Senate debates

Monday, 27 November 2017

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:30 pm

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

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (Senator Cash) to a question without notice asked by Senator McKim today relating refugees.

Last Friday this government hit another new low in its disgraceful treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum on Manus Island and Nauru. Having cut off drinking water, food, electricity and medicine to the desperate and vulnerable people in its care, the government decided enough was enough. Immigration minister Peter Dutton decided that his prisoners on Manus Island had defied him for long enough. Of course, in a courageous, peaceful protest, under incredible pressure, as they were starving and dehydrated as a result of the Australian government withdrawing the essentials of life, the many hundreds of brave men on Manus Island held out for weeks. Their peaceful resistance, under the most extreme provocations, is one of the most inspirational examples of nonviolent action that the world has ever seen. But, of course, Mr Dutton decided enough was enough and the Papua New Guinean government jumped when he asked them to and drove the starving, dehydrated and defenceless prisoners on Manus Island out of that prison with metal rods.

Make no mistake, Mr Dutton's actions are those of a tin-pot dictator who has no respect for his fellow human beings, let alone the rule of law, the convention against torture or the refugee convention. I've gone on the record recently and described Mr Dutton as a racist, a fascist, a monster and a serial abuser of human rights.

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I am assuming you heard what was said?

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes. Senator McKim, I would ask you to withdraw those remarks. They are unparliamentary.

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

On a point of order and in response to Senator Brandis's point of order: the direct quote was that I've gone on the record and described Mr Dutton as those things. I seek your guidance as to whether or not you are still maintaining that I need to withdraw.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McKim, you will recall previous rulings made by the President about the use of direct quotes, and that statement from the President went to not repeating what would be considered unparliamentary language in the parliament, so I would ask you to withdraw those comments.

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

Alright; I withdraw those comments. The simple fact is this: Mr Dutton continues to get away with a rampant trampling of the human rights of people who are in his care. The reason he is getting away with it is the complete failure of the Australian Labor Party to oppose him. The Labor Party went to the last election in Australia promising the same policy on people seeking asylum in Australia as the Liberal Party did. Here are the consequences: starving, dehydrated and defenceless people being driven out of Australia's Manus Island prison by being beaten with metal bars. All the hand-wringing, the letter writing and the crocodile tears we see from the odd Labor member from time to time will not change the fact that the Labor Party is in absolute policy lock step with the Liberals in regard to trampling the human rights of our fellow human beings on Manus Island and Nauru. The Labor Party has not taken one single practical step to get those people out of the hellholes on Manus Island and Nauru and bring them to safety and freedom. The Labor Party can get upset with the Greens all it likes, but we will not be silenced when it's the cowardice of the Australian Labor Party that put these men on Manus Island in the first place and that is giving licence to the disgraceful attacks on them that we've seen perpetrated in recent weeks by the Australian and the Papua New Guinean governments.

The Greens desperately want to bring the sorry chapter in our country's history of offshore detention to an end, but we cannot do it on our own. We need the support of the Australian Labor Party to bring that sorry chapter to an end. I say to the Australian Labor Party today: stop wringing your hands. Enough with the crocodile tears. Join with the Greens in demanding that offshore detention ends now and that every single man, woman and child that is currently on Manus Island or Nauru or in Port Moresby is brought here to freedom and safety in Australia. If the Labor Party were to rediscover its conscience and demand those things and join with the Greens—not just demand them but vote for them in this parliament—offshore detention would be over and the best of Australia could shine again.

Question agreed to.