Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Matters of Public Importance

National Security

4:29 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise on yet another matter brought to this parliament on which Senator Roberts does not have a single clue about what he's talking about. Again Senator Roberts is pretending he knows more about what is going on than the medical or scientific experts. We shouldn't be surprised about that, because Senator Roberts has built an entire political career on denying science. Now, of course, he wants to deny the doctors. Let's be clear about what the medevac laws do. The medevac laws put decisions about medical care for desperately ill people in the hands of doctors, where they should be. They take those decisions out of the hands of politicians, where they never, ever should have been in the first place.

Let me ask the Senate one question: if any of you were to fall ill, would you seek the opinion of Senator Roberts about your illness? Would you seek the opinion of Minister Dutton about your illness? I'll answer that for you: no, you wouldn't. Who would you seek the opinion of? You would seek the opinion of a doctor about your illness, not Minister Peter Dutton.

Do you reckon that you would say, 'Oh, two medical professionals—two doctors—say that I urgently need to go to hospital, but what do you reckon, Minister? Do you reckon that I'm going to be okay?' No, you wouldn't. You wouldn't bother Minister Dutton with your health problems, you'd go and see a doctor and you would follow the advice from that doctor.

The prisoners on Manus Island and Nauru—and, yes, they are prisoners, contrary to the untruths that were told to this chamber by Minister Reynolds yesterday; they are horrific places. Does everyone know why I can get up here and say that with far more veracity than anyone else? Because I've been there, and no-one else in this chamber has. In fact, I've been to Manus Island six times, and I was in the centre when, under the instructions of the Australian government, that prison was laid siege to by the Papua New Guinea navy and the mobile squad of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. They cut off the food, the drinking water, the electricity and the medical supports for over 600 desperate and vulnerable people.

The policy of offshore detention has been a humanitarian calamity. People have been murdered and they've been assaulted. Children have been sexually assaulted. People have been raped and have been subjected to brutalisation in a system designed deliberately to dehumanise. People have died because they've been exiled there as Australia's modern political prisoners.

People in the chamber know this. Senator Roberts knows this. Minister Dutton knows this, because the cruelty, the deprivations, the humanitarian calamity and the abuse of human rights are exactly the point of offshore detention. This entire regime of deterrence is based on the premise that life in offshore detention has to be made worse than the conditions people are fleeing in the first place. People are leaving some of the most dangerous and hostile places on the planet, and they have to be reminded that nothing but brutality and misery awaits them. That is why offshore detention was instituted. It is a practice that is akin to impaling corpses on the walls of medieval cities, which we used to do hundreds of years ago, in order to dissuade other desperate souls from trying to gain entry. These people are political prisoners and they are being treated like the corpses we used to impale on the walls of medieval cities.

There is no doubt that the medevac legislation is saving lives. It saves lives, and it is actually crucial that these laws are maintained so more lives can be saved. The Greens were proud, and I was proud, to co-sponsor the amendment that created the medevac laws in the first place, and I'll be very proud to stand with my Greens colleagues to defend those laws against the cruelty of the Liberal Party and against the cruelty of the One Nation party. We will never, ever give up the fight until this dark and bloody chapter in Australia's story comes to an end, until we regain the previous high position we had in the global human rights community and until these desperate people that we have harmed so profoundly get the freedom and safety they so desperately need and deserve.

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