In his Lowy Lecture Prime Minister Scott Morrison combined Australia with the word "we" in an echo of John Howard's infamous statement, that "we decide who comes to this country and the circumstances under which they come".
Morrison said his government knows "who we are and know what we stand for and allow this to ... ensure that our national interests remain always paramount". He added "It does not serve our national interests when international institutions demand conformity rather than independent cooperation on global issues". He called that demand, negative globalism.
The notion of "philoxenia", is entirely absent from this view. In ancient Greek times, philoxenia was the virtue of the host honouring the guest, and vice versa. It is the virtue of opening your home to friends, family, and strangers. It is a value that needs to be practised in the home, at work and, most of all, it should be the hallmark of good government. Good government is not self-interest.
The Australian government's total absence of respect for the stranger can be seen close up in the film MANUS created by Archibald Prize finalist Angus McDonald. He created the film around footage shot by Walkley-winning journalist Olivia Rousset when she secretly visited Manus at the end of 2017. The men held on Manus were ordered to move to unfinished and unsafe new centres nearby, but hundreds refused to leave,resulting in a standoff that lasted several weeks. The film focuses entirely on the testimonials of the men, and includes at the end, a poem about Manus written by Kurdish journalist, award-winning writer, and asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani, voiced by him specifically for the film in Farsi.
McDonald wrote that he wanted the public to hear from the men themselves in this film, something that happens too rarely and suits the federal government.
He explains the film is "about innocent people in a long, brutal predicament, told in their own words, intended to provide powerful insights into their situation and humanise their plight for the public. We need to recognise that those who arrive are simply people running for their lives who seek our help and we need to begin helping them instead of adding further to their suffering. This is a film about humanity and solidarity".
Angus McDonald will be at a screening of MANUS hosted by Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy at the Creator Incubator 6pm-8pm on October 16. Entry by donation.