Senate debates

Thursday, 28 February 2013


Suspension of Standing Orders

3:14 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I stand up to support this motion. It is urgent that the parliament condemn absolutely the idea that you would vilify asylum seekers and refugees, that you would try to marginalise them, that you would give a signal to the Australian people that it is legitimate to speak in the manner that the member for Cook, Mr Morrison, has done. That is why it is urgent. We need to stop this immediately before the shock jocks around the country get what they want—that is, to be able to amplify hatred on the airwaves. That is what this is about, that is why it is urgent, and that is why we need a statement from all political parties in this country condemning that behaviour.

For Senator Abetz to stand in here and pretend that what is going on is the equivalent of the Good Neighbour Council is an affront to decency in this country. I can say, having come from Tasmania, that people have been kind to refugees in Tasmania for a very long time, including to Senator Abetz's own family. For him to turn around now and suggest, as Mr Morrison has done, that it is important that the government look at ensuring that police in particular are advised of people being released into the community in their jurisdiction so that police are at least aware—that is a watch list. That is nothing to do with anything like what the Good Neighbour Council did or with so many other charities and so many other good people in the community who have worked very hard and continue to work very hard for the wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees. So let us just dismiss that immediately and examine how disingenuous Senator Abetz was in the remarks he made.

I want to come back to the matter at hand. Of course, with the member for Cook, Mr Morrison, this is not the first time this has happened. Everyone will recall February 2011, when asylum seekers were being flown to Sydney for the funerals of relatives following that terrible boat accident on Christmas Island. What he said at the time was:

The Government had the option of having these services on Christmas Island. If relatives of those who were involved wanted to go to Christmas Island, like any other Australian who wanted to attend a funeral service in another part of the country, they would have made their own arrangements to be there.

…   …   …

And when it comes to the question of do I think this is a reasonable cost then my honest answer is, "No I don't think it is reasonable".

He is on the record. He did not think it was reasonable that children—children!—were facilitated in going to the funerals of their relatives who died in that terrible boating tragedy.

Furthermore, let us remember that it was Mr Morrison who—at a Liberal Party meeting in December at which shadow ministers were asked to bring three ideas for issues on which the coalition should concentrate its political attack during this parliamentary term—said that they should focus on Muslim immigration, Muslims in Australia and the inability of Muslim migrants to integrate.

This person has form on trying to capitalise on the misfortune of other people and trying to legitimise the vilification of those people, and it is a disgrace. As was said this morning by one of his own colleagues, everybody should be equal under the law in Australia. Everyone should be equal under the law. You do not put certain people on police watch lists—as Mr Morrison says because he wants to beat up fear and vilification and exploit that for the coalition going into the election. We had a 2001 election fought on that basis, and I do not want to see it happen again.

That is why it is urgent that we get up today, every one of us from across all political parties, and say: vilification of asylum seekers and refugees is unacceptable. We do not want treatment of people to be determined by the prejudice and the mean-spiritedness of people who want to stand up and give the foghorn, the echo chamber, out there to the shock jocks, which will make certain people in the community think it is legitimate to go and threaten the safety of those people in the community.

Let me tell you: there are 8,700 asylum seekers, or thereabouts, living in the community. Are you saying that it is okay to vilify all of them because you choose to do so to make a political point? It is cheap politics. (Time expired)


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