Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2491 ..
MRS BURKE (continuing):
Canberra is a refugee-friendly place. Our track record as a community demonstrates that we welcome people with open arms, that we look after them and that we do our best for them. As Mr Smyth eloquently pointed out earlier, this goes back a long way. Canberra was built by some of those refugees who made Australia their homeland. Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, even though you and I were not refugees, we are visitors in a foreign land. It would be illogical for anyone to assert that Canberra is not refugee friendly. Some people in the broader community might find that statement quite insulting. I ask Mr Berry to think about that.
For many years members of the Canberra community have opened their hearts, their minds, their wallets, their homes and everything else to accommodate refugees. As a former Rotarian, I was involved in the Kosovo activity. It is touching and moving to be able to do that sort of thing and to make a practical contribution. I do not contribute in debate on this motion with any sort of righteous indignation; I support the motion but I caution members to be careful. Sometimes the things that we write might not reflect the intention of our hearts. We should continue down this path but we should strive to do better. We must do our best or better for refugees to this great and, in my opinion, best city in Australia. As I said earlier, I support the motion moved earlier by the Speaker.
MS DUNDAS(4.08): As the current federal government and the federal Labor opposition are providing no moral leadership on the rights of refugees, it would be a positive step if members of the ACT Assembly supported this motion and sent a message to our federal representatives that we want refugees treated with respect and compassion. If all Australian parliaments passed similar resolutions declaring each jurisdiction refugee friendly, it would make our federal representatives reconsider their current stand.
As has already been mentioned in debate, last Sunday Mr Berry, Ms Tucker and I addressed a crowd that gathered in Civic on a freezing cold and rainy day to mark World Refugee Day. It was heartening on that rainy day-a day when a Brumbies match was being played-to see so many people sharing their feelings about refugees in Australia. It has been a long time since the Australian government treated asylum seekers with decency. However, there was a time when the federal government observed international law instead of turning its back on world opinion and saying, "We will decide who comes into this country and we will decide the circumstances in which they come."
There was a time when refugees were allowed to reach our shores and they were not turned back by navy vessels. They were not prevented from leaving Indonesia to attempt a risky sea crossing. There was a time when asylum seekers were not detained behind barbed wire unless there was a demonstrated health or security risk. There was a time when asylum seekers were assessed for refugee status without an artificial set of legal hurdles being placed in their way. If asylum seekers were found to be refugees, they were granted permanent residency. But all that has changed.
The so-called Pacific solution and cooperation with Indonesia led to the infamous sinking of the SIEVX. Mandatory detention, which was introduced by the Keating government, and temporary protection visas, which were introduced by Howard, gave