Sen Nicholas McKim
Sen Nicholas McKim Photo Parliament of Australia website PalView

The human rights abuses that Australia, our country, has perpetrated on so many hundreds of people are becoming more egregious by the hour and by the day. Hope, that most precious of feelings, has been dashed from the hearts of so many hundreds of the people that Australia has detained on Manus Island and Nauru over the years. It was dashed again when a transcript of the phone call between Prime Minister Turnbull and Donald Trump—the man who, by the way, conspired with Russia to hack the US election and steal the US presidency—was released. I could not believe it when I read that transcript—our Prime Minister describing Australia’s detainees on Manus Island and Nauru as ‘economic refugees’. Mr Turnbull, there’s no such thing as an economic refugee. You are making stuff up.

But that was by no means the end of the astonishing confessions made by Prime Minister Turnbull in that phone call. We learnt that the US deal obliged the US to take not a single refugee from Manus Island and Nauru. We know that because, when Donald Trump asked Prime Minister Turnbull what about if he didn’t take anyone, Mr Turnbull replied, ‘That’s exactly the point I am trying to make.’ Then Donald Trump, described Malcolm Turnbull, as worse than he, Donald Trump, is. You know you are in trouble when probably the world’s most renowned racist describes you as worse than he is. Then we had to read of Donald Trump’s joy at learning about Australia’s immigration framework and suggesting that they should borrow some of it for the US. You know you have an inhumane immigration framework when Donald Trump thinks he should borrow some of it.

When hope is lost you haven’t got much left, and that is the situation that many, many hundreds of people find themselves in on Manus Island and Nauru as we sit here tonight. But their words can say it much better than I can. So I am going to read from a letter dated 24 July this year, only a couple of weeks ago, from the men on Manus Island. This was signed by many hundreds of them. I will quote from the letter:

There is no safety and security for us in the town as we have experienced time and time again. We have been beaten up, robbed, humiliated and insulted by locals almost every single day.

We are not going to fight and we are not going to cause any unrest. We are powerless and weak.

Our souls are destroyed under your cruel regime of years of torture and trauma by your offshore detention.

You have the army, the police and all of the necessary manpower and equipment.

Bring them here and we will line up so you can shoot us to end our misery if you want to force us out.

Australian citizens and the world are very well aware of this and they know that PNG will not drink a sip of water without Australia’s permission.

You are funding this cruel inhumane system and your money is giving the orders here.

That is a letter signed by many hundreds of Australia’s detainees on Manus Island.

Australia’s actions on Manus Island in cutting off water, cutting off electricity from compounds inside the Lombrum detention centre and progressively demolishing compounds once they have coerced refugees out of them by denying them their basic and fundamental human rights, are creating a human crisis on Manus Island and it’s playing out right now as we sit here in this place this evening. There is no safe place for the men on Manus Island other than evacuating them immediately to safety in Australia.

But it’s not just Manus Island; it is also Nauru. Here is a letter signed by numerous detainees on Nauru. I will read an excerpt from the letter:

Some of us have children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and family in Australia. Our families are heartbroken and devastated from the separation.

We stopped protesting in November 2016, when the Prime Minister promised to free us and allow us to go to USA. We felt the life come back into our blood with just a tiny bit of hope and thought of freedom. We are still not free nine months later! We are more tormented than ever because we were tantalised with a glimpse, and then slowly let down, yet again.

We have been imprisoned for four years on Nauru. We are punished for our patience and good will …

We are good people. We just want freedom in a country where we belong … We are human, we want to be responsible for our own lives.

We cannot take this anymore, the lies and false promises are killing us and destroying our minds and souls.

I met many of the men on Manus Island when I travelled there recently and I’m here to tell you that they are human beings, just like us. They want to work and make a contribution to society, just like we do. They dream of safety and security for themselves and for their families, just like we do. They want to be free, just like we do. They want to enjoy their liberty, just like we do. They want to make choices about their lives, just like we do.

We in this place are the people who have the capacity to help them achieve those dreams, goals and aspirations that they have for their lives. It just needs a majority of people in this place and in the House of Representatives and we can free them. We can evacuate them to safety. We can bring them here where we can look after them, where they can contribute to our society, where they can work, where they can volunteer, and where they can raise their children, love their wives, love their husbands and reunite with their grandparents in some cases. All it takes is a majority of votes in the two houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. That’s all it would take. I urge people to look into their hearts, look deeply into their consciences and revisit this issue because we have an unfolding humanitarian crisis on our hands. More people—and I use the word ‘more’ advisedly in this context—are going to die, suffer and lead horrendously compromised and harmed lives if we don’t act in this place to save them.

Chamber Senate on 8/08/2017Item ADJOURNMENT – Immigration Detention Speaker: McKim, Sen Nicholas Parliment of Australia Transcript used for News Reporting