28 October, 2020
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
They're powerful words, but are we true to them? I've proudly represented Australia on the world stage, but this is not the Australia I'm proud of. This morning I joined with several other MPs to receive a petition of over 60,000 signatories calling for an end to offshore detention. Currently there are 290 people remaining in Papua New Guinea and on Manus Island. There is an offer from New Zealand to take up to 150 asylum seekers from PNG and Manus, an offer that remains on the table with the re-election of Jacinda Ardern. The Game Over campaign being championed by Craig Foster, Sonny Bill Williams and Amnesty International is seeking to call time on the seven years of detention these refugees have suffered and is demanding that Australia finally accept the offer on the table from New Zealand.
This government has been railing against restrictions in Victoria, where people were in lockdown for 112 days. Meanwhile it has kept a group of asylum seekers in lockdown on a remote island for over 2,555 days—people who came to Australia out of desperation and in need of our help. I strongly urge the Morrison government to take up the New Zealand offer. You have called for compassion from state governments. It's time to show compassion here too. It's time to call game over and get these people to safety so that they can rebuild their lives.
The Nangami Peace and Justice Group told me about the Jesuit Refugee Service and their foodbank, which almost doubled the number of parcels supplied to refugees and asylum seekers in need in the first three months of 2020. They're now providing food for 850 people per week. 'We have 174 individuals on the waitlist for food, rent, medication and psychological support,' they told me. One of the key asks of the Status Resolution Support Services is for more assistance for these groups. They are vulnerable and, unfortunately, the budget did cut funding further. Arrival detainee support groups also seek assistance. These are the people who were brought to Australia under the medevac legislation, but there are raised concerns about the inability of people to be referred to specialist health treatment and people now being shifted from community detention to bridging visas.
Finally, we have to acknowledge we have a looming crisis that we're contributing to. Climate change is going to displace huge amounts of populations. The Migration Data Portal, on disaster displacement, shows that some 9.8 million people at the beginning of 2020 were displaced due to disasters. We need to do more. It's time to say, 'Game over.'