An Open Letter to Tony Abbott regarding the United Nations

“The best thing you can do to uphold the universal decencies of mankind, the best thing you can do to ensure that the best values of our world are realised is to stop the boats”

Mr Abbott,

I haven’t met you, but I am told that you are a perfectly genial person in the flesh. People I know, people who aren’t on your side of politics, have said that in person you are friendly, jovial, even charming.

I have been in the same room as you, but I’m one of those people for whom celebrity doesn’t override social values: I would rather not introduce myself to you because I don’t really know what I’d have to say. With the exception of our long-term commitments to Surf Lifesaving, I don’t actually think we have that much in common. At all.

But you’re the Prime Minister of my country, and so I listen to the things you have to say, sometimes rolling my eyes, sometimes straining to understand why you seem to seek out the messiest, most destructively antisocial approach to public life I have experienced.

But with these most recent remarks, attacking the United Nations, you just seem to have stepped off the cliff of sensibility. I don’t understand you, I never will, but seriously: your morality is utterly perverse.

I was raised Catholic. These days I am agnostic, but I still have a pretty strong respect for the finer moral moments of the Church. And having grown up in Catholic schools, I can’t fathom how any person who claims to be a Christian – as you do – can square the circle of Manus Island with that faith.

You say that the ‘best thing you can do to ensure the best values of our world are realised is to stop the boats’.

This is patently completely ridiculous.

The best values of our world are exemplified by the United Nations.

The UN was set up to guide the world out of the brutal carnage and appalling tragedy of the Second World War and the Holocaust. Its commitment to the principles of human rights has been a scarifying light, blasted into the dark recesses of human nature.

The UN has confronted for decades the excesses of power that kill and torture children and their parents, that shred families, that oppress minorities, that rape and plunder our natural environment.

The UN established conventions on the treatment of refugees to protect people who are dislocated by war and abuse. This convention, established after the psychic horror inflicted on the Jews, is designed to protect vulnerable people fleeing persecution.

Likewise conventions against torture, abuse, the degradation of fear and suffering – the United Nations has sought to realise ‘the best values of our world’, and to ‘uphold the universal decencies of humankind’.

Mr Abbott.

‘Stopping the boats’ is not a realisation of these values.

Locking children and their parents in offshore detention centres is not a realisation of these values.

Your attendant politicking – attacking the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, attacking the UN – is not a realisation of these values.

Because by ‘stopping the boats’ the way you have – through torture, fear, incarceration and abuse – you have perpetuated the very evil that the United Nations has been fighting for decades.

There are many ways to ‘stop the boats’ that do not require torture, but you are not interested in them. You made that clear when you white-washed the new Pacific Solution, and you make it clearer daily when you attack the global champions of human rights.

The way to ‘stop the boats’ and realise the ‘best values of our world’ is to work with the UN, not against it. You should be finding a way to care for refugees, to soothe the tensions in the world.

Both of which do not involve cutting our humanitarian intake and rolling back foreign aid.

In short, surprise surprise, you are a hypocrite. But worse – a dangerous one who for some nefarious reason is deeply troubled by the efforts of the UN at creating a world at peace.

I don’t know why you are like this, it certainly doesn’t accord with your community service and your Catholic faith. Maybe you are just incredibly parochial.

But I’ve had enough of it. It’s completely obscene, and damaging the country you were elected to serve.

I, for one, am not sick of the United Nations. I am sick of you.

Resign, dickhead.


Pat Norman


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