Senator DI NATALE (Victoria—Leader of the Australian Greens): I rise to speak about what this matter of public importance is actually about, and that is about the fate of those innocent people languishing in a jail where water and sanitation have been cut off. It is a humanitarian catastrophe, a crisis that needs to be resolved, and resolved urgently.
We now have over 400 men enclosed in the former detention centre, where food, water, sanitation and medical supplies, including medication, have been cut off from these people. Now, as a doctor, I can only imagine what the health consequences of these actions will be. We are going to see the spread of disease as a result of the lack of access to clean drinking water and to sanitation. That is a sure thing if this continues.
We know that many of these people are traumatised. They have fled wars. They have fled persecution and trauma. These are traumatised people, many of whom are depressed and many of whom are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Their psychotropic medication has now been withdrawn. We know that the abrupt withdrawal of medication like that can precipitate suicide. We know that people will die. Anti-convulsant medication has been taken away from people with epilepsy. It is remarkable that here we are in 21st century Australia and we have a government that is prepared to inflict more cruelty and more trauma on innocent people who are suffering. These aren’t just the words of the Greens or of refugee advocates. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch have said this. We’ve heard Amnesty International describe what has happened to these people as torture. They are all saying this is a humanitarian crisis.
Senator Ian Macdonald: Who is?
More than a week ago we saw water, electricity and food supplies cut off. People have been told, ‘You need to move out,’ but we know from the UNHCR that the reported facilities that were supposed to be ready are not fit for human habitation. But that, of course, is not the major issue. The major issue is that we are asking people to come out of that detention centre and go into an environment where there are a number of people in the local community who simply don’t want them there and who are prepared to use violence to resolve this conflict. The fear of these individuals is real.
I pay tribute to Senator McKim for having the bravery and the courage to go there and bear witness to what’s going on. Senator McKim stands like a beacon in this place for being prepared to bear witness. It’s remarkable that people in this place would accuse Senator McKim and others of inciting violence, as though these individuals have no agency and no capacity or, because these are people who are coming from another culture, somehow they’re not capable of making their own decisions. It is remarkable. The time has come for us to accept, at the very least, New Zealand’s offer of generosity to take those 150 people, and to ditch the deal with the US. For God’s sake, let’s show a bit of humanity and a bit of decency. Why can’t we bring them here? Why can’t we offer these people safety?
Chamber Senate on 14/11/2017ItemMATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Immigration Detention Speaker: Di Natale, Sen Richard/ Parliment of Australia Transcript used for reporting the News