Page 2097 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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Ms MacDonald and Mr Gentleman. I did not see anybody else. I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker. I did see, I acknowledge, Dr Foskey and I wish to recognise Dr Foskey’s presence at the rally and also on Saturday. Those members of this chamber who were not there should hang their heads in shame.

Mr Speaker, I am saddened by the fact that refugees are denounced for exercising their rights under international law to flee from war and persecution to another country. I leave you with another powerful statement from Amnesty International:

Refugees are not a threat. They are survivors, people who have experienced horrific human rights abuses—and lived. They may carry the physical and mental scars of their ordeals, but they are seeking a future free from torture and persecution. They deserve our compassion and welcome.

Mr Speaker, we have in this chamber a number of people whose family roots are in another country, probably most of us if you think back long and hard enough. We need to ask ourselves: why did those people come to this country? The answer to that question is that it was because they could. The answer to that question is that it was because our forebears—in my case my parents—wanted a better life.

Is it so different for refugees? They want a better life for themselves and they want a better life for their children. Is that so much different? The real difference is that they have come across our doorstep bleeding and in pain and they are not welcome whence they come. What do we do, Mr Speaker? We turn them away at some island in the Indian Ocean or in the Pacific. As soon as they arrive on our shores they say; “I’m here. Thank God I’m here,” and we treat them like criminals and put them in jail. It is just not on. Mr Speaker, these people knock on our doors for help. Let us not turn them away. Let us not treat the disenfranchised as criminals. Let us open our hearts and take them in.


Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received letters from Mrs Burke, Dr Foskey and Ms Porter proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion. In accordance with standing order 79, I have determined that the matter proposed by Ms Porter be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The impact of federal government policies on ACT education institutions, staff and students, particularly at the University of Canberra.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (3.44): Mr Speaker, this matter is of paramount importance not only to the Canberra community but also to the education-based communities around the nation. As members would be aware, one of Canberra’s most significant international competitive advantages is based upon the quality of its universities and, more specifically, the communities that have been developed within these universities, around these universities, and servicing these universities.

The contribution that students and staff make to the general communities around their university campuses cannot be underestimated. As part of my work as a member for Ginninderra, I have regular contact with university community members who are doing

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