Senate debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


Asylum Seekers

8:01 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak today about the issue of racism and bigotry, which have real world consequences for people. The world has been shocked—indeed, it has been appalled—by the division, the hate-mongering and the racism expressed by President Donald Trump and exemplified through the ban to prevent people from migrating to America from seven Muslim-majority countries. For all of our many flaws, both Australia and indeed the United States share a very, very proud history—a proud tradition—of welcoming people from all over the world, and especially welcoming those people most in need of protection and those people most in need of our help.

In November I shared one young Melbourne woman's experience of being a recent immigrant and the everyday racism that she was subjected to. Today I would like to share with the parliament another young woman's recent experience of institutionalised racism. This is a woman called Sara. She was born in Iran, grew up in Australia and now lives in California. She recently wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, and in it she describes her experience of President Trump's visa ban. She says:

This ban isn't abstract. It's hurting real Australian families … I've been living and working in the US for the last few years. I met an incredible man. We got married and are expecting our first child in 10 weeks. Every time I think of our child's shared Jewish and Muslim heritage it makes me smile.

Last week I booked a ticket for my mum to be here for the birth of our baby. Like me, my mum is an Australian citizen who was born in Iran. The ban applied to her - because of where she was born.

Had it stood, she wouldn't have been able to come here and see me. And had I left the country, despite being an Australian citizen and a Green Card holder, I may not have been able to re-enter the US.

In Donald Trump's mind, the fact that I was born in Iran is a crime that means I'm less worthy of basic dignity or the rights that others enjoy.

This is the real world impact of the proposal that is being put forward by Donald Trump. What he is saying to the world as the President of the United States of America is that people of one religion are inherently inferior to another religion—that people born in some countries are not as worthy as people born in others. It is the epitome of bigotry and racism. We here in Australia should be rejecting that kind of racism—that kind of bigotry—no matter where it is and no matter who it comes from. Our political leaders should be joining in and showing the sort of leadership that we are seeing in the rest of the world and joining in to call out this dangerous bigotry and racism for what it is worth and what it is.

It is ironic that we have a government funded campaign. It is called 'RACISM. IT STOPS WITH ME'. This is the federal government's attempt to talk to the Australian community about how critical it is to stamp out racism, no matter where it is and no matter who it comes from. Yet here in Australia we have our own version, a much harsher version, of the Trump ban. We have a Prime Minister who wants to ban 1,200 innocent people languishing in detention on Nauru and Manus Island from ever coming to this country because they were born in places which meant they had few options other than to get here by boat. This policy from this government around the US deal to look after these 1,200 innocent people creates more uncertainty and more hardship for innocent people. The Prime Minister must bring the people currently languishing on Nauru and Manus Island here to Australia. Let us remember that racism is not okay, whether it be by Donald Trump or someone on the bus. It causes real harm to people, and, if it is going to stop, we all have a responsibility to call it out and reject it.