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Thursday, 4 December 2014
Page: 10335


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women) (21:35): In addressing Senator Hanson-Young's question, the first thing that I would like to remind the Senate of is that it is actually this government that has commenced the process of taking children out of detention. If I could remind the Senate that at the end of the Howard government's era there were actually no children in detention. Under the former Rudd, Gillard and Rudd governments, vocally supported by Senator Hanson-Young, a total of 8,469 children arrived. There were a record number of children in detention, and in fact in July 2013 there were 1,992. When Labor lost office in September 2013, there were 1,392 children in detention. As a result of the actions of this government in but 14 months, there are now 50 per cent fewer children in detention across the detention network and 75 per cent fewer children in detention on Christmas Island than when the coalition took office in September 2013.

So when Senator Hanson-Young comes into the chamber and claims the moral high ground in relation to children in detention, I would argue that the facts established under this government in relation to the reduction of the number of children in detention clearly show that one of the huge issues with Senator Hanson-Young is that, by her comments that she has placed on the record and her actions, she is responsible for preventing children from being released from detention.

Nothing that Senator Hanson-Young has done in this place has contributed to one child being released from detention but everything that Senator Hanson-Young has done has ensured that children in record numbers—let me just read again the number of children who came here under the former government: 8,469 children arrived under the former government. Everything that Senator Hanson-Young has done for the duration of her time as a senator and her record will show that, unlike my record as a member of the coalition, she is responsible for ensuring that children are placed in detention.

The minister and I, over the period of being in government, have ensured that children are progressively released from detention. As the minister has stated, if the bill passes the Senate, children on Christmas Island will be released prior to Christmas.

I also need to address the comments that Senator Hanson-Young has made in relation to Mr Paris Aristotle. It is widely accepted throughout the community—and, in particular, by those people with whom he works—that Mr Aristotle is a man with a good heart and who, throughout his career, has worked tirelessly with victims of torture.

Through you, Mr Chairman: Senator Hanson-Young, it demeans you when you come into the Senate under parliamentary privilege and make such heinous slurs in relation to Mr Aristotle, purely because he has been able to work with the government and the crossbenchers to achieve what you personally in six years have been unable to achieve and what you going forward for the rest of your time in this place will be unable to achieve—that is, the release of children from detention.