Senator McKIM: In respect of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 annual reports of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, I move:
That the Senate take note of the reports.
Over the period covered by these annual reports we’ve seen a massive expansion in the powers of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Dutton, as he continues to oversee the oppressive regimes of offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru—and these are unconscionable regimes. We can see the banality of these regimes in some of the disgraceful leaking of so-called information against Mr Abdul Aziz Adam. Aziz is a genuine refugee who has been detained for 4½ years on Manus Island. He is a man who has suffered immeasurably, as have many, many hundreds of other detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, because of the actions of Mr Dutton and his Liberal and Labor predecessors.
Aziz had the audacity to ask a question on the ABC’s Q&A earlier this week, and, for having had the audacity to publicly ask why he has not been given the protection that Australia legally owes him, in revenge, the office of the immigration minister leaked so-called information about Aziz to the Australian. Unfortunately, the article was based on false premises and false information leaked by the minister’s office. Firstly, the article described Aziz as an asylum seeker. That is not correct. He’s actually a refugee and has been found to be a refugee by the PNG government. Secondly, and more seriously, it claimed that Aziz has not applied for US resettlement. This is false. He has applied for resettlement to the US. The article also claimed, on the basis of information provided from Mr Dutton’s office, that Aziz has been involved in a specific number of protests in the Manus Island detention centre. I have no doubt that’s true. In fact, I’ve been involved, sitting next to Aziz, in a protest myself inside the Manus Island detention centre.
What this shows is that Mr Dutton’s spooks are watching every move that these men make, because they still have absolute control over what is going on on Manus Island and Nauru. They are counting how many protests refugees go to, they are counting what actions refugees take at those protests and they are documenting every action that the refugees take. I say to Mr Dutton: instead of spying on these innocent people and maliciously leaking against them to your favourite pamphlet—the unofficial sponsor of the Cronulla riots in this country, The Australian newspaper—how about treating these people like the human beings that they are; respecting the legal rights that they have, which we have signed up under international law to abide by; and resettling them and bringing them to freedom and safety, which we should have done years ago?
As we stand here today, the cruelty of this government has reached ever higher levels because Mr Dutton is, as we stand here, forcibly separating a man from his family and putting this man—and I spoke about this in the adjournment debate last night; Arash is a refugee on Nauru—in a position that none of us in this chamber would ever want to be in. I hope that none of us are ever in this position where we’re forced to choose between a shot at freedom and the chance to hold our baby daughter in our arms for the very first time. That is the situation that this government is placing Arash in. There are plenty of Liberal and National senators in this place who pontificate and lecture the rest of the country about how much they care about family values—what rot. If they cared about family values, they wouldn’t be trying to smash up this family and deny this man a chance to hold his beautiful baby daughter in his arms for the very first time.
I say to those opposite: you don’t care about his family, you don’t care about his wife and you don’t care about his daughter. You only care about your political game. That’s all you care about. So don’t come in here and start giving us lectures about how much you care about families. I do not believe you; I do not believe any one of you. If you cared about families, you wouldn’t be doing this. You’ve covered up and you’ve played down reports of abuse, including the sexual abuse of children and the neglect of children. You’ve covered them up time after time after time.
Senator McGrath: Get off your soapbox!
Senator McKIM: I don’t care how much Senator McGrath wants to lose control of himself.
Senator McGrath: You’re the one losing control.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Reynolds ): Senator McGrath, I can’t hear what Senator McKim is saying, so keep your interjections to a minimum.
Senator McKIM: They have covered up and played down allegations of child abuse, including child sexual abuse. They have ignored the pleas of doctors who’ve sought to properly care for people who’ve been broken under the orders of the Labor Party and the Liberal Party in this place. Both Labor and Liberal have the blood of innocent people on their hands because of the punitive, disgusting and disgraceful policies that they’ve put in place around offshore detention.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McGrath, you have a point of order?
Senator McGrath: I have a point of order. I would ask that he withdraw that we have blood on our hands.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McKim, I would ask that you withdraw that statement.
Senator McKIM: I do not believe that it’s unparliamentary, and I will not withdraw it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McGrath?
Senator McGrath: I would ask—through you, Madam Acting Deputy President—that he does withdraw it, because it does reflect upon the Labor Party and the Liberal Party to say that we have blood on our hands. That is a direct reflection upon senators in this chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McKim, I would ask you to because it does reflect very poorly and I think it is very unparliamentary—that is, the accusations that are behind that on senators on both sides of this chamber. I would ask you withdraw those reflections or perhaps clarify them in a less pejorative way.
Senator McKIM: The simple fact is that they do have blood on their hands. People have died as a result of the policies of the Labor and Liberal parties, and I stand by that comment—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Reynolds ): Senator Whish-Wilson, do you have a point of order?
Senator Whish-Wilson: I have a point of order. Could I suggest that you take away and reflect on the Hansard and make a decision based on that reflection?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I will, but I’ll provide Senator McKim one further opportunity to perhaps clarify what he actually meant by that statement before I adopt Senator Whish-Wilson’s suggestion.
Senator McKIM: I’m happy to clarify because I do respect the chair. By that comment, I’m saying they are directly responsible for the death of human beings. That’s what I’m saying.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Whish-Wilson, thank you. I will take that away and reflect on the Hansard and will get back through the President if required.
Senator McKIM: Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. The Labor and Liberal parties have shown their willingness to not only torture people—that is, to deliberately harm people in order to coerce outcomes out of another group of people entirely; they’re basically acting like the old-style medieval cities that impaled corpses on the walls to try and dissuade other desperate people from seeking entry into those cities. That is exactly what they’re doing with living human beings on Manus Island and Nauru: they are treating them in a way that they know will cause deliberate and significant harm, and they are doing it in order to dissuade other people from taking certain actions. I do not recognise my country when I talk about these matters.
The terrible tragedy of this situation is that most of this cruelty would be so much harder for the government to do if the Labor Party would actually show the slightest sign of standing up against it. I want to go on the record here and say that, in years to come, there will be a royal commission into the way we’ve treated these people on Manus Island and Nauru. Reparations will be made, apologies will be made and blame will be apportioned, and the blame will be apportioned to the Labor, Liberal and National parties in this place and to other senators in this place who’ve supported them in lockstep every step of the way. When that day comes, I hope that the people that you have treated so appallingly on Manus Island and Nauru can take small solace from that. It will only be small because their lives will still have been damaged and some of them will still be dead because of what you have done to them. You will be held to account in the same way that, I hope, the Catholic Church will be held to account for what it’s done. If you can’t stand up and demand a stop to what, I believe, is early-onset fascism—reflected in the actions of the Labor and Liberal parties on Manus Island and Nauru and policy settings around that, and in the way that the minister currently responds to circumstances, such as Arash’s where he is deliberately trying to use a denial of access to the US resettlement deal in order to coerce Arash’s wife and baby daughter back to Nauru—then you are a party to that abuse. It is as simple as that. So let’s actually stand together. Let’s demand better from the government and let’s demand better from the minister. If you don’t, you will be remembered by history as collaborators to torture.
Chamber Senate on 6/12/2017 Item COMMITTEES – Human Rights Committee – Report Speaker: McKim, Sen Nicholas