Page 3165 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

some areas the water is still rising so it will be several days before we get a clear picture of what has happened. Many of the people have not eaten properly for three days so they are starting to eat the carcasses of dead livestock. Rain is forecast for tonight. If it does rain heavily then the situation will get much worse.”

Initial assessments suggest that more than 20,000 people have lost their homes and at least another 50,000 have been affected by the floods.

These are the people—the survivors of that, who came back, bedraggled, desperate, through the junction points from West Timor into East Timor—being assisted and helped by IOM, the International Organisation for Movement, and by people working with UNHCR, aid agencies on the front line, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the United Nations. It is worth remembering that as we open our doors and welcome in refugees there are people in the refugee camps—doctors, UNHCR, IOM—risking their lives every day to try and help those people on the frontline.

Indeed, in an unspeakable, unimaginable note of horror, a footnote to this desperate situation we found ourselves in in East Timor is that the UNHCR staff in Atambua who were helping these refugees were subject to a militia attack. They burned the building that the UNHCR staff were sheltering in and three UNCHR staff were killed in the most horrific circumstances. I will never forget that day—the desperation of trying to save those people and not being able to, trying to coordinate the rescue efforts which were complicated by it being in Indonesian territory—the horror of what was happening on the ground.

I only say this today to express that on this side of politics and, as I understand, on the other, these are not glib words. These are heartfelt sentiments that we should do what we can to help refugees, be they from this conflict that we see most lately in Syria and Iraq or from other conflicts and areas of famine throughout the world. We are a society that is welcoming, that is generous, that has the capacity to help.

We obviously join today with the ACT government in commending the federal government for their actions to date. If the federal government is in a position to do so, it should consider an increase to our humanitarian intake, not just from Syria but from elsewhere. It is a worthy, noble thing to do. It is one that touches me personally very deeply because of my experience. I think that it touches others in this place equally. I commend Ms Berry’s motion to this Assembly.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.50): Of course I will be supporting this motion before us today, and I appreciate Minister Berry bringing this issue forward. As the Greens member of this government I was proud to have recently reaffirmed the ACT’s commitment to welcoming refugees into our community following the federal government’s announcement that Australia will be increasing its quota of refugees from Syria. As I said then, in 1999 the ACT took in a number of families from Kosovo, refugees who were placed within our community. We believe that as a prosperous and compassionate community we are again well placed to help the many refugees in this crisis which is being described as unprecedented in our history.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video