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Response to Questions - Asylum Seekers


I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to asylum seeker children.

I rise to speak in relation to the answers given by the Attorney-General to my question earlier today. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge that the hundreds of grandmothers who travelled to Canberra today from all over the country did so because they desperately want to have an engagement and a dialogue with their elected representatives. They feel that their views and concerns of how Australia is treating vulnerable people seeking asylum, particularly children and mothers, are not being heard by those in this place and primarily by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Earlier today I addressed the group of grandmothers who travelled here. Many of them arrived very early this morning on buses from places like Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. I spoke to them about why they were so passionate about this issue. Each of them raised some very important points. They are such a vocal and powerful voice in our community because they are some of our most senior Australians. They are people who have seen various policies in this country and how those policies have impacted on vulnerable people in different ways. Of course they bring not just compassion to this debate but also wisdom and they feel very strongly that, when it comes to the protection of children, the advice from doctors and medical health experts needs to be heeded.

We also had the president of the Australian Medical Association with the grandmothers earlier this morning, describing the detention of children as institutionalised child abuse. These senior women in our community want us as politicians to sit up and take note. These policies are being developed, as they rightly say, in everyone's name in this country. They are being developed in their name and in the future consciousness of our country.

The next generation of Australians, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren are going to be asking the very direct question: why was it that our parliament sat silently and allowed hundreds and hundreds of children to be locked up, detained and subjected to what medical experts say is child abuse?

We heard from the Attorney-General that the numbers of refugee children and families here in Australia is being reduced, and that is good. Of course that is good, but the trick of this government is the lack of counting and acknowledgement of the hundreds of children and their families who have been shipped off to Nauru. Those children, as we heard from the Attorney-General, seem to cause no concern to the current government. That is simply not good enough.

The Australian government signs the cheques for the detention of these children and their families on Nauru. The Australian government's department personnel are the staff who walk these children onto every single plane to fly them to Nauru to dump them. The policy of this government is to try and wash their hands of this responsibility. To say they simply do not care and that it is not up to them is ludicrous, absurd and nobody buys it. We all know that the only reason there are hundreds of children suffering on Nauru is that the Australian government has put them there and is keeping them there.

It is time that we had an exit strategy from Malcolm Turnbull and his government, because this cannot last. These children deserve a childhood. They deserve a voice in this parliament. They have been given that today from these wonderful grandmothers from around the country, and it is time the Prime Minister listened.

Question agreed to.

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