Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2492 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
genuine refugees only three to five years of asylum and no chance to find work or build a life. As I mentioned in debate on the motion moved by Ms MacDonald, back in the 1970s most of the boat people arriving on our shores came from Vietnam where an American war, in which Australia participated, displaced over a million people.
Australia has now participated in not one but two violent conflicts in as many years, both of which created a wave of refugees. But this time around Australia sealed its borders so that poor and desperate refugees from those countries cannot reach our country. The Australian Democrats have consistently opposed wars that make so many homeless. We opposed mandatory detention in 1992 and we continue to fight for an end to this inhumane policy. We opposed temporary protection visas when they were introduced in 1999 and we continue to call on the federal government to grant permanent protection to refugees and to allow immediate family reunion rights.
We opposed the introduction of the Pacific solution in 2001 and we will continue to protest against the forced deportation of many people who do not even get a chance to have their claims for asylum assessed. Recently we have been standing up for the rights of children who, along with their parents, have been held behind barbed wire fences in the middle of the desert. Recent decisions of the Family Court have shown that this breaches Australia's obligations under international law. It has long-lasting impacts on children that cannot be ignored by the federal government, or by anybody who cares about human beings and children.
It is inhumane and tragic that so many children are being locked away without having committed a crime. The only reason that they endure being locked away is that they are trying to achieve a better life. Assembly members do not have any direct control over migration policy or law. However, we cannot simply give up and stand idly by while asylum seekers are sent back to repressive countries to be executed and children are incarcerated behind barbed wire fences, growing up amidst suicidal and desperate people.
These inhumane policies will be changed only if we all keep fighting the good fight and we make the message quite clear to the Federal Government that we are not happy and we want to see a change. We all have to work to turn back the tide of misinformation that the Howard Government has generated, to counter the powerful and emotive language he has used to whip up fear and loathing in the community-for example, terms like "illegal immigrant", "floodgates", "queue jumper", "people smuggler", or "terrorist". It is a big job, but we have morality, decency and international law behind us. If we keep working we will again see the day when refugees are treated more justly.
So I support the motion moved by Mr Berry. I already believe that the Australian Capital Territory is refugee friendly. But we are making an official declaration that we are welcoming refugees. We believe that they are an important part of our community. I reiterate all the other sentiments that have been expressed today. We do not believe that refugees should be treated inhumanely. This motion helps to focus the minds of government members on specific programs to assist refugees who arrive in the ACT either as permanent residents or on temporary protection visas. I hope that Assembly members, as community leaders, support this motion. We must work together to look