Thursday, 16 May 2013
Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012; In Committee
by leave—I move Australian Greens amendments (1) to (4) on sheet 7383:
(1) Schedule 1, page 7 (after line 4), after item 19, insert:
19A Subsection 198AD(1)
Omit "and 198AG", substitute ", 198AG and 198AJ".
(2) Schedule 1, page 10 (after line 15), after item 47A, insert:
47B At the end of Subdivision B of Division 8 of Part 2
198AJ Vulnerable persons
(1) Section 198AD does not apply to an unauthorised maritime arrival if the person is a vulnerable person for the purpose of subsection (2).
(2) A person is a vulnerable person for the purpose of this subsection if:
(a) the person is aged less than 18 years; or
(b) the person is aged 18 years or over and is the parent or guardian (or other family member) of a person covered by paragraph (a).
(3) Schedule 1, page 12 (after line 19), after item 61, insert:
61A Application provision—section 198AJ
(1) The amendments in items 19A and 47B apply from 13 August 2012.
(2) Subitem (3) applies to a person if:
(a) the person was an unauthorised maritime arrival at any time on or after 13 August 2012; and
(b) the person was taken from Australia to a regional processing country pursuant to subsection 198AD(2) of the Migration Act 1958; and
(c) the person was a vulnerable person for the purpose of subsection 198AJ(2) at the time the person was taken to the regional processing country; and
(d) the person is a vulnerable person for the purpose of subsection 198AJ(2) at the date the Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Act 2013 receives the Royal Assent.
(3) Subject to subitem (4), an officer must, as soon as reasonably practicable, take an offshore entry person to whom this subitem applies, from the regional processing country to a place located in Australia.
(4) Page 14 (after line 21), at the end of the Bill, add:
Schedule 3—Further contingent amendments
Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946
1 Section 4 (definition of regional processing country )
Repeal the definition.
2 Paragraph 6(2)(b)
Repeal the paragraph.
3 Paragraph 8(3)(b)
Repeal the paragraph.
The final amendments the Australian Greens are moving this morning concern children and families being detained on Manus Island. There are a number of people within the Australian community—and this is also reflected in here and in the other place—who are incredibly uncomfortable with the indefinite detention of children on Manus Island.
We know that the conditions there are substandard. The UNHCR has told us that. We know that the conditions are inappropriate for children, harmful for children. Not only has the UNHCR said that; Amnesty International has also told us that. We know that even the government's own Department of Immigration and Citizenship believes that the current conditions on Manus Island are pretty poor.
Many Australians were shocked and horrified when the Four Corners report was aired a couple of weeks ago and they saw the conditions children were being kept in. There are other people in this place, from other parties, who also do not believe that vulnerable children and their families should be kept on Manus Island. Senator Cameron has said that he does not believe that children should be kept on Manus Island. I agree with Senator Cameron. The opposition's spokesperson on immigration, Mr Morrison, has said that he is uncomfortable with the idea of children being kept on Manus Island.
When I went to Manus Island at the end of January, before parliament resumed this year, I met with the children who were being detained there. It was a pretty harrowing experience. When I was there, there were 35 children. The youngest was seven; the oldest was 17. There was one little boy who was very clearly distressed.
I met the children without their parents—I had their parents' consent. I met with them, sat with them and talked with them. They all talked to me about how awful it was being locked up there. They asked what they had done—what was the bad thing they had done which meant they had to be locked up in this prison? This little boy, who was clearly depressed, told me that he was scared and upset but that he could not cry. He had stopped himself from crying—because every time he cries, his mum cries. And his mum cries all the time. This is that little boy's picture: 'My mum is crying and I am sad.' This is the naked truth of what we are doing to children on Manus Island. Other children talked about how they felt as if they were locked in prison. This is a picture of a young boy staring out from inside the fence: 'This is a boy; he is in prison and waiting.' This is from an eight-year-old child.
They were all taken to Manus Island on a plane and they told me the stories of how they were taken there. They were ripped out of their beds on Christmas Island, some of them at four or five o'clock in the morning. They were given no warning. They were put onto the plane in the middle of the night. They talked about how they had had to take the almost 10-hour flight—there was a stopover where they remained on the plane—while still in their pyjamas, terrified about what was going to happen to them.
They are in this camp, which is hideous. Not one person, aside from the immigration minister, believes that these conditions are appropriate. It is a place of cruelty. In this hideous, hideous camp, there is really nothing for these children to do, so they are watching all the time, and, when they see planes flying over, they think the plane is coming to get them to take them back to safety. 'When there is an aeroplane in the sky, all the kids start to cry and ask for leaving Manus with it.' That was from a 10-year-old child that I met when I was on Manus Island.
I know this issue is difficult. I have never argued that there is a simple solution to addressing the needs of asylum seekers who arrive on our shores. I do not think there is a simple solution. But I do not believe that we should be punishing children in some way to pretend that there is a simple solution. We are sacrificing these children's lives. We are—and I do not say this lightly—subjecting these children to child abuse, to institutionalised abuse, to child abuse by policy. We are creating a damaged generation. Most of these kids, at the end of this, are going to come to Australia, be given protection, because they deserve it, and become Australian citizens—and we have damaged them. We have damaged them. They will become the next damaged generation.
Children and their families cannot be kept in detention in these camps of horror. We must bring them to Australia, assess their claims fairly, treat them with care—look after these poor kids. These children have fled some of the most horrendous circumstances we can imagine—war, torture, brutality. They have seen their parents subjected to torture. And now we have them locked up in conditions that are inhumane, where they are witnessing adults who are under so much pressure that they are threatening to take their own lives, attempting self-harm—and these kids are seeing it all. It is not right.
We debate in this place all the time how we manage this issue. There has to be something said for protecting children and standing up for the rights of these children when they are totally voiceless. If we do not do it in this place, who is going to? If we cannot see that subjecting these children to these types of conditions is dangerous, is harmful, is cruel, what will be we prepared to do next? It was wrong when John Howard detained children in Woomera. It was wrong when John Howard detained children on Manus Island. It is wrong today to have children detained in our detention centres. It is wrong to be detaining children on Manus Island. We have the capacity to assess their claims here and stop treating them like animals, subjecting them to abuse and creating the next damaged generation. I seek leave to table our pictures.