Dear Prime Minister,
May I call you Kevin? I would not deign to do so out of disrespect for your office. You are, after all the 26th Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia; the country of my birth, and the land I count myself blessed to be able to call my home. You are currently last in the succession of a catalogue of mostly great and noble men, and your name will undoubtedly be writ large on the pages of our country’s history.
I ask because we are an informal society here in Australia, and our tradition lends itself to a presupposition of familiarity and camaraderie unless circumstances dictate otherwise. There is no man or woman I do not address by their given name, besides those that would mark themselves as hostile toward me, or toward that which I hold dear. In such odious circumstances, to address one by their formal title is an expression of contempt, rather than of respect.
Beyond convention, and while we have never met personally, we have a history of connection via social media. I befriended you via myspace during your campaign in 2007 and I follow you on twitter to this day. Indeed, I campaigned for you in my own small way through mediums such as these, inasmuch as I helped disseminate your message to my own circle of friends, who passed the word along to theirs. It was the cumulative effect of such small ripples as mine that grew into the tsunami of popular opinion that carried you into office, Kevin. It was not a close race on election night. You waltzed home with a clear mandate for change, and for many months enjoyed unprecedented popularity, as you stood by your word and did everything in your considerable power to do what your country had asked you to do. Those were heady and potent days – days I was proud to have experienced as an Australian. My Prime Minister was, for the first time in over a decade, a statesman worthy of the world’s attention.
I write now of a single purpose, as is the luxury of one who does not shoulder the burden of public office. Of all the many things I believe you have done right (and there are many), there is one issue above others where I believe you have dropped the ball. In doing so you have failed my expectations, and perhaps the expectations of many such as me – the people who carried you into office.
I speak of asylum seekers – the vast majority of whom prove to be legitimate refugees. The world’s most desperate and vulnerable people whose only crime was to be born in a country that does not share our values, nor afford the same protections that people like me are fortunate to take for granted. I would not presume to condescend to you by outlining the plight of these people, Kevin. I have no qualms, however, in registering my outrage with the way your office has mishandled this issue. You have allowed your political opponents to direct your actions, indeed, to frame the language of discussion of this topic. Your actions now mirror those of your predecessor, and they make me deeply ashamed.
Australians do not punish the suffering. We are a compassionate people. We may err on the side of leniency. We should never – ever – forget where we came from, and how damned lucky we are to be here. This country was built with the sweat, the love, the gratitude of people who came here to find a better life. It is not for politicians to decide that future Australians are unworthy because of an accident of birth or circumstance. It is for these people to be given the opportunity to prove themselves.
Just before you came to office I attended the funeral of a very good friend. He died as a federal criminal. His crime was to cut the wire of the Woomera (from memory, I could be mistaken) detention centre and harbour a family of refugees. His was an extreme example of a man acting with conscience to counteract the actions of a government that was breaking international law. Now you are also breaking international law. Don’t make me a federal criminal too, Kevin. Don’t make yourself an international criminal. It’s not what I voted for, and it’s not the legacy you deserve. Don’t make me vote for you solely because you’re slightly less heinous than the alternative. I voted for a man of principle. Please be that man.