Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2498 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
refugee issue is a Federal matter, but it is a documented fact-in particular in Queensland-that it is a state and territory matter as the states and territories are carrying the burden of those costs. Mr Cornwell might not be aware of that fact.
Because of the poor policies of the federal government people in the states and territories have been abandoned. That includes people on temporary protection visas and bridging visas-a particularly inhumane policy-and so-called genuine refugees. The Federal Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Gary Hardgrave, acknowledged that refugees are not being settled in Canberra at the moment. It is difficult for refugee families on limited benefits to afford accommodation in the private rental market.
I have referred on another occasion in this place to a family with four children that are living on about $150 a fortnight after the rent has been paid. States and territories have serious issues to deal with as a result of the poor policies of the federal government. In debating this motion we also have to address the issue of racism. I have to rebut some of the comments that were made earlier in debate. At the weekend I spoke to a refugee and asked how her children were settling into schools in Canberra. I asked her about their experience in those schools and also asked her whether they had experienced any racism. She told me that they had and she gave me a number of examples of quite unfortunate racism in the school system.
We must continue to reject racism in all forms. We know, from various committee inquiries, that Aboriginal people experience racism in our schools. I assure Assembly members that racism is also a problem for migrants to our country, particularly those of a different appearance. We have some work to do before we alleviate those problems. As I said earlier, it is important that we reject racism. I, and I am sure every other Assembly member, will do that.
I refer now to bridging and temporary protection visas. Some members referred in debate to TPVs, but they did not refer to bridging visas. I do not think people know what bridging visas are. Asylum seekers who enter Australia without appropriate documentation are usually detained while their refugee status is assessed. Some of the people on bridging visas who are put in the community while their refugee status is being assessed usually have no work rights or medical cover and they do not receive welfare payments. Hundreds of deeply distressed individuals and families are in this unenviable position-people who on the whole are being supported by church groups.
The Hotham Mission in Victoria is doing an important job. When refugees deplete their financial resources they face homelessness, hunger and illness, which is untreated. Many are in need of psychological help because of the trauma that they have gone through to get to Australia. A number of churches have established a charity called the Bridge-a program designed specifically to raise funds to support this group of people. I do not believe we have any such charities in the ACT. Members should be aware of the fact that the federal government's policies are placing refugees in a precarious position.
I was pleased to hear Mr Pratt state earlier that the Liberal Party does not support the federal government's policy of placing children in detention. As I have not heard him make such a statement before it led me to believe that, at the next parliamentary