Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4346 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
the federal government's policy, but it is wrong to try to lump decent officials in the same boat as the pretty horrible people round the world in some very nasty regimes that still exist.
The opposition, as Mr Pratt said, will not be supporting this motion. Obviously, some things can be improved. Ms Tucker has placed emphasis on the ACT being a welcoming place. I think it always has been. It is quite important to make the point in the debate tonight that we do welcome genuine refugees and we do welcome the people who have joined us in our community. There are now, I think, about 161 different nationalities in Canberra and they are very welcome. They add a lot to our community.
I close on that point, Mr Speaker.
Amendment agreed to.
MS GALLAGHER (10.42): I move the following amendment:
Omit all words in the motion after the words "the forced transfer to Pacific Nations (so called Pacific Solution)"in paragraph 1 (i), substitute the following words:
"(1) (j) the lack of appeal rights on refugee decisions;".
The Australian Labor Party will be supporting Ms Tucker's motion, if amended. We are seeking an amendment to the motion to better target our criticisms as an Assembly of the current national policies in relation to asylum seekers. We are seeking this amendment to clarify the role of local government in service provision rather than in the broader policy framework. Our role definitely is to be critical. We should state views as to the federal government's policies in this area. It is unclear, however, what role the ACT should play in progressing some of the admirable sentiments contained in Ms Tucker's motion.
Some of Ms Tucker's proposals may have merit. However, at this stage the government is not prepared to pass this motion without a complete analysis of the responsibilities of the ACT under the Australian Constitution and its powers in relation to this issue. It is not currently the responsibility of state or territory governments to run or direct processing arrangements for asylum seekers, and it is difficult to see how the ACT government could intervene in a policy area which the federal government guards closely.
The ACT government cannot accept the second and third paragraphs of Ms Tucker's motion. The ALP believes that it is fulfilling its role as a local government in welcoming refugees, both in rhetoric and in practice. For that reason we do not see the need to declare the ACT a refugee welcome zone.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights clearly states that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. I believe that the federal government has undermined our commitment to the refugee convention of 1951. Australia is one of the 136 signatories to the convention and its 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees.