Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2484 ..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
As I have already mentioned, it is more than a small amendment and would detract from the intent of the motion-the intent is to quickly find a solution for these people stuck in limbo. To make this amendment would water down the intent and effect of
the motion, making it worthless. The opposition may as well oppose the motion, considering the effect the amendment would have.
Mr Pratt made comments about all the others who are waiting to come to Australia while there are other people waiting in refugee camps who have equal merit and need to be considered. However, that is a different issue, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker.
Mr Pratt also made a comment to the effect that at least the stateless Vietnamese are not economic refugees. I reject that statement. It puts refugees into classes of those who are most worthy and those who are less so. I have never understood the shunning of people who want to make better lives for themselves-as though fleeing from abject poverty were some sort of crime.
Mr Pratt also asked why I am not making a statement, within this motion, condemning the Vietnamese government. That is because this motion is about trying to find a solution-by getting the federal government to change its position and allow these people to come to Australia, with their extended families.
That brings me to the issue of extended family. The granting of the right of Vietnamese in the Philippines to come to Australia was on the basis that they have close family here-that is the issue. All the people whose applications I have spoken about today are in a situation where they do not have brothers or sisters or mothers or fathers.
It is not a nuclear family situation-it is their aunts and uncles. For many within the Asian community-and especially in the Vietnamese community-the definition of "family"goes well beyond the nuclear family. That is important to these people. They feel a great attachment to their entire families, not just to their nuclear families.
I will quote from a letter from Phillip Ruddock to Hoi Trinh. It says:
There are approximately 175 persons under consideration for visas at the current time.
He then goes on to say:
This will bring this program to an end.
In other words, he is saying that they will not allow it to go beyond these 175 persons. At the end of the letter, he says:
The remaining members of the group are not in imminent danger and appear to be able to be successfully integrated into Philippine society.
I reject that. Integration involves having full rights. These people do not have full rights within Philippine society. They are not entitled to go and get work, which puts an end to all sorts of opportunities for them; they are living in less than desirable