Refugees - 23/06/2021

23 June 2021


I rise to speak on the member for Macnamara's motion on refugee resettlement and want to thank him for moving this very important motion today. Today in Australia over 100 refugees are detained in hotels and immigration detention facilities, including five women. There are 230 people who remain on Nauru or in Papua New Guinea. There are 1,000 people who are on bridging visas in our community. Medevac enabled asylum seekers caught in Australia's punitive system of immigration detention to access essential medical treatment here in Australia. There were 100 refugees who were released from detention in hotels during or after accessing vital medical treatment, but the Morrison government has halted these releases, and we don't know when they will begin again.

When someone is released into the Australian community on a bridging visa, they receive three to six weeks of support from the government and then they are on their own, in limbo, up against the confusing Australian immigration system. It is only thanks to organisations like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and other non-government organisations and community groups across Australia that support is available. With this support the 100 refugees released from hotel detention are succeeding. The majority have secured employment and have been welcomed into communities around Australia.

The Murugappan family are an example of the productive and happy lives that asylum seekers can live in the community. The community of Biloela want this family back, contributing to their community. The contrast between their lives in the community and the last four years they have spent in detention shows just how destructive and expensive our immigration detention systems are. The government has spent millions of dollars locking up the Murugappan family over the last four years. The government has said that the cost is almost $7 million, but other estimates say that the cost is closer to $50 million. Not only is this cruelty illegal under international law; it is shockingly costly. Compare this to living in the community where the Murugappan family worked, contributed, made friends and lived normal lives after years of trauma experienced in their home country. Canberrans want this family to remain in Australia and be allowed to return to their community in Biloela. I again back these calls and once again request that Ministers Hawke and Andrews use their powers available to them to grant this family permanent residency here in Australia in Biloela.

The 2021 ALP National Platform says:

Migrants and refugees have made an important social and economic contribution throughout our nation's history. Australia's diversity is a source of national strength and a critical factor in nationbuilding.

Our platform also acknowledges the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as the international agency dealing with the world's response to this humanitarian need. In government, Labor will ensure Australia is one of the leading contributors to the global work of the UNHCR, with a significant increase in funding for the UNHCR. The work of the UNHCR is vital, but the reality is that it is underfunded and underresourced. Asylum seekers wait years for permanent resettlement, and this has led to people risking their lives to take the boat journey to Australia. If you care about an orderly system of refugee resettlement here, you must be committed to a strong UNHCR and to a high level of refugee resettlement.

As per our national platform Labor will increase the humanitarian intake of refugees to create this orderly pathway to resettlement in Australia. Labor's aspiration is to progressively increase Australia's government funded humanitarian intake to 27,000 places per year and to progressively increase the community sponsored refugee program intake to 5,000 places per year. We know that temporary protection visas place refugees in an ongoing state of uncertainty and prevent meaningful settlement, creating hardship for refugees and denying Australia the benefit of their contribution. As per our national platform, Labor will abolish temporary protection visas and safe-haven enterprise visas and transition eligible refugees into permanent visa arrangements. We want protection claims made in Australia to be assessed and reviewed with procedural fairness and efficiency. Currently the system is not transparent, fair or consistent, and Labor will make these changes.

Although I personally struggle with the concept of third-country resettlement, I back it because I know, for many asylum seekers currently here in Australia, it will be the fastest way to enable them to live normal lives. The government should accept New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 refugees per year. In government, Labor will explore options other than indefinite detention, including third-country resettlement, to deal with refugees with adverse security assessments in a way that does not jeopardise Australia's national security interests. But, unlike the Morrison government, the Labor Party knows that indefinite detention is not the answer and is committed to ending it.