McGowan calls for humane approach
MP says govt crossed line over refugees
THE House of Representatives is to continue debating a motion put by Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi) last week in which she pressed the federal government to find “urgent and humane solutions” to resettle asylum seekers away from Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Ms McGowan said she had spoken in recent weeks with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and had asked questions in parliament about the fate of 773 asylum seekers on Manus Island and others on Nauru.
The regional offshore processing centre on Manus was to close yesterday – October 31 – and the government has moved to relocate asylum seekers within PNG.
It also withdrew current medical and mental health care, torture and trauma support and security protection for detainees last week.
Ms McGowan said she had been “totally unimpressed by the response” she received.
“I was in grade five when I first understood the link between values and behaviours,” she told the Federation Chamber.
“My ethics teacher explained that in life it is easy for people to endorse values, things, attributes and characteristics, but it is behaviours that give the evidence to these values.
“( The teacher) asked us to imagine at the end of our lives one or two important values and the behaviours that we had enacted to show that we had lived by those values.
“Then she asked if there would be enough evidence to convict us.
“Her specific example was Christianity, the judge was God and the evidence was how we had lived our lives.
“In the four years I’ve worked in this parliament there has been lots of discussion and debate about values— Australian values and community values—and I believe that’s exactly how it should be.”
Ms McGowan said it was the role of a parliamentarian to debate values, cultural norms and expected behav- iours.
“In this debate today, I’d like to talk about four specific values—respect; duty of care; fair go for the underdog; and habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial by your peers and punishments that fit the crime—and the behaviours that would provide evidence that we are living those values,” she said.
“… In respect of behaviours and evidence, we have seen indefinite detention, severe health issues and very ordinary people detained without trial because they fled from where they came with a well-founded fear of persecution. “
Ms McGowan said she understood the government’s argument to protect Australia’s borders, but she believed that the government had “crossed the line” in its treatment of Manus detainees.
“The evidence shows that we’re behaving badly, that we’re becoming a bully, that we are very cruel, that we are unfair and, sadly, that we are not being our best selves.”
Adam Bandt (MHR, Melbourne) seconded the motion. The debate is to continue.