Late this afternoon, a flight left Christmas Island to take Tharnicaa’s father and sister, Nades and Kopika, to Perth. After nine long days of waiting, they’ll be reunited in hospital, as Tharnicaa continues treatment for sepsis. Like their friends and neighbours in Biloela and thousands of people across the country, I welcome this decision. But the question remains when or if they will be allowed to go home to Bilo.
We know that with the stroke of a pen the minister for immigration could use his ministerial discretion to allow this family to finally return home to Bilo. The fact that the minister is refusing to do so shows just once again this government’s lack of compassion and humanity. Nades could be back at work, supporting his young family; Priya could be enrolling Kopika at Biloela State School to continue her education; and Tharnicaa could be getting ready for the fourth birthday party she was promised. But, instead, the Morrison government have chosen suffering. They’ve chosen uncertainty. They’ve chosen cruelty. They’ve chosen to place this family in community detention in Perth, ignoring the overwhelming calls from the public to bring them home to Biloela. They will still be in detention. They will have to endure more uncertainty about their future. In Perth, Nades won’t be able to work, the kids will have to seek permission from the department to go on a play date to a friend’s house, and there still remains the chance of their being deported at any moment, back to the country they fled in the first place. Hasn’t this family suffered enough? The minister said that Australia doesn’t owe this family protection, but I disagree and Australians disagree. We owe them so much more than that, and the Prime Minister should start with an apology.
This should never have happened. A child shouldn’t have to develop a dangerous blood infection for this government to free her family, because they shouldn’t ever have been there in the first place. There shouldn’t even be an offshore prison to go to. Australian people are compassionate, and looking after one another is at the core of who we are, and we’ve been let down for decades by one of the most deeply uncompassionate immigration policies on this planet. What happened to Tharnicaa is the result of a race to the bottom on refugee policy in this country. It’s worth recalling what would happen if this family arrived by boat today. Under Liberal or Labor, they would be sent offshore to prison, instead of having their claims processed here and being allowed to live in the community.
Today it is about this family, but there are so many families that are suffering at the hands of this bipartisan policy of cruelty. There are still more than 200 people in offshore detention-200 people still torn from their loved ones, punished for fleeing persecution in whatever way they could. Fourteen people have died unnecessarily from this policy. There is so much blame to share, and the blame sits firmly with those from Liberal and Labor who support this policy-those who put politics ahead of the pain of people who thought that Australia would help them. Australia had become a model, sadly, for this kind of wholesale torture. It is a deep stain on our nation.
It is a failure of leadership. Shame! Shame on all of those in the Liberal and Labor parties who have allowed this to continue for so long. Labor established this system, the Liberals have turned up the torture dial, but both parties back it. And don’t forget that the same Liberal and Labor members and senators who have been calling for compassionate solutions over the past week are the same people who voted just last month to give the government the power to indefinitely detain refugees, potentially for the rest of their lives. To those who show compassion for the Murugappans but deny it to all the others in exactly the same or a similar situation: we see you; the Australian people see you; your cowardice will not be forgotten.
Medical neglect and sepsis caused this child to go to hospital. But there is nothing neglectful about what has been done; it is an intentional feature of this system of torture that we have. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
All of us, including people who are fleeing war-torn countries, have the right to live free from danger, be treated with dignity and be given help when we need it most, but this can only happen when we end offshore detention and create a pathway to permanent protection. Until then the Greens will continue to say that, today, this is about one child and one family, but it is also about all of the other children and families who find themselves in this situation, stuck in limbo without a visa, because they’ve been sent to prison. It is about us all and it’s sick. It must end. Enough. Let them go home to Biloela. Let them stay. Let’s close the camps, shut down the prisons and start treating refugees and asylum seekers like people.