Senate debates

Monday, 23 June 2014



3:46 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Pursuant to contingent notice, and at the request of the Leader of the Australian Greens, I move:

That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion relating to the conduct of the Senate, namely motion No. 285, which is in relation to a very serious matter of the deportation of Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq.

I am appalled, to be honest, that I have been denied formality in relation to this matter, by the Labor Party. This is a situation where individuals as recently as last week were being forcibly returned to Iraq. We know the situation there is extremely dangerous. We have heard for days, over the last week, from our own Prime Minister about how atrocious the situation there is, how the brutality and the terror is being inflicted not just on members of the official Iraqi military but on the citizens themselves. Of course it is the citizens who end up suffering the most in these circumstances. We know that already over half a million people have been displaced from Iraq in the last couple of weeks. We know that there are over 500 Iraqi asylum seekers detained in Australian detention centres today. There are several thousand more who are living in the community waiting for their claims to be processed as asylum seekers and to be given refugee status.

It is incredibly galling to see the political play in this place by those on the government's side about how we need to crack down and do things in order to help what is going on in Iraq. Yet the very same people are forcibly removing Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq. Even as recently as today I have been told that we are now paying $6,500 to people who have been treated so appallingly, told that they have no rights, that they have got no prospects of ever becoming a refugee in Australia. So we are paying them $6,500 to jump on a plane to go back to a war zone.

Our country used to stand up for what is right. Our country used to say, when people were in need of help and protection, we would give them a helping hand and we would support them. When Bob Hawke announced after the Tiananmen Square massacre that the Chinese students who were in Australia could stay because of their need for safety and protection, that was the right thing to do. Today we have people who are already here, living in fear of being returned home to face the brutalities of what is being drawn out in Iraq, in their home communities, and we cannot even give those people a helping hand and the protection that they deserve. A moratorium on sending people back to Iraq is common sense.

There is a terrible situation unfolding in Iraq. The very least that this government and this parliament could do is to stand up for the basic human rights of those individuals and say, 'You know what? We're not going to send you back into the pit of terror. We will not send you home to your death.' I think it is appalling that we now see the Labor Party not only not being able to support what is a common sense motion calling on the government for a moratorium but not even wanting to debate this bill properly. That is cowardice—absolute cowardice. There are times in our nation's history where you have to stand up for what is right, where you have to stand up for things regardless of the political expediency of the day. Sending Iraqi asylum seekers back to the pits of terror where they will be killed is not the right thing to do. Calling on the government of the day to issue a moratorium and halt the deportation of these people is the right thing to do. The government are not just forcibly returning individuals; they are paying people; they are bribing people. They are pushing people to choose between the two evils: the hellhole of Manus Island versus being shot in a war zone in Iraq. That is the depth that this government is going to, and it is appalling that the Labor Party is standing by and letting it happen.


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