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Shooting the messenger — forgetting the children

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There are children and young people nearing suicide because Abbott is trying to bully and shame their protector, Gillian Triggs, into resignation, writes Bob Ellis.

A girl who jumped off a balcony, attempting suicide, in Darwin because, she said, she would rather die than go back to detention in Nauru was told, soothingly, she wouldn't be in detention for long.

But she would be in Nauru for 90 years.

Far from a man she might marry, far from a university education, probably jobless, for ninety years. Dutton has said she will "never be resettled in Australia" and that, it seems, is her lot. Her destiny. Her destination.

Or have I got that wrong? Is there some other place she might be allowed to live, and marry, and raise a family, or pursue a career?

Doesn't seem so.

In a disgraceful performance yesterday, attacking Triggs ("It was like shooting Bambi," an aghast backbencher said) and quoting the numbers of children in detention under Labor and under the Coalition, a hydrophobic Abbott reminded usand Malcolm Turnbull also what the issue is.

It is not how many children are in detention, or out of it. It is how they are doing. In either place.

A child of twelve who has been raped in detention is not cured if she is "released into the community". She needs counselling, medical care if she has been infected or impregnated and a family support group – grandmothers, uncles, older sisters – she may not have. And she needs somewhere better to live and see out her years than Nauru.

Because, for one thing, her assailant still lives there and it's a very small island. He is still on the loose – of course he is – and he may come after her on any night, for a "re-match", or to kill her perhaps — smother or knife her and thereby shut her up.

And it does not matter even if there were more children abused under Labor than under the Coalition. What matters is how they are now. Are they living with their parents in Australia? Is their father able to work? Are they able to work? Are they in Villawood, or Curtin, or Baxter? What is the food like there? What psychological counselling are they getting? What language is it in? Have their assailants been imprisoned? Why not?

There is a distinct similarity between what we have learned this week about abuse at Knox and what we have known, for a while now, of abuse on Nauru.  In each case, it was  known, well known by the designated authorities, tolerated, and covered up. Even Peter Fitzsimons, a noisy, agitating fellow, did not raise his big voice, and so let a pervert continue his ministrations for thirty years.

Many, many Liberals have been abused in boarding school and for a lifetime covered it up. And in the Triggs revelations we see other cases of child abuse covered up by Liberals, denied by Liberals, derided by Liberals, boarding school Liberals, most noisily Abbott, who, the Duffy book Latham And Abbott suggests, is covering up still the rapes of 'younger seminarians' in St Stephens, where he trained to be a priest.

Is there a connection between his rage yesterday, in a performance that has surely cost him his prime ministership, and the sexual abuse in the seminary that shaped his soul? Just asking.

In the meantime, there are children and young people nearing suicide because Abbott is trying to bully and shame their protector, Triggs, into resignation. Will they get counselling? Of course not. Will they see their extended family again? Of course not. Will Triggs be allowed to see them again? Of course not.

This is one of the worst elected governments in the history of the world and it seems now a madman is running it.

Does anybody not believe this?

Hands up.

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