The ABC program Q&A is known for holding up a mirror to Australia, and it’s standing with people, unfortunately for Australia, last night’s mirror was dirty than hoped.
The topic of immigration and offshore detention is always going to be a hotly debated topic which panellist Huy Truong called Australia’s “version of the Trump Mexican wall”.
When a question about the recent poll that showed that 49 percent of Australian want to ban immigration of Muslims, panellist Danielle Habib shared a very personal and disturbing story. “Recently a person jumped over the fence of my Muslim girlfriend’s house and cut the heads off her baby rabbits,” she shared, “She is spat at and sworn at in front of her children all because she is Muslim. Our political setting seems to be pushing a strong anti-Muslim sentiment through polls on Muslim immigration and senators with strong anti-Muslim rhetoric. Why are pollsters allowed to ask such inflammatory questions?”
The debate did get heated, but it was surprisingly what wasn’t said that was the most surprising. Teacher Larissa Mitchell works with a group of asylum seekers that arrived by boat in 2012. When these students should be working on their exams and projects, they are scared that at any moment they will forcibly removed from their adopted home. Larissa question for the panel was is it “Australia’s responsibility in ensuring that asylum seekers like my students can consider their future with confidence in knowing that they will be able to call Australia their permanent and not temporary home?”
At this point in the broadcast, host Tony Jones pointed out “There are a number of people in this audience, young people who submitted questions to us and then withdrew them because they were afraid that their temporary protection status would be looked upon badly by the government so they have withdrawn questions. We have a teacher who is asking the questions on their behalf.” Larissa was asking the question on behalf of students who are scared of challenging the Australian government.
It’s not only the fear but as refugee advocate Shukufa Tahiri pointed out it’s a physical and mental issue as the pressure on refugees is “driving people into self-harm and suicide. In our community alone in the past 12 months, there has been six cases of suicide and self-harm”.
While the argument for national security is a big one the question of whether or not Australia has lost its humanity when it comes to people that need our help.