NZ offer for asylum seekers a useful step on way to solving humanitarian crisis
Posted December 04, 2017
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (16:02): I support the amendment from the member for Melbourne. The treatment of asylum seekers is an important issue in my electorate and is a matter of strong views. I understand the problem, I understand the need to break the business model, I understand the need to not send the wrong message to the community and I understand the importance of protecting our borders—that's really clear—but I also get the call from my electorate for compassion, for kindness and for Australians to be their best selves, and I believe these are not mutually exclusive. A meeting took place on Thursday night in the town of Beechworth in my electorate, where a gathering of 48 people signed a petition and asked me to bring a message to parliament:
This petition of certain citizens of Australia from the Victorian municipality of Indigo and adjacent municipalities and communities draws the attention of the House to:
a) The plight of people who have sought asylum in Australia but have been prevented by present Commonwealth law from enjoying its refuge;
b) Our abiding concern that the Commonwealth, in its administration of such law and its consequent arrangements with the governments of Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Nauru, continues to cause these people grave distress, indignity and discomfort; and
c) The aspiration of many Australians in rural communities that the Commonwealth should relieve these people of such anguish.
The petition goes on, and I will make sure that the minister gets a copy, but that is my heartfelt plea to the parliament today. This offer from New Zealand, our neighbouring country, shows us they have a heart, they have feelings and they're willing to help us.
The call from my constituents is, 'Please, listen to that offer of neighbourly help that they've given us.' The offer from New Zealand, to take 150 people when we have a much bigger problem, is clearly not the answer.
I totally get that the government is working with America and that the aim is to close Nauru and Manus—and we want that done as quickly as possible. In the interim, I ask the minister here, with the passion of the people in my electorate and those here today, particularly members of Rural Australians for Refugees: can we find compassion, kindness and a way of working with these asylum seekers that does not punish them? I'm grateful to New Zealand for this offer and to the Senate for considering the motion. I will be supporting it when it comes up for voting.