Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2497 ..
MR PRATT (continuing):
At the end of the day those who lose out the most are those who are led up the garden path and told, "Just hang on for another 18 months. We will appeal and achieve a magnificent outcome."That is unrealistic and it is absolutely cruel. (Extension of time granted.) People in society in positions of authority and power should know better. Sometimes their intentions are well meant, but they are out of touch with reality. The people who are caught in the middle are the ones who suffer the most. They will continue to suffer for a long time.
Some members have said that there is no refugee queue. There is a refugee queue. I said earlier that millions of refugees are seeking places of sanctuary and resettlement. Some refugees, who have been in camps for a long time, in particular in East Africa, do not have the means to be resettled, returned or integrated locally and they do not have the money to travel. There might not be a linear queue, but large numbers of people around the world have been classified as refugees. They have been given little plastic buckets and they have been told to wait in blue plastic tents or to double up with host families somewhere. They have been waiting for a long time.
There is a refugee queue. The federal government must visit refugee camps, go to refugee centres or communal centres where people are doubled up with host families and seek out those people whose needs are great. All members should remember that there is a refugee queue. Despite the cynicism that exists I am sure we can encourage the federal government to do something about that.
I encourage the federal government to double its refugee intake and to seek out the most needy refugees. However, we need to be able to take care of those refugees. We cannot allow people to arrive on our shores when they feel like arriving after obtaining passage on a dangerous boat. Canberra, which has a proud history of accepting migrants and refugees, is a refugee-friendly place. The ACT is well equipped and willing to look after refugees. There is nothing to suggest the contrary.
MS TUCKER(4.40): I welcome the motion moved earlier by Mr Berry, though I do not totally agree with the sentiments that were expressed. I do not believe, for a number of reasons, that Canberra is friendly to refugees. I commend Mr Berry for moving this motion. It is important symbolically to indicate that members who are elected to this Assembly are prepared to make a statement such as the one that is expressed in Mr Berry's motion. Mrs Burke, who appeared to be offended by the suggestion that people in the community were not friendly to refugees, said that we should be careful with the words that we use in the motion.
The refugees to whom Mrs Burke spoke must have been different from the refugees to whom I spoke. I am sure that Mrs Burke asked a number of refugees about their experiences in Canberra but, as I said, they are certainly not the people to whom I spoke. Recently the federal government refused to put people through the settlement process because of the housing crisis in Canberra. So Canberra is not that friendly to refugees; the federal government is not settling them in Canberra.
I acknowledge what the Chief Minister and Mr Berry said earlier about the ACT government's provision of language courses and education for refugees. I commend the ACT government for providing those services. Mr Cornwell said earlier that the