Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2494 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
asylum seekers and refugees. In that sense this motion confirms what I would regard as being the prevailing view and opinion in the Canberra community.
However, that is not the prevailing view and opinion in the parliamentary triangle. I am confident that this motion will be agreed to. However, I could imagine a motion being moved in the other parliament to excise the parliamentary triangle from the assertion or claim that the Australian Capital Territory is refugee friendly. Unfortunately, there will remain in this territory one body that cannot claim to be refugee friendly-the other parliament in the ACT.
Without detracting from that level of support of this government, it is fair to say that this government and members of the Assembly are prepared to support and advocate on behalf of refugees in the ACT. If we formalise that by declaring that we are refugee friendly, it will have a symbolic strength that should not be underrated. I am happy, on behalf of the government, to express our willingness to be regarded as a refugee-friendly place.
Mr Berry made the point in discussions with me that the ACT government, which has attempted to support refugees and asylum seekers in any way it can, will look more closely at other forms of assistance for asylum seekers over and above the assistance and support that are currently provided. I am happy to ask officers in my department to undertake a full review to ensure that the ACT is a refugee-friendly place in which to live.
MR CORNWELL(4.20): I am sorry that the last two speakers introduced another aspect into this debate, as Mr Berry's motion is perfectly acceptable and quite innocuous. I agree with the sentiments expressed by my colleague Mrs Burke. To be honest, I am not sure what is meant by this motion. I believe the ACT to be a refugee-friendly place, so I am a little puzzled as to why this motion has been moved.
How are we to determine whether or not the ACT is refugee friendly? I believe-and I am sure that all members believe-that the ACT is refugee friendly. No law establishes that either way. In a free society I do not believe that a motion of this nature requires the endorsement of the Assembly. If members wish to endorse this motion they may do so, but it is not required of them. The 320,000 people who live in the ACT have always demonstrated a generosity in relation to all sorts of things, including refugees.
I do not believe that that will change. Some people in the community might have a greater sense of social justice than others. I have not heard any claims about refugees being treated badly in our community. From time to time people experience problems because there are a few louts around the place, but that would occur in any community. The Speaker said earlier that 25 shire councils had passed similar motions. It is fine to pass motions such as this but they are really rather meaningless, just as the motion on nuclear-free zones was rather meaningless.
Nothing new will occur as a result of the passing of such a motion. The Chief Minister spoke in debate about services that are being provided to refugees in this city. I hope that similar services are being provided by shire councils, otherwise the motions that are being passed would be rather empty. There really is no reason for this motion. I do