PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS (Federation Chamber): Asylum Seekers & End of Indefinite Detention

23 June 2021

I strongly support the motion moved by my colleague the member for Macnamara. It is incredibly important that we keep drawing attention to the Morrison government's ongoing policy of indefinite detention and the effects it has on people seeking asylum—trauma and suffering, helplessness and hopelessness. There are people locked up in various places—the Park Hotel in Melbourne, MITA and BITA—who have been in detention for eight years. Many of them have families and children and loved ones that they haven't seen in all that time. Let's be clear: they have committed no crime. They sought safety from war and persecution. Because of the Morrison government's pig-headedness, they remain detained.

This government uses indefinite detention as a punitive policy to deter people and refuses to act on solutions to actually resettle people. And the refugees are hurting so badly. When I visited the men at the Mantra Hotel, this was plain to see. They were ill, they were fearful and they were losing hope. Right now, there are 14 asylum seekers at MITA who are on a hunger strike. They don't understand why they are locked up when—thankfully and strangely—dozens of their friends have been released. The Morrison government has an arbitrary way of releasing people, and the absence of any information from the government explaining why some are released and others not has caused further mental health harm.

When refugees are released, the Morrison government chooses to continue to punish them. Those released are on six-month bridging visas with little or no support after an initial period of funded support for three to six weeks. Their fate is unknown and their lives are in limbo with unclear processes about visa renewal or any certainty for the future. This is awful policy and Labor does not support it.

Labor has supported the Game Over campaign and called on the Morrison government to immediately accept the New Zealand resettlement deal. That way, those who are still detained on PNG and Nauru could have safe, permanent homes. We've called on the government to release refugees into the community on ongoing bridging visas. We've called on them to extend appropriate supports and safety nets to those released into the community—because, as we know, at the Morrison government cruelly cut the crucial SRSS payments. And Labor has said that we want Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharunicaa to return to their home in Biloela. The community there loves them, supports them and wants them home. Yet the Morrison government refuses to do any of these things. They are cruel.

Labor has a very different approach than the Morrison government. We would end indefinite detention, double the refugee intake, remove temporary protection visas and SHEVs, and allow for family reunions. We'll provide all asylum seekers and refugees with appropriate settlement services so they can get jobs, get housing, see a doctor, see a lawyer and have a living wage. We have a set of policies that are far more effective and compassionate. If we could implement them, it would make a difference to thousands of people seeking asylum and refugees.

In my few remaining minutes, I would like to thank the people who work so hard in this sector to advocate for asylum seekers and refugees and work closely with me and my colleagues for a better approach: Sister Bridget, in particular; the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; Amnesty International; the Refugee Action Collective; Rural Australians for Refugees; the Refugee Council of Australia; and so many of my constituents in Cooper who I know feel very deeply about this and who constantly seek my support to amplify their voice in support of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

We do not support the cruel and inhumane policy of indefinite detention. It does nothing but cause harm, pain and a sense of hopelessness when all people are looking for is safety and a home free from persecution and free from fear.