Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4342 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
This amendment would change the words "this Assembly calls on the ACT government to clearly state the need for Australia to adopt a humanitarian approach to people fleeing persecution and terror"to "this Assembly calls on the ACT government to clearly state the need for Australia to emphasise the importance of a humanitarian approach to people fleeing persecution and terror". The purpose of this amendment is to remove the implication that Australia's current refugee policy is not a humanitarian policy.
I, like I am sure everybody else in this Assembly, support the adoption of a humanitarian refugee policy and believe that this amendment purports that without implying that Australia's current refugee policy is not humanitarian. I will also be supporting, as mentioned, the government's amendments. I believe that this motion is a step in the right direction to reassessing the treatment and conditions of refugees. Whilst I am not opposed to the federal government's refugee policy, I believe that, like all things, improvements can be made if they are deemed necessary.
A call for a review is not a stance against Australia's refugee policy; rather it seeks to find the best methods and mechanisms for processing, detaining and treating asylum seekers. Thus, I will be supporting Ms Tucker's motion, as well as the government's amendments and my amendment.
I have not been in this job for very long. One of the greatest concerns I have from time to time on issues that affect people, particularly people who are vulnerable, is that the politicisation of this issue tends to be extreme. That is just my personal view. Whilst we have people on both sides who wish to do the right thing by these people who need our help, sometimes the political mandate of certain parties drives the will and drives the agenda, which concerns me. I have faith in the way that the government has dealt with things and the more I hear stories that are not positive the more concerned I become.
I still have faith in my fellow man in Australia and I would like to think that most people in the government are doing the right thing. I hope that we, as Australians, can respect everybody's views in this chamber. I agree with many of the things Mr Pratt said. I think that we are coming at this philosophically from a similar direction. However, I am very much open to hearing of cases that may not have been treated well.
I know that Mr Pratt would have seen such cases when he worked in Yugoslavia. Perhaps he would have seen people being treated less than ideally, who may have fallen through the cracks. I know that he is a very compassionate man and wants to see refugees and asylum seekers handled well. I think that what Ms Tucker's motion is attempting to do is simply to ask the government to reassess its approach at our detention centres. We will wait and see what comes of that.
MR STEFANIAK (10.27): Whilst I think that Mrs Cross' amendment improves and modifies Ms Tucker's motion, the guts of Ms Tucker's motion and the very substantial criticism of the Australian government actually remain. Australia has one of the best records on human rights in the world. I get sick and tired of the Greens, left-wing Labor and everyone else bagging our country as if we have some ratbag, third world, vicious dictatorship which puts us on a par with some horrible countries round the world which murder their citizens and cause absolute mayhem. That really annoys me.