Senate debates

Thursday, 4 December 2014


Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014; In Committee

9:12 pm

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

I would like to speak to these amendments moved by the government. I obviously have an awful lot of questions for the minister as well in relation to how on earth the government thinks it is appropriate to hold children as hostages in order to change fundamental pieces of legislation to simply grant the minister more power for himself. I have had many debates in this place over asylum seeker and refugee policy and many of them have been pretty undignified, but I must say I have never seen anything so appalling and abusive as I have seen in this place tonight. We heard from Senator Muir, who said he felt he was in such a difficult position—with a choice to vote for a bad bill or a terrible bill, because he was told that, if he did not do what the government wanted, the children would get it. He was told the only way to get these children out of detention was to pass this bill and this package. I have been saying for a number of weeks that the minister was using children in detention as hostages—it was a figure of speech until tonight. Tonight we saw children on Christmas Island being handed the phone number of Senator Muir, and they were asked to call that number and beg that senator to let them out. If that is not treating children as hostages, what is it?

This minister has become one of the most sociopathic people in this country. I want to give you the definition of a sociopath. It is characterised by a lack of regard for the moral or legal standards of society, a master deceiver and manipulator, someone who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants with no regard for consequences. Minister Morrison is a sociopath who has held children as hostages in order to grab the power he wants in this place tonight.

I do not blame Senator Muir. I do not blame any of the members on this crossbench. I do not even blame a number of the backbenchers of the Liberal-National party who I know are appalled at where this government's policy is doing but I sure as hell blame Minister Morrison and Tony Abbott. They have been desperate for months to get a win on this issue. They have done everything they could to make it a hard moral choice for people in this place. What is in this bill is not just temporary protection visas, not just a new visa created to allow people to work. We know there are seven schedules in this piece of legislation and the majority of them do exactly the opposite of helping children and their families resettle properly in this country.

Minister Morrison has held children in detention for months, children he could have been released at any time. The conditions inside the detention centre on Christmas Island are appalling. Children have been abused. They have been raped and their parents have been raped. I am not exaggerating. This is what the evidence has shown. Why did he not get the children out when they started to be abused? Why did he not let the children out when they called, wrote and begged him to let them go to school six months ago? Why did he not let them out when the Human Rights Commission said they are the most disgraceful conditions children should ever be held in? Why did he not let them out then? Because he was waiting for his prime time to use them as bargaining chips, as pawns in his political play, to get legislation that he wanted through this place which previously had no support in this chamber.

The amendments moved today by the minister do not improve the substance of this bill. The amendments put forward in this piece of legislation do not make any real difference to the use of those SHEVs or those TPVs, despite what the crossbench has been told. There is no way that somebody can honestly believe that there is a pathway to permanency for any of the people in this 30,000 caseload backlog. I want to address the backlog issue because one of the men responsible is the very same man who has now drafted and negotiated this dirty, hostage situation this week and his name is Paris Aristotle.

We have a backlog of 30,000 asylum seekers in this country because Paris Aristotle told Prime Minister Gillard that it would be a good idea to freeze the applications of asylum seekers when they arrive here. He told Prime Minister Gillard at the time that that is how you stop the boats—stop processing people's claims, introduce something called the 'no advantage rule', which would mean that people would not have their claims processed for five or six years—they would not even put a figure on it. The boats did not stop; they kept coming, despite the fact that right in this place we had a debate about that exact piece of legislation which allowed for all of the recommendations that Paris Aristotle and Angus Houston wanted. We had a late night debate, very similar to what is going on here. I was standing right there. That legislation went through, the freeze occurred, the boats did not stop but boy oh boy, the backlog built up.

Now in 2014, two years later, the very same person who created the policy which created this problem is in our crossbenchers' offices this week telling them, 'You have to do something to get these children off Christmas Island. You have to do something to change the laws so that the minister can fast track their applications and please, at least give them temporary protection visas.' They have no hope of putting down roots to rebuild their families in the country in which they deserve to get permanent protection. The very same person set the 30,000 asylum seekers and refugees up to fail from day one. It is appalling.

I want to put on the record today that I was appalled by Senator Xenophon's speech yesterday—the praise for Paris Aristotle, who does not represent the refugee sector in this country, has no authority in this country, is a ministerial adviser. He has negotiated a hostage situation hand in hand with Scott Morrison tonight.

I want those kids off Christmas Island. I want the kids off Nauru. I want the people out of detention on Manus Island. But I do not believe in setting 30,000 people up to fail, giving them false hope that they will get their refugee claims assessed fairly—which they will not, because schedules 4 and 5 scrap their ability to ever have their claims assessed fairly—and pretending that somehow there is a pathway to permanency when the minister has said himself that it is going to be a 'very high bar to get there and good luck to them.' These people are being sold false hope, and who did the final deal but a distraught, broken, abused child on Christmas Island, down the telephone to a compassionate senator who wanted to do the right thing. This minister has not just used children as a bargaining chip. He has sold them a false dream once more.

We know that when you strip away the ability to have a genuine appeal process, to have cases reviewed, you risk 60 per cent of applications being marked as wrong. Sixty per cent of the children on Christmas Island tonight who will come to Australia will never be given a visa under this legislation. It does not matter how compromising or willing we are to try to move on and give people some form of temporary visa or a SHEV. The reality is, the statistics tell us and past history and evidence show us that if this assessment process is changed the way the minister wants it changed, 60 per cent of those children are never even going to be given a temporary protection visa. This minister is not just a sociopath, not just grabber of power for himself who is prepared to take everything and use children to get it; he has sold senators in this place who are trying to do the right thing a lie. Sociopaths are masters and deceivers and manipulators. That is what we have seen here tonight, colleagues. That is exactly what we have seen here tonight.

I heard Mr Palmer earlier today saying that he had won family reunion as part of this deal. I have looked through the legislation, I have looked through the amendments. There ain't no family reunion in here. We heard that people would be able to have a pathway to permanency. Well it is not in there, and it will not be in there for the majority of people we apparently must do this for to get them off the island. Why didn't the minister act to get those children out of detention when he was told that the conditions were damaging them—months ago? Why has he spent months attacking Gillian Triggs for standing up and saying these kids needed to be off the island and out of detention? Why didn't he act then? Because he was desperate to keep his chips in his pocket for exactly this occasion. Who would have been on the end of that phone call, distressed and crying, if he had already taken all the children out? I am appalled. Many people in this country tonight would be appalled. Using children as hostages is never okay, and only a sociopath would do it.


Vicki Stebbins
Posted on 6 Dec 2014 12:09 pm

I didn't read Senator Muir said this "...Tonight we saw children on Christmas Island being handed the phone number of Senator Muir..." you need to put a link to where this was actually said, or you're as bad as the people you're talking about.