seeker children held in detention had been freed, meaning that for the first time since 2007 there are no children in Australian detention centres.
Lunchtime yesterday, the Dutton decision was met by vast head noddery, but no soon as the announcement was hailed as “one of the most significant achievements” of the Liberal government, the table was turned over. Those suspicious of the announcement scrambled to poke fingers into the political tapestry, and via a leak in Dutton’s own department, The Guardian revealed that it was purportedly nothing more than doublespeak, where the children will still remain under the lock and key of an alternate terminology.
Those who were “released” are free to stay in the exact same circumstances they were in prior. The children no longer require an escort to school however, but the situations of the children’s families held in detention do not change. As The Guardian noted, “they have been ‘released’ from detention without moving,” with those in “held detention” re-classified as “community detention.”
A cell by any other name? Or a step toward release?
Stuck between the verbal jousting of media agencies and political figures lies the unheard response to the question unasked. The true cost (or merit) of Dutton’s decision upon those behind the wire at places like Villawood is hard to paint with absolutes, without diminishing their plight – or too, their rights.
However, while I admit it’s impossible to totally place our feet in their shoes, as they’ve experienced horrors few of us have, on the most basic of levels, playing on the values that we all hold true: how would you and your family react if you (or at least for a member of your family) were met by large promises of freedom, only to see change that doesn’t change much at all. Would you see yourself as the barest of political ammunition, and thusly brace yourself for further disappointment, knowing that if this is “change,” what hope do you have?
Or does this twisting of the lexicon and the subtle relaxation of the rules change the perceptions, and the morning walks to school for the potential next generation of Australians make a difference in collective eyes? Does it ambitiously grow hope in the garden within, planning for the orange day where the government will bestow them access to their new home?
To answer that, we need their voices.
Does this move represent change in the eyes of the Liberal Party?
Despite the arguments surrounding it (and the turn of the potential PR win into a loss if legitimate), if this means change to policy or to the approach of the Government, do they walk alongside Dutton’s hyperbole, and would this be seen as the new high watermark to strive to? Are these the first footsteps on the journey of a thousand miles, with the pot of green and gold at the end for all, or is the Coalition merely dancing a little sidestep a la The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?
While no-one can claim that Dutton’s comments fit the definition, nonetheless, it remains a move. Perhaps Dutton’s measurements do make a difference to those aghast in confinement with no end date, nor assurances. Or perhaps it merely enflames the situation further, as those who hopelessly watch those, who have to power to save, watch them saving themselves first, before them second.
Until the boom-pole is extended over the fence at places such as Villawood, where vast hope battles systematised purgatory, we’ll not know, nor where to absolutely stand on the issue.