Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 August 2021



1:55 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Australia has now evacuated hundreds of people from Afghanistan. I was in touch with 11 of them over the weekend as they were in the crushing chaos outside Kabul airport: a group of human rights and democracy activists, people who have worked with foreign governments and NGOs, a four-year-old, a four-month-old and a 23-year-old woman training to be a pilot. They are now on a flight on their way to begin new lives in Australia, leaving behind the heartbreak of their country having fallen to the brutal Taliban regime.

Australia committed to take 3,000 refugees like them, but we must do more. We need to take at least 20,000 asylum seekers and give permanent residency to the 4½ thousand people on temporary protection visas here in Australia. We must because we helped create the problem. Australia joined the US in invading Afghanistan in a war that bred more terrorism, that made the world less safe. We failed to build a lasting peace. A decade ago, my former colleague Scott Ludlam underscored this failure in this place, quoting a former ambassador, who said:

One of our major challenges in Afghanistan is how to fight corruption and connect people to the government, and their key government officials are themselves corrupt.

And Scott quoted Hugh White, saying:

… it is understood that perhaps within months of a withdrawal … it may well be that the corrupt government which is being propped up at the moment would not last a matter of months.

Scott finished his speech by asking: 'Do we need to be there for another decade?' Well, Scott, it was another decade almost exactly, with the government falling even before the last US troops were withdrawn.

There's no doubt that Afghanistan in 2001 was in a dire situation. We had a problem, but the solution was not a US invasion. Our imperialist war failed. We have a responsibility to pick up the pieces and take in 20,000 asylum seekers— (Time expired)