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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4336 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

community a set of policies and a briefing paper on refugees. I have a copy of that, if anyone would like to see it.

Local councils which have signed on have usually arranged formal signing events, in collaboration with the Refugee Council. The Refugee Council would supply an official certificate and copy of the declaration, if the Assembly were to decide to sign on. The concept has been designed for local councils. However, as the Legislative Assembly is the closest body of government to the community in the ACT, the council would supply an official certificate if the government or the Assembly were to decide to sign on.

In case people are confused, I circulated that document and the preliminary comments from my office may have referred to it incorrectly as the Refugee Action Council, whereas it is actually the Refugee Council of Australia. I am not talking about something subversive or radical here. The Refugee Council of Australia is a registered non-profit, non-government organisation and acts as a peak community refugee organisation. It has around 140 individual and organisational members.

The council is funded through contributions from its members and by project grants from government agencies; in particular, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. The initiative is supported by the federal government. It is something that I really hope I will get support for tonight, at the very least, because everybody in this Assembly has spoken about the need at this time to show, as leaders of our community, that we are indeed inclusive and that we accept refugees into our community, which is particularly important at the moment for Muslim refugees.

Whilst the Greens, among others, are strongly committed to changing the laws and regulations that govern our treatment of people seeking asylum, refugee welcome zones do nothing of the sort. They simply promote a humane, compassionate and constructive response to the plight of refugees. By signing on as a refugee welcome zone, we are declaring some willingness to provide legitimate support for refugees and asylum seekers. In a time of racial tension and international uncertainty, I challenge any member of this Assembly to explain why committing ourselves to a humane, compassionate and constructive approach to this issue is not a good thing to do.

MR PRATT (10.04): Mr Speaker, I rise to speak against the motion put forward by Ms Tucker. I wish to reject the motion in its entirety. In its simplest form, it is highly emotive, it is misrepresentative and, indeed, it is factually incorrect.

I am most concerned that a member of this place would seek to arouse the passions of a political minority and of the well-intentioned but perhaps politically naive few by peddling a distorted view of the situation regarding our border security and the reception and management of illegal arrivals, asylum seekers and genuine refugees.

Let us look at the facts and bypass the emotion. The federal government has put in a number of measures which have been highly effective in strengthening the integrity of Australia's migration and humanitarian program. The range of these measures has allowed Australia to continue to provide protection to those people at risk, whilst at the same time disrupting the operations of people smugglers.

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