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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4331..


MS TUCKER (continuing):

(i) the forced transfer to Pacific nations (so called Pacific Solution) or other offshore or remote locations;

(j) the excision of areas from the 'Australian Migration Zone';

(k) the lack of appeal rights on refugee decisions in the courts.

(2) (a) developing a strategy which would enable the ACT to provide support for asylum seekers which does not involve detention;

(b) bringing this strategy to the Assembly by first sitting week of 2003 for debate and if the Assembly supports the strategy;

(c) forwarding it to the federal government as a proposal for action.

(3) supporting the Refugee Council of Australia's initiative of 'Refugee Welcome Zones' and establish the ACT as such a zone.

I put this motion today-the day after Human Rights Day, a day in a week in which we have seen increased national debate as federal Labor decides on its policy on refugees and a week in which Carmen Lawrence has challenged the Labor Party to put principles back into its thinking and heart back into its politics-in the hope that, at least in this Assembly, we will see courage and leadership demonstrated by the majority of politicians. This motion gives members of this place an opportunity to reflect on Australia's current performance on human rights, with particular regard to the treatment of asylum seekers.

Recently, I spent an afternoon in Villawood Detention Centre, where I spoke at length with a number of detainees and also with people who visit the detention centres and support the detainees. These people include church groups of various denominations and many ordinary people who live in Sydney.

This visit to Villawood has had a very big impact on me. Often, the first image I have in my mind when I wake in the morning is of the sharp ugliness of the razor wire keeping families enclosed like animals in an ugly zoo, the looks on the faces of the people as they told me their dreadful stories, the shame I felt as I waved goodbye through the wire and the shame I feel as an Australian that it has come to this-that we leave people in these hellholes for years, that we let children go through birthdays in captivity, that we deny basic legal rights of appeal and that we send people seeking protection back into the danger they fled.

I know that this will change eventually. I know that many Australians are changing their views, rejecting the government's attempts to defend the morally indefensible. They are seeing through the corruption of political language, recognising that a broken child who attempts suicide is more than an adverse impact, that people fleeing for their lives are not queuejumpers, that there is a difference between an illegal immigrant and an asylum seeker, that people who go on hunger strikes are not behaving inappropriately, rather they are acting out of indescribable despair, and that people fleeing terror are not terrorists.

This motion has three parts. The first part calls on the ACT government to clearly state the need for Australia to adopt a humanitarian approach to people fleeing persecution by writing to the federal government requesting it to urgently review its policy on asylum seekers, specifically addressing the need to abide by the refugee convention which gives every asylum seeker basic rights as enjoyed by legal residents.


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