Page 119 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 25 February 2014

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ACT Labor’s membership believes we should ensure that people who seek asylum in Australia should have their claims processed quickly and without reference to their mode of arrival. They know we should provide quality health care, education, housing and social support. Like so many in our community, they have stood time and again against the steady decline on this issue that has seen Australia shirk our international responsibilities, farcically excise our own territory from our migration zone and hide our shameful detention camps away offshore.

On the matter of the competence with which we lock up the world’s most vulnerable in Manus Island detention camp, ACT Labor’s membership is clear: we should shut it down. But shutting Manus down is not enough because it seems that the majority of adult Australians do not agree with me and the membership of ACT Labor. The people I have spoken to who came to Australia as refugees came seeking a safe, welcoming and supportive community. To deliver on that promise we need a broad majority of Australians to want to include refugees in their lives, their workplaces and their neighbourhoods.

I personally think it is presumptive of everyone involved in the debate to claim to understand what is making people fearful in accepting refugees. I think we have a lot of work to do to really understand the motivations behind their views. For too long the politics of this issue has been focused on boats at sea, but to win this debate we need to work so much harder to understand the challenges people face in their daily lives that feed the politics of fear we have found ourselves in.

I need to be clear: like the membership of ACT Labor, I am appalled by the treatment of people at the Manus Island detention camp. But being appalled will not bring the world’s vulnerable to a safe home in a welcoming community. We know what good refugee policy looks like and now we need to build communities that will support it.

Church service

MRS JONES (Molonglo) (5.52): Yesterday I, along with a number of Assembly colleagues, attended a church service organised and hosted by St Paul’s Anglican Church in Manuka to mark the start of the Assembly year. It was an interfaith service led by the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, the Right Reverend Stuart Robinson, and the Rector of St Paul’s, the Reverend Dr Brian Douglas.

The Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, the Most Reverend Christopher Prowse, delivered a sermon focusing on one of the beatitudes from the gospel of St Matthew, the one that said blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. His Grace used the analogy of good and bad cholesterol to illustrate the concept of good and bad secularisation. He warned against a move to secularism saying that both politics and religion have legitimate roles in our community.

Other guests included representatives of the Apostolic Church, the Uniting Church, Presbyterian Church and the Lutheran Church.

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