Senator McKIM: Despite having been repeatedly asked not to bring the facts about Manus Island and Nauru into this chamber, I have continued to do that. The Australian Greens have continued to do that, and I want to do it again today.
It is now more than five years since the Australian Labor Party reopened the Manus Island detention centre and the Nauru detention centre, and more than four long years since the Abbott government began turning around desperate people at sea, abusing their human rights, trampling on their freedoms and liberties, and exiling them, as Australia’s political prisoners, to Manus Island and Nauru. Amnesty International has described the treatment of some of these refugees and people seeking asylum as tantamount to torture, and the Australian Greens agree with that assessment. We see the sick pleasure that some coalition senators, including the newly minted Senator Molan, one of the authors of the disgraceful offshore detention regime, seem to draw from the misery they are inflicting on innocent men, women and children in detention.
But it is the Australian Labor Party’s cowardice on this issue that has given the coalition a blank cheque for the unspeakable cruelty it is perpetrating on refugees and people seeking asylum. In fact, if the Labor Party had shown an ounce of decency on this issue at any time in the last five years, the situation would not have deteriorated into the human rights calamity that it is today. The people of Australia are heartsick and disgusted at what is being done in their name, and millions of them are demanding that the situation be resolved.
Despite years of ineffective hand-wringing from some members in the Australian Labor Party, that party’s policy position has only hardened and solidified—just like their hearts. Their motivation is actually not relevant here. Remember, it was Kevin Rudd who declared that no person who arrived by boat would resettle in Australia, and that remains the case today. How can the Australian Labor Party continue to sit on their collective hands after all that they have seen and all that has been revealed in this chamber and in innumerable Senate inquiries championed by the Australian Greens?
The ALP candidate for Batman, Ms Ged Kearney, has said recently that she accepted the reality of Labor’s policy despite previously speaking out against it. Well, what she calls an ‘acceptance of reality’ we call a ‘denial of humanity’. It’s a retreat into cowardice. It puts the safety and protection of thousands of innocent men, women and children behind base political priorities. Because despite Ged Kearney and other Labor members muttering reasonable and nice words about the issue, the only thing that actually matters is how they vote in this place. It’s votes in the parliament that determine the government. It’s votes in the parliament that determine our laws. And it is votes in the parliament that can evacuate Manus Island and Nauru and bring those innocent people here to Australia.
But they won’t vote for that because they’re beholden to the ALP’s factional machine. Despite all the horrors and despite all the cruelty that we’ve seen, Labor has only moved further away from decency on this issue. They repeatedly refuse to support any efforts in here to evacuate the men, women and children from Manus Island and Nauru and bring them here to safety and freedom in Australia. Ms Kearney has confirmed she’s going to line up with Peter Dutton; she’s going to line up with the LNP to keep people locked up on Manus Island and Nauru.
People in offshore detention cannot afford to wait for this mythical change from within the Australian Labor Party, and reassuring words offer them no hope whatsoever. People will not be freed from Manus Island or Nauru by electing hand-wringers from the Australian Labor Party. The only way to green up the ALP is to vote Green. It’s the only language the Labor Party understands. If we are going to close the camps and bring those innocent people—those desperate people, who only want two things: freedom and safety—to Australia, we need votes in this parliament now. We need people elected to this parliament who are prepared not just to talk the talk but to walk the walk, and the only way that we are going to get that is to elect more MPs who will vote to evacuate Manus Island and Nauru, and who will vote to end the horrors of offshore detention. In Batman, that can only mean a vote for the Greens.
Chamber Senate on 6/02/2018 Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Asylum Seekers Speaker :McKim, Sen Nicholas /Attributed to Parliament of Australia website/ website is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia licence.