Tuesday, 5 September 2017
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Cash) to a question without notice asked by Senator McKim today relating to asylum seekers on Manus Island.
We didn't get much out of Senator Cash, and that's, I suspect, very strongly because there's actually not much to be had out of Minister Dutton with regard to his intentions for the over 800 people who Australia is responsible for and who we have currently imprisoned on Manus Island and at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. It's clear, from the responses that we did get from Minister Cash today, that Minister Dutton has completely lost control of his cruel, inhumane and torturous policies. One thing we did get from Minister Cash is that, in just 57 short days, it is still Minister Dutton's intention to close the Manus Island prison camp that Australia has been funding and operating using Australian taxpayers' money for well over four years now.
The question before Mr Dutton, and the one that Minister Cash did not respond to today, is: what is going to happen to the over 800 people—the overwhelming majority of whom have been found to be genuine refugees—once that camp closes? What we do know is that the Papua New Guinea government, through its Attorney-General, Mr Steven, has said very clearly that the closure date of 31 October was not mutually agreed upon between the Australian government and the Papua New Guinean government. We also know through Mr Steven, the PNG Attorney-General, that the Papua New Guinea government is 'not going to allow' a situation where Australia withdraws and leaves behind the over 800 political prisoners of Australia in Papua New Guinea.
One thing we did find out from Minister Cash was that, in secret, Minister Dutton visited Papua New Guinea last Friday to meet with the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Mr O'Neill. He secretly went over there without notifying the Australian media and without notifying the Australian people, and had a conversation with Mr O'Neill, the contents of which still remain secret as I stand here today. The question that Mr Dutton and his representatives in the Senate need to answer—Mr Dutton having scurried over in secret to Port Moresby on Friday with his tail between his legs—is: what exactly was agreed, if anything, at that meeting between Mr Dutton and Prime Minister O'Neill? Was there any further financial consideration offered by Australia or accepted by the Papua New Guinea government at that meeting? Crucially, has Papua New Guinea agreed to accept the over 800 political prisoners of Australia on Manus Island and agreed to support them, to the best of their capacity, once the Manus Island prison has been closed by Peter Dutton?
This incompetent, heartless and cruel minister has some serious questions to answer, but I don't think he has the answers. He is basically just crossing his fingers and making it up as he goes along in this portfolio. In doing so, he is playing Russian roulette with the lives of over 800 people—people who stretched out a hand to Australia for help, people who the Labor and Liberal parties in this place have kicked in the teeth repeatedly. How telling it is that many of these people are now too scared to come out of their prison on Manus Island—a place where they have been murdered, assaulted, tortured and at shot at by the Papua New Guinean navy. Their prison is now the least unsafe place they know in that country. What a disgrace this is—what we are doing to these poor people. What has become of our country, where their rights can be trampled and their freedoms and liberties denied, yet in this place the Labor and Liberal parties collude to implement misery on them?
Question agreed to.