If you know me well, you know that the human rights issue of the treatment of asylum seekers in detention in Australia is something I care deeply about. It’s one thing to read daily about the ongoing crisis, with more and more reports of child abuse, mental illness and self-harm. But it’s quite another to realise that it’s being funded by our tax dollars.
I’ve written letters to politicians before about offshore processing of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, and how it’s — well — pretty bad on any level. And I also know it’s pretty much useless writing letters. So my cynicism is at an all-time high.
But something different happened just now: I just received a tax bill I have to pay (fair enough), along with a notional breakdown of where my personal tax was spent, over the last 2 financial years. And oh look, there’s an amount there for Immigration: $1,261.00. It’s probably much the same for you too. Yes I know this is generalised and notional, but it’s significant enough that they’ve put a dollar cost to it. That’s $1,261.00 funding a state-sponsored campaign of child abuse, secrecy, and (given we pay $1.1 billion/year for those detention centres) financial irresponsibility.
Did I pay my tax bill? Nearly all of it. I want to pay all the tax I owe, believe me. But in showing me where my dollars are being spent, the government is inviting a conversation on this. I don’t know about you, but it’s unconscionable for me to contribute to these disgusting and illegal acts of child abuse and assault with my tax dollars, and I cannot pay that $1,261.00.
So here’s my latest letter:
JUST ADDED: It’s just been announced today that Nauru will process all asylum seekers in its detention centre ‘within the next week’. This is indeed good news, but this announcement pops out of the blue just days before a legal challenge examining the lawfulness of our government’s role in offshore detention on Nauru starts.
TAX CONTRIBUTION SPENT ON IMMIGRATION
I am writing to explain why I can’t pay all of the tax I am currently owing, and to ask you to please stop the current treatment of asylum seekers under your governance through Wilson Security and Transfield Services.
I have just received notification of tax I owe (via my accountant), and I have made a corresponding EFT (BPAY) payment. For reference: Biller code 75556, ref. #########, paid ######.
I have also received two letters (via my accountant), with Australian Government letterhead and a breakdown of how my tax was spent in 2013-14 and 2014-15 (attachments A & B). These letters detail that for both years together, $1,261.00 of my tax was spent on Immigration.
I am a law-abiding citizen, I believe in the parliamentary, taxation and legal systems we have, and I firmly state that I want to pay all tax that I owe to contribute to the responsible running of Australia. But I cannot in good conscience contribute my tax to what the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has spent in these past 2 financial years.
Minister: In this time, your government has outsourced the detention of asylum seekers to Wilson Security and Transfield Services (Transfield), on Nauru and Manus Island. Employees amongst this company and its subcontractors have enacted intolerable acts of cruelty on people being detained. Amongst recent reports and figures:
- The recent Senate inquiry heard that despite 30 allegations of asylum seekers being abused, not a single Transfield staff member has been charged
- The independent Moss Review found compelling evidence for multiple cases of assault, rape and abuse
Even putting aside these heinous acts, it is financially irresponsible as well:
In addition, you have been fiddling with legislation to try to maintain this regime of cruelty:
- The Government is rushing through legislation that explicitly authorises offshore detention and its funding, before a High Court challenge to the policy
What makes this even worse is that not only have you known about the extent of crimes against those detained, but you haven’t done anything about it. Indeed, you have tried to silence those who seek to raise awareness:
You (and the previous Minister for your department) have not been seen by the Australian community to work with local authorities to properly investigate these crimes, no-one has been charged, and you have shown no reasonable leadership in rectifying this situation. As it stands, your contract with Transfield Services is still in effect. Communities under your governance have been taking notice and taking a stand as a result. Again, amongst the mounting number of communities of all kinds protesting:
Back in February 2014, The Australian Lawyers Alliance said: “Following reports of beatings, escapes, and serious injury, including attacks with machetes, the Australian Lawyers Alliance highlighted that Australia has a duty to asylum seekers which appears to be in gross breach.” They also go on to state:
“No matter what misery and denial of their humanity that asylum seekers are exposed to in detention centres flung around the Pacific, the fact is that there is nowhere Australia can run from its international obligations. Australia will be held accountable in a court of law.”
Minister: it is unconscionable for me to contribute to these disgusting and illegal acts of child abuse and assault with my tax dollars, and I cannot pay this portion. I know that the figures are generalised and largely notional, but the point and principle remains: Australian tax payers are funding the state-sponsored abuse of adults and children. And I cannot be a part of that.
Would you please respond to the following questions:
- When will you cease the contract with Transfield Services and its associated partners?
- If not immediately, what is actually more important than the lives of men, women and children, the appropriate and legal spending of tax revenue, even Australia’s international reputation, that you would still be delaying?
- It is now abundantly clear to both the domestic and international communities that Australian offshore processing of asylum seekers does not work and is unsustainable. What action will you take to cease this practice?
In your response, please do not mention:
- That is a complex issue, and so on. I know it is, and I and my fellow tax payers are trusting you and your department to have all the facts — much more so than what you let on publicly, hopefully — and are trusting you to do better.
- That it’s about border protection, security, stopping boats, all that distracting palaver. I have had several correspondences with Hon. Philip Ruddock on this matter. I wish I had a reply from an earlier letter to your previous incumbent Hon. Scott Morrison, but I never received a reply. My point is this: this has nothing to do with stopping boats and border protection. This has everything to do with people who are already here, and under your care. Please do not conflate a human rights issue with a border policy issue.
- That it’s the previous government’s fault. In these matters, I don’t actually care what party is or has been in power. I know that it was the Gillard government that enacted offshore processing in the first place. I would like to park any political rhetoric, and make it about current policy and action.
Once I receive your reply, and if it eases my conscience, I will happily pay the remainder of my tax owing.