Below is a copy of a letter sent by a formidable list of former Australians of the Year to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the opposition leader Bill Shorten. This has been contributed by Georgina Gartland. The letter is reproduced below, with no further comment, because it speaks for itself.
Dear Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten,
We, as former Australians of the Year, representing the hearts and minds of the nation, are deeply concerned about the health and human disaster that is unfolding on Manus Island.
In the coming days, it is inevitable that people will become sick and even die through the lack of basic sanitation, food, water, and medical care.
Australians from all walks of life, from all sides of the political spectrum, are hoping that the Government with the support of the Opposition will now move to prevent these consequences of neglect. We believe that it is time to stop the unacceptable and internationally criticised treatment of the refugees on Manus Island, who, though innocent of any crime, have been incarcerated and now abandoned there.
This treatment does not represent who we are as Australians, or indeed as human beings.
We should not withhold water from people, nor withhold food; we should not leave seriously ill people to die without medication and treatment.
We are also concerned about Australia’s international reputation in human rights. It seems that both our major political parties have failed to meet their most basic obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention, one that our country helped to negotiate and which we signed in 1951.
The irony of Australia’s recent appointment to the UN Council for Human Rights is palpable. Do we now condemn our own actions?
We plead with you to immediately restore all essential services to the men on Manus Island. Please allow the Australian Medical Association to provide medical and preventive care, as they have recently offered, as soon as possible. At the same time please find safe haven for the acknowledged genuine refugees without any further delay.
We cannot see any good for Australia to pursue this policy in connection with Manus Island. We believe that the Australian Government is the one that needs to act in this matter and not the government of Papua New Guinea.
Australians of the Year
2015 Rosie Batty
2013 Ita Buttrose
2011 Simon McKeon
2010 Patrick McGorry
2009 Mick Dodson
2007 Tim Flannery
2005 Fiona Wood
2003 Fiona Stanley
2000 Gustav Nossal
1997 Peter Doherty
1996 John Yu
1983 Robert de Castella