Senate debates

Monday, 23 June 2014



3:58 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Sometimes I do agree with Senator Faulkner about procedure in the Senate. On this particular motion, I do not. This motion calls on the government to issue a moratorium on the return of any asylum seekers back to Iraq and offer a reprieve to those detained in immigration detention on Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island to allow them to apply for protection in Australia.

Quite frankly, this is an urgent situation. This is the type of situation I would expect these sorts of motions to apply to. This is urgent. Motions deal with this sort of urgency. It is a blunt instrument because this is a very desperate urgent situation where people are being moved back to a war zone. This is a war zone. Their lives are at risk. As late as the Sunday before last, less than 10 days ago, an Iraqi man was taken back to Iraq, to a war zone. This is urgent.

What we are seeing in this chamber is, 'Actually, we don't want to talk about it.' No approach was made to us to try and amend this motion or to send it to a debate. It was just, 'No, we are not going to grant you formality for a situation that is desperate.' It is the very sort of situation that these motions should be able to deal with. What this chamber would apparently prefer to do is to send this off to a debate. That is because when you send this blocked for formality here, it gets put on the end of the Notice Paper and it never comes back. That is not appropriate for a situation that is desperate. People are being sent back to a situation where they are highly likely to lose their lives. That is how Australia thinks it is appropriate to treat refugees, people who have fled terror and who have fled prosecution.

What is happening now in Iraq are those sorts of situations where there is terror, where there is persecution happening and where you are seeing armed conflict. That is not appropriate. I would have thought this was a fairly obvious motion to enable us to actually send a message to the government that we want a moratorium on sending refugees back to Iraq—remembering that we are talking about refugees, who are people who have already fled for their lives—to say, 'Don't send them back to that situation now.'

Globally, they are trying to deal with this issue. One of the things that we can do is make sure that people who are already terrorised, who have already fled for their lives and who have already fled this sort of conflict are not sent back to a situation that everybody globally is saying is outrageous and is trying to rectify. It is not appropriate. We do not believe that you should say, 'No, we are not even going to think about it in this chamber. Let's put it off to a debate somewhere much further down the track.' They could at least come to us and say, 'Actually, can we amend this?' No, there was nothing like that. I understand from Senator Hanson-Young that no approach was made about amending this or, in fact, trying to work out a time to debate this issue.

In the Greens, we believe that it is totally unacceptable to be forcing people back to Iraq, which is a war zone. We do not support that sort of approach by the government of this country in our name. This motion calls on the government to issue a moratorium to say that it is basically not appropriate to send asylum seekers back to a war zone. We will never support asylum seekers being sent back to a war zone—not now and not in the future.


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