Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1284 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
plant in Young since 2001, and that has been a very good example of the contribution that asylum seekers and refugees make to our community-as the East Timorese have proven before.
People from all over the world come to our country and make a contribution to our society. We should accept, value and celebrate them instead of having this closed door approach of the current federal government. The people who are here and being put under TPVs are suffering. It is a form of torture to a degree. They have children, and they are settling themselves into this country as well.
We are not having a motion on those people here tonight, though; we are having a motion on the East Timorese in particular. They have been here for a number of years, as I and other members have said. I won't go over the whole history; it is not necessary-I think people here are well familiar with it anyway. I understand why Mrs Cross has focussed on them and I understand the arguments, but I want to put on record my reservation that we could equally be having motions on many other people, either incarcerated in detention centres or under TPVs in the Australian community.
MR CORNWELL (5.57): I rise to support, in general-somewhat to the surprise of this Assembly, I am sure -Ms Tucker's concerns on this matter. I say "in general"because I will come back to the specifics of this motion. I appreciate that fact. I also believe that, once again, it is not a matter that this Assembly should be addressing when we have responsibility for the 312,000 people living on a day-to-day basis in the territory.
However, the matter is worth discussing without going to opposition. We have to recognise the sensitive matter-as some of my colleagues have said-that the Australian federal government has its own rules and regulations in relation to refugees.
In my opinion, the problem of these East Timorese people is that they left their country some 10 years ago because they were obliged to. Many groups have had to do this in the past, but the majority of them have at some stage gone back to their own countries. One only has to look at the various wars that have swept across this globe over many centuries. Many people, because they didn't agree with the policies of the invaders, left their country. But, in turn, many of them set up governments and other activities in exile and have been extremely keen to get back to where they came from as soon as possible.
An argument could be put forward that the East Timorese people who have been here for up to 10 years and have acquired skills and money that could be of great value to a new and financially struggling country such as East Timor would assist their old country by going back. The other problem is that, if we look at the humanitarian grounds-that they have been here for 10 years and other reasons outlined by various people-perhaps governments will be cautious in future of allowing people into the country on a temporary basis because of the precedent that Mr Pratt suggested might occur.
Indeed, Mrs Cross herself, in setting up, addressing and introducing the motion, stressed that this was an exception. But the next thing we know is that in the middle of the debate the Kosovars come into it. I am not criticising the introduction of the Kosovars into the debate; I am simply saying that it is not possible to exclude one group or another. You can't say, "Let's make a single exception of this particular group."You can't do that; you've got to think of other people, and there are many around the world.