Page 3146 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009

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In the last four weeks, 1.5 million people have registered for assistance, bringing the total number of refugees to 3.5 million. The refugees are displaced civilians, including a large number of children, women and elderly people. According to the United Nations, 130,000 refugees are in camps and others are accommodated in friends’ and families’ houses—up to 85 people in one house.

The second function I attended, Madam Assistant Speaker, was one held by the United Nations: the UNHCR World Refugee Day, and it was a community gathering at the Theo Notaris Multicultural Centre. It was emceed by Ms Maureen Sheehan from the ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services, and a special address was given by Mr Richard Towle, the UNHCR regional representative for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. It was rather sad to see lots of apologies from federal Labor politicians and local Labor politicians, but we were there to observe the global theme for World Refugee Day on Saturday, 20 June, talking about real people and real needs, which the United Nations wanted us to commemorate.

The third function that evening, Madam Assistant Speaker, was at St John’s Church in Holt, where we heard from former refugees from Burma, Sierra Leone and Sudan, again celebrating World Refugee Day. We heard their stories of hardship, how they made their very significant journeys from their homelands before settling in Australia. Again, the theme of the evening was “real people, real needs”.

My thanks to Mr Bev Purnell of the Refugee Resettlement Committee of St John the Apostle parish, Kippax, and to the organisers of the refugee program for the assistance they provide to those people. I also commend Ms Mary Porter from the local Labor Party, who was in attendance at that function.

ACTION bus service—Belconnen bus interchange

MR COE (Ginninderra) (2.07 am): Since 25 May, I have received numerous constituent complaints regarding bus services in the Belconnen town centre. On 25 May the new temporary yet long-lasting bus arrangement commenced. Belconnen commuters did not think that facilities for bus travellers could get worse than the now decommissioned Belconnen bus interchange. The Belconnen bus interchange was, as the minister put it in question time today, awful. It was in a dilapidated state, did not provide a comfortable environment for commuters, and had significant crime and vandalism problems. It was a significant disincentive to bus commuters. Nothing, minister, was changed when it was painted a different colour within a year of closing.

The colour of the paint on the walls at the interchange was an attempt to put a slightly different gloss on the same problem. The new paint did not fix the holes in the roof, improve the comfort of the waiting area, make the buses run on time or prevent crime and vandalism. I suspect that if the Chief Minister—he is not here—asked people who continue to use the interchange whether their commuting experience had been improved by the paint, I am sure he would receive a universal no.

I would suggest that spending $50,000 on this cosmetic change to the interchange, when the Department of Territory and Municipal Services knew it would be

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