Thursday, 18 February 2021
Lingiari Electorate: Detention of Murugappan Family
Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman: as you know, Priya and Nades came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013. They'd fled Sri Lanka because of persecution of the Tamils. The couple married and settled in the Central Queensland town of Biloela, where they lived and worked. Their daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa, were born in Australia. The family have been in detention on Christmas Island since August 2019—and Christmas Island, of course, is in my electorate. On Tuesday this week the Federal Court stopped their deportation, upholding a decision made in April 2020, which the Department of Home Affairs has sought to have overturned. Labor welcomes the court's decision. The family are being held in detention at a centre known to the Christmas Islanders as 'construction camp'. This construction camp is located next to the Christmas Island recreation centre and the community cricket ground.
In November 2019, whilst on Christmas Island as part of my regular visits, I met with this family and had the opportunity to witness their living circumstances and hear of what they had to say and about their situation. I also spoke to many Christmas Island residents about how they felt about the family being on Christmas Island and in detention. Overwhelmingly, the view was that the Australian government was wasting tens of millions of dollars to detain a family of four—two adults and two children—for no good purpose. They said, rightly, that the family posed no threat to the community and that they should not be in detention but should be given freedom to be at liberty and to live in the community. That has not happened.
That view has not changed. But, since then, many more tens of millions of dollars have been spent keeping the family behind wire in a detention facility—a shameful thing. The children attend the local school before returning home to detention each afternoon. The fate of the family is in the hands of the minister and this government, who have the right to grant a visa, and they should. The sorry saga should come to an end. The Biloela community in Central Queensland has always wanted them to return. The minister, with his powers, should have intervened to long ago. It is unfair, unjust and unreasonable to continue to cause so much pain and suffering for this family and to continue to waste the tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds on their detention, simply to prove a point.
Allow this family to stay. We don't need any more taxpayer money wasted keeping in detention on Christmas Island a family of four who pose no risk to the community. At the very least, the minister should allow them the freedom of living in the community and, even better, allow them to return to Central Queensland, to the welcoming arms of the community of Biloela.