So it is happening: the next stage in our offshore detention regime, in which a widespread indifference to how the 600 detainees on Manus Island live has been replaced by a widespread indifference to the idea that some of them might die, violently, or through untreated illness. Greens Senator Nick McKim has used the strongest language, accusing Immigration Minister Peter Dutton of being "racist … and fascist".
There is more than a touch of Mussolini about the way that has gone down, across governments of both parties, the systematic creation of a group of people as "social enemies", their penning in camps as non-citizens, and the shift by which their non-personhood becomes the guarantor of our citizenship; anything can be done to them, to make meaningful our rights and protections. Mussolini, yes, but this goes back before that, to British concentration camps against Zulus, Boers and others in the Boer War, Spanish camps in Cuba in the 1890s, French camps in Algeria in the 1830s. The detention camp is the mode by which the modern state guarantees itself.