Page 3166 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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I note also the comments particularly that Minister Berry made about the various capacities—and the Chief Minister touched on this—that the ACT has to assist people as they arrive both in terms of formal government services but also in the tremendous level of support that is there in our community from people who are working in dedicated groups and those people who have a great sense of compassion and a desire to help.

Every day the news is showing us scenes of complete desperation from Europe and the Middle East with borders closing and families being separated. I am so thankful when I see those images that we here in Australia have the privilege to say “Welcome” and that we can offer safety and security to those who so clearly need it. I am also thankful that we can offer those fleeing these terrible wars and conflict a permanent home. As I said, Canberra took in families from Kosovo in 1999, but that was under the safe haven program. We saw the disappointing need for prolonged political and legal battles to allow those who had settled here in Canberra to stay beyond the conflict.

Seeing the conditions in the country of origin of these refugees, I think we can all agree that it may be a very long time, unfortunately, before there is peace and safety in their homelands, and the federal government’s decision to grant permanent asylum is welcome.

I look forward to hearing more about the ACT government’s discussion with the federal departments responsible for coordinating Australia’s response. I am sure that we can, as we have done before, punch above our weight, as it were, and provide safe haven to as many as possible. I think we need to continue this discussion at a national level about how many people Australia can accept.

As Mr Hanson rightly pointed out, there are a number of conflict zones around the world from which people are desperately fleeing. Certainly Syria and surrounding countries have been at the fore of our minds in recent times, but there are a range of conflicts across the planet and a range of people being persecuted. I think there is scope for Australia to increase its intake of people in the humanitarian refugees category.

Certainly my federal colleagues have talked about an emergency intake of 20,000 Syrian refugees. The federal government went to 12,000. That is very welcome, and we must continue to monitor this situation. When we look at the numbers of people who are fleeing—and we talk in the many millions—obviously there is a global responsibility to share that burden, to share that number of people, and to make sure they can all find a safe place. Some may come temporarily. There may be a time when they wish to return, but we should certainly give them the option to escape that terrible situation that they find themselves in.

Australia has been very quick to go to war. We should be equally as quick—in fact we should be faster—in offering humanitarian assistance. The vast sums of money we spend on our military involvement in the current conflict in the Middle East dwarfs what is being spent on our humanitarian contribution. I think that reflects that we have

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