Memo to NZ’s cosseted bourgeois politicians: NO, Christmas Island actually isn’t about YOU

Protest called by Global Peace and Justice (Auckland) and supported by Unite trade union, Australian
Protest called by Global Peace and Justice (Auckland) and supported by Unite trade union, Australian Consulate, Auckland, Wednesday, Nov 11

by Philip Ferguson

As a major article we put up on this blog a few days noted in some detail, the detention of people on Christmas Island is a horrendous breach of human rights (see here).  Even usually bland NZ TV reporters and commentators have felt compelled to criticise the treatment of asylum-seekers, refugees and NZ citizens facing deportation from ‘The Lucky Country’.  Finally having had enough of the mistreatment a section of those being held in what is effectively a concentration camp on the island, led it seems by NZ deportees, staged a revolt on Sunday night/Monday morning (see here).  The revolt has been put down by the authorities and some of those sick of being treated liked abused animals have been removed to prison in Perth and potentially face serious charges.

There is no indication so far from the Australian government that any changes will be made to the regime and conditions at the concentration camp, let alone any rethink around asylum and refugee issues or around the deportation of what are really Australians – but happen to hold NZ citizenship – back to this side of the ditch.

The terrible situation and conditions of the detainees on Christmas Island – desperate asylum-seekers and NZers facing deportation back here, to a country they may not have lived in for decades – is, however, being lost in the stage performances being put on by very comfortable $150,000-a-year-plus-benefits-and-allowances middle class politicians who seem to think it’s all about them.  (And that’s just the salary of a ‘lowly’ MP.)

Key clearly doesn’t give a shit about the impoverished asylum-seekers and refugees being held in concentration camps by the Australian government.  He doesn’t even care much about the New Zealand-born – but for all intents and purposes Australian – people being held on Christmas Island while facing deportation to this country, either.

As opposition politicians called him out over this, Key found he didn’t have a ready script and threw back something he hoped would shut them up.  In fairness, Key wasn’t specifically talking solely about the NZers on Christmas Island, but about all the NZers who, having been convicted in Australia, are now facing being deported back to New Zealand.  But in claiming opposition MPs were supporting child molesterers (sic) and rapists, Key did the unforgivable – place himself on a moral high ground that the liberal-left have been claiming as theirs and theirs alone.

While some of these politicians probably genuinely mistook what Key had said, and responded with outrage, they’ve actually now had time to think about it.  Instead of realising that, however offended they might be, the most important question here is not the insult they feel in the comfort and security of their big salaries, benefits and allowances and coddled existence at our expense, but the treatment of people on Christmas Island much worse off than them.

Ironically, the parliamentarian making the most sense over all this is the usually ultra-bland Christian Peter Dunne.  Dunne has written, for instance:

“Somewhere along the way this week the plot got well and truly lost. Uproar in Parliament, walk-outs, protests and people shouting at and over each other may be all good theatre, a modern form of gladiators in the arena if you like, but after it is over, the fact remains, nothing has changed as a result.

“Moreover, the issue itself seems to have become secondary to the noise it has generated. And the issue here is simple: Australia is treating people in its detention camps – in the main New Zealanders awaiting deportation – in a way that is appalling, no matter which way you look at it. Yes, there are definitely very evil people amongst them who have committed unspeakable crimes, with whom we would not usually wish to associate, but they still have the same basic human rights as the rest of us. The argument should be focussing on how these rights are being upheld in the detention camps. On the strong face of it, the detainees are now worse off than when they were in prison, even though they have presumably paid for their crimes in Australia. This cannot be just.”

No, of course, it cannot be just.  But it can be – and is – a necessary part of capitalism.  Despite all the chatter about globalisation and the freeing up of capital, in all its forms, to move around the world, people are more and more being enclosed behind frontiers.  And the frontiers are more walled and more guarded than ever.  And the people beyond the walls, the people capital is determined to keep beyond the walls, are the impoverished proletarians and peasant farmers of the parts of the world plundered by the western capitalist powers.

And, needless to say, it is precisely the capitalist system which all the politicians putting on performances in the NZ parliament are dedicated to maintaining, however much any of them want it to have a more humane mask.

Further reading:

Workers rights and open borders:

The case for global freedom of movement:

The case for open borders:

New Zealand’s immigration controls: not in workers’ interests:

Capitalism, Third World poverty and migration:

Another word on “foreigners”, xenophobia and racism: 

Depriving Samoans of immigration and citizenship rights:

On the White New Zealand policy: 



  1. If these offended MPs want to do something concrete to help those detained on Christmas Island, other than grandstand, let them go over and sit around the wire fence and go on hunger strike until the Australian government abandons concentration camps and detention of asylum-seekers, refugees and NZ deportees.

  2. All the years when the Clark Labour government was in power I don’t recall their MPs protesting or even speaking against the detention centers in Australia. Nor did the NZ Labour politicians object when Australian Labour PM Keating brought in mandatory detention for asylum seekers in 1992. The appalling prison camps are the legacy of that Australian Labour government.

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