Page 2447 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 29 June 2005
our town, to our community, this family of five, with three cousins—an extended family of eight—who have chosen Canberra as the place to come and live with the friends that they had made on Nauru, and with the particular friends that they would hope to make here in Canberra.
But, unfortunately, I was not able to welcome them because the Liberal Party, through their whip and presumably on the basis of a decision supported by their leader, decided that there was no advantage in the Chief Minister doing that; that it was not relevant or appropriate for the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory to welcome a group of refugees to this town in those circumstances—people who had spent 3½ years in a form of purgatory, arriving with a view to the future, with freedom in their hearts and minds, to be amongst people that they hope would care for them.
They were advised on their arrival that the Chief Minister, the person that they had been advised and informed would be at the airport to meet them, would not be there because the Liberal Party did not think there was any value to be gained in the head of this jurisdiction, the head of this government, being involved in their arrival; that there would be no representative of the people of the ACT there to greet them. The Liberal Party did not think it important enough that there be a representative of the people of Canberra at the airport to welcome them, after 3½ years in a concentration camp, to our town; that there was nothing to be gained; that they were not worthy of a welcome.
It was private members day. There was nothing that required my particular attention here within the Assembly; nothing that could not have been achieved through the gracious granting of a pair for 45 minutes to an hour to allow me, as the head of this government, to welcome this family into our community, to embrace a family that had suffered the appalling trauma of 3½ years in a concentration camp in Nauru. An amazing exhibition of mean-spirited, spiteful personal politics of the first order.
In fact, I think it is the saddest incident of petty politics that I have experienced in the seven years that I have been in this place—that a family, including three young children, who had been told that the Chief Minister, that the head of this jurisdiction, would be there to greet them, to welcome them to this community, to hold out the hand of friendship, would not be there.
MR SPEAKER: The minister’s time has expired. Supplementary, Mr Gentleman?
MR GENTLEMAN: Can the Chief Minister advise what services the ACT government will provide to temporary protection visa arrivals in Canberra?
MR STANHOPE: Yes, I am more than happy to do that. The first, of course, is to extend the hand of friendship, to seek to explain and to show that the treatment that has been meted out to them over the last 3½ years is not treatment that is representative of the feelings of the majority of Australians; it is treatment that is representative of the views, the attitude and the behaviour of the Liberal Party, which we see confirmed here today.
One should go to why it is that the Liberal Party in this place felt the need to send this expression of continuing animosity towards this Afghan Muslim family arriving within our town. Why did the Liberal Party in the ACT Assembly feel the need today to