House debates

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Constituency Statements

Immigration Detention

5:50 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | | Hansard source

Yesterday saw an overdue but welcome decision from the Morrison government in the case of the Murugappan family—the Biloela family, as they've become known around the country—Priya, Nades, Tharunicaa and Kopika, a Tamil family from Sri Lanka who have been in detention on Christmas Island since 2019. Many of my constituents have contacted me about this family's case for several years now. They've been asking me why the Morrison government continues to keep this family, including Kopika and Tharunicaa, who were born in Australia, in detention on Christmas Island for so long. It's a difficult question to answer because the reality is that this family from Biloela should never have been sent to Christmas Island.

So it was a relief when the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs announced yesterday that the family would be reunited in Perth. But this announcement comes only after Tharunicaa was hospitalised with pneumonia and sepsis contracted in detention on Christmas Island, and after an extended period of pressure on the government. It shouldn't have come to this. It shouldn't have taken this crisis for the government to act. My thoughts are with Tharunicaa and her family, and I wish her a very speedy recovery. While it's a welcome decision that they've been reunited, the Morrison government still needs to make a decision on the family's long-term future.

This is an area of policy that has no easy answers. I don't pretend that it's an area with simple solutions, but everyone can agree that governments have an obligation to minimise the time spent in detention by individuals. Leaving people in indefinite detention or otherwise in an indefinite limbo state, like the Biloela family are now in, without a feasible pathway for permanent migration in a resettlement country destroys people. It breeds desperation and despair and leaves people without hope. The Morrison government should let them go home to Biloela, to the community that loves them.

Labor have been campaigning for this for some time. The Leader of the Opposition visited Biloela in 2019 and saw just how much community support there is for them there. Senator Keneally, Labor's shadow home affairs minister, in the other place, has been calling for them to be allowed to go home, and recently visited Christmas Island to see Nades, Priya, Kopika and Tharunicaa. Kopika and Tharunicaa have spent a significant portion of their life living in detention despite being born in Australia. It's time they were allowed to go home to Biloela with their parents. The Australian people want the Morrison government to do this. The immigration minister has broad powers under the Migration Act. It's time that he used them. There are no obstacles to resolving the permanent situation of this family. It can be done quickly and it needs to be done soon. I call on the Morrison government to show specific compassion and humanity to this individual family. I call on the immigration minister to act.