Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4353 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
The question is: has the strategy worked? The short answer is yes. It is important that it work. It is important that we do not undermine the programs we have in place. This policy has largely removed the incentive for people to leave places of protection to risk their lives in dangerous journeys with people smugglers. That is not to say that we are happy with the conditions some people live in or find themselves in. We have all seen the harrowing images of the camps. Mr Pratt, if people want to take the time to talk to him, can tell people first-hand what it is like.
We must have a policy that considers the needs of the millions of unseen people who are languishing in refugee camps and who cannot afford to use people smugglers. These people will then be able to compete on an equal basis for the 12,000 places we have to help those in most need. Under Ms Tucker's policy, all of these places would be taken up by unauthorised entrants, simply because they manage to get here. That would be a shame, because it would displace those who most need to be here.
The federal government's border protection and immigration policies are clearly working. I think they are sensible. Therefore, I would urge all members to vote against Ms Tucker's motion.
MS TUCKER (11.07): I will speak to the amendment. I am sorry that this amendment has been put by Labor. It excludes from my motion some very important concerns about the federal Liberal government's policy on asylum seekers. I clearly explained why the excision of areas from the Australian migration zone is fundamentally flawed, given our human rights obligations.
Mr Pratt did not seem to pay any regard to the refugee convention or the human rights convention, which we are signatories to. He apparently does not consider that they have any legal status. I think he is in a minority position.
The reference to lack of appeal rights would also come out of the motion with the Labor amendment. I explained in detail why we need to review what has happened to our law under the federal government. As I pointed out, the privative clause that is being used now is normally seen only as something a parliament would use in times of war. It is a very extreme parliamentary response and one that should be of grave concern to anyone who is interested in democracy.
Paragraph (2) of my motion is about developing a strategy which would enable the ACT to provide support for asylum seekers. Labor appears to be concerned about whether it is possible for the ACT to do that. I accept that, but I still think it would be a worthwhile thing. If the political will had been there, we as a territory of Australia would have offered to take responsibility for asylum seekers to get them out of the very unsatisfactory situation they find themselves in. Despite what Mr Pratt says, impartial observers, including international human rights organisations, have said that the conditions people are kept in are far from acceptable. They are in no way similar to conditions that people in the broader Australian community experience. There are showers and toilets and that is about it. It is quite incredible for Mr Pratt to suggest that these conditions are acceptable for any human being