Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018


Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights; Report

4:33 pm

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

In regard to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights seventh report of 2018, Human rights scrutiny report, tabled by Senator Bushby, I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

This report contains many references to the Migration (Validation of Port Appointment) Bill 2018. This is a mechanism by which the government contrives to classify waters and ports—in this case the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands—in a particular way that results in people who arrive by boat seeking asylum in Australia as being classified as what the government calls 'illegal maritime arrivals'. Of course, when that occurs, the people, tragically, have been exiled to either Manus Island or Nauru. There they are subject to the most terrible deprivations in a system that is designed to dehumanise and to inflict deliberate suffering, pain and torture.

Today I want to raise the case of a recognised refugee from Iraq who, right now, is in hospital in Lorengau. He has been suffering mental health issues since early 2015, but when the regional processing centre at Lombrum closed and the refugees and people seeking asylum there were driven out by the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary mobile squad with metal bars in November last year and moved to Lorengau, this man's mental health condition became worse. He was hit over the head by a member of the PNG police mobile squad with a chair on the day, in early November last year, when they were forcibly removed from the Lombrum prison. Since that occurrence he has suffered blurred vision, balance problems and blinding headaches. He has not received any medical treatment for those conditions, as scanning equipment is not available in Lorengau or on Manus Island.

He's only been eating once every three or four days this year, and he's been regularly expressing suicidal thoughts. His weight's gone from 75 kilograms last year to 61 kilograms when he was last weighed, that I'm aware of, two weeks ago. For the last week he's not been taking any fluids or any solids. He's been refusing to leave his room. He's been crying uncontrollably. Yesterday he fell unconscious and was transported by ambulance to the Lorengau Hospital, where, I'm advised, he is now conscious and on intravenous fluids. I hold extreme concerns for this man's wellbeing, not only for his mental health but, in particular, because he's been expressing suicidal thoughts. I note there is no mental health support available for this man on Manus Island. There were no psychological supports available for him. He should be evacuated to Australia urgently for treatment and assessment.

I also want to raise an issue about children who have been incarcerated on Nauru for five years. I raise this in the context of the cross-party condemnation of Senator Anning's inaugural speech yesterday which has occurred today. I've got to say that I can't help but feel pretty sick when I see the bipartisan condemnation, quite rightly, of Senator Anning's speech by the Labor and Liberal parties and I think about what is happening to children now on Nauru under a bipartisan policy of cruelty. According to reports, there are at least six children on Nauru exhibiting symptoms of resignation syndrome. They've basically withdrawn from the world. They're in a catatonic state. They're not eating; they're not drinking; they're not even going to the toilet. They're just simply lying in their beds. This is an extreme protective reaction to trauma, which is akin to going into hibernation. According to Dr Louise Newman, a professor of psychology at Melbourne University, children suffering resignation syndrome can die. They are like this because of deliberate decisions taken by this government, supported by the Australian Labor Party.

If this were happening in Australia the people responsible would be on criminal charges for child abuse. Amidst all the back-slapping and self-congratulation from the Labor and Liberal parties today, I have to say that it's difficult not to be sick at their refusal to act to protect these children—in fact, to protect all the men, women and children who have been exiled to Manus Island and Nauru as Australia's political prisoners and who have been held there for five years in conditions deliberately designed to harm them. So forgive me for not congratulating Labor and Liberal Party members today just for being a little bit racist and fascist while you're torturing children in this manner. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.