Senator RICE (Victoria) (17:19): The humanitarian disaster that is unfolding on Manus Island makes me ashamed to be an Australian. The Australia that I know and love is a welcoming place. It’s a place where we value people from all over the world. In particular, it’s a place where we have welcomed refugees with open arms for decades and decades. The Australians that I know have good hearts. The Australians that I know do not condone torture—and that’s what we are doing to these innocent people. The UNHCR says indefinite detention is torture—let alone leaving men to die, which is what is going on in the Manus Island detention centre now. This is Australia’s Guantanamo Bay. This is our Gitmo.
The people of Australia are saying it’s not happening in our name. The caring, thoughtful, welcoming people of Australia, who live in our diverse multicultural community, know that these people who we have locked up indefinitely, these people who have lost all hope, are our brothers, they are other people’s brothers, they are people’s husbands, they are people’s children, they are people who love and live and just want a chance to be living a good life. They are people who have fled persecution from many different parts of the world—from Iran, from Iraq, from Burma. They are the Rohingyan refugees whom we in this place over the last month have been so concerned about and wanting to make sure that they could have a good life. That’s who these people are. But because in their desperation to flee persecution they got on a boat to come to Australia we have turned our backs on them and said no. We’ve said: ‘We don’t see you as humans. We’re just going to treat you as collateral damage. You are just the scapegoats. You are just going to be the example for the rest of the world to stop the boats.’ And these men are dying to be that example.
That is not the Australia that I want to be part of. These men deserve a life. We know that we haven’t even stopped the boats by having them at Manus island. We are just turning the boats away and not talking about it. We know what needs to happen to stop the boats—and that is for the world, including Australia, to accept that there are millions of refugees in the world who need to be resettled and that we need to be having serious attempts to create peace in their countries. These people are going to need to have places to be resettled in. We need to be lifting our intake of refugees in Australia, not turning people away.
We’ve got a chance to reshape what’s going on now and actually say, ‘Enough is enough. These people deserve to come to Australia. They can be Australians. They will fit in as Australians like refugees before them have done.’ We have 400 people fleeing persecution. We have people there who can’t be resettled in PNG because of its anti-homosexuality legislation. They would continue to be persecuted if they were to live in PNG. We should be welcoming these people as our fellow Australians and showing Australia to be the humanitarian, caring, welcoming country that we once were. (Time expired)
Chamber Senate on 14/11/2017 Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Immigration Detention Speaker :Rice, Sen Janet/ Parliament of Australia Transcript used for Reporting News
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