Senate debates

Monday, 20 August 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Immigration Detention

3:28 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 for Communications (Senator Fifield) to a question without notice asked by Senator McKim today relating to children in immigration detention.

Despite what the government tries to tell us, the fact is this: there are still well over 100 children that Australia has exiled to Nauru or that have been born into detention on Nauru. There are 40 children who've spent their entire lives in detention. They have never known freedom. Last week, we learnt that some of those kids are suffering from a rare psychological condition called resignation syndrome. They are basically catatonic. They've stopped eating, they've stopped drinking, they've stopped talking and they've stopped toileting themselves. They've essentially gone into hibernation. They've withdrawn from the world because of the trauma they have suffered at this government's hands. As we speak, there's a 12-year-old boy on Nauru who's on a hunger strike. He weighs just 36 kilograms. Doctors say he's at risk of death within days, yet the government is refusing to medevac him to Australia. The government is insisting—Minister Dutton, the man who would be Prime Minister and who could be Prime Minister by the end of this week—that the child cannot be supported by his family on his journey to Australia. He is insisting that this child travels alone. The child is 12 years old. There can be no justification—none—for treating anyone, let alone children, in this inhumane way.

Today's the first day of a new campaign across the non-government refugee and social justice sectors and aid sectors to evacuate children from Nauru—all 119 children whom Australia is detaining in its offshore detention system on Nauru—and the Greens are proud to support this campaign. It's targeted at evacuating all 119 of the children Australia has exiled to Nauru or who have been born into detention in Nauru to Australia or to a safe third country. The situation is a profound test of this country's leadership. Last week we heard speech after speech from Labor and Liberal MPs waxing lyrical about unity and people's basic rights. Well, here, right now, is a chance to put those fine-sounding words into action. We need to evacuate not just the children on Nauru and not just their families but every man, woman and child Australia has exiled to Manus Island or to Nauru and who are suffering, who've been tortured, who've been assaulted, who've been attacked by armed forces, who've been murdered and who've been referred to by their boat numbers and not their names. We need to evacuate them all as a matter of urgency, and they all ought to be brought here to Australia so we can look after them properly, in line with our massive moral obligation to them and in line with our international legal obligations.

As a matter of urgency, we've got to get those kids off Nauru. I ask senators to think about their own children—how they would feel if their children had never known freedom, if their children were referred to by a boat number rather than their name, if their children didn't have access to a decent education, if their children didn't have access to decent health care, if their children were in a catatonic state, if their children lived in a system designed to systemically dehumanise and deliberately cause harm. Senators, think about your kids. Think about your families. Think about the kids of your constituents, and please act to end these kids' suffering and do it soon.

Question agreed to.