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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4349 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

public transport, spectacles, electricity, and dental care; ambulance treatment and transport; access to the junior secondary bursary scheme, which provides financial support for dependent children in the junior high school years; provision of interpreting assistance as appropriate for those seeking access to ACT government programs and services; and coordination of community and government settlement support activities.

The ACT government will continue to promote these appropriate settlement outcomes and confront and challenge the Liberal government on these issues. We will also continue to challenge and confront the ideas and actions of individuals who benefit from the current climate of security fears and from persecution of people who migrate to, or claim asylum in, Australia. This government is conscious and aware of racism in the community and the need for government to lead debates in confronting racism and explaining to the community the benefits of migration and refugees. Part of our job as community leaders is to confront misinformation in these debates rather than fuel divisions and propagate misinformation.

We need government policies which are in line with international law, including the guidelines issued by the United Nations. But we need more than that. We as politicians and as individuals have to promote an environment which recognises refugees as an integral part of the Australian way of life and recognises the Australian ethos of a fair go. We have to make Australians proud again of the helping hand we extend to thousands of people in need, not just through the refugee program but through foreign aid programs as well. We also have to restore Australia's international reputation so that we are once again a leading international citizen in this area. This includes not only the assertion of so-called rights under international law but also recognition of responsibilities. This local government will continue to show fairness and equity in the provision of services to refugees and asylum seekers in any way it can.

MS DUNDAS (10:51): I will be speaking to both the substantive motion and the amendment. I wholeheartedly support Ms Tucker's motion in its original form. The debate about treatment of refugees has brought out into the open all the racism and intolerance that lie beneath the surface of our multicultural society.

Ms Tucker's motion gives every party in the Assembly an opportunity to declare that here in the ACT we are compassionate and accepting and that we have the courage to call for full application of the international law on human rights. Instead, we see the government attempting to water this motion down to make it consistent with the confused and half-hearted federal ALP policy on refugees. Each party in this Assembly is echoing the words and sentiments expressed in the federal parliament, when I would have hoped that more courage would be shown in this chamber.

The Democrats and the Greens have consistently fought to protect the human rights of asylum seekers. The Liberals disregarded human rights to win electoral support. The ALP has stood wringing its hands, making confusing statements full of mixed messages and voting with the Liberals to undermine basic human rights.

The Australian Democrats have been consistent advocates for human rights since 1977. Over the last 10 years we have continued to campaign against mandatory detention, temporary protection visas and restrictions on the rights of refugees to appeal decisions, receive legal advice or even access services such as English classes.

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