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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1382


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:08): This is the Australian Human Rights Commission report entitled, wrongly, The forgotten children: national inquiry into children in immigration detention. I openly and somewhat proudly say I have not read it. Why would one bother reading a report that is irresponsible, irrelevant and inaccurate?

Senator McLucas: You don't know! You haven't read it!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: For a start, the title of the report is partisanly political: it is 'the forgotten children'. If anyone has followed the debate on children in immigration detention they would be aware that these children have been anything but forgotten by the Abbott government. They may have been forgotten by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government but they have certainly not been forgotten by the Abbott government because we understand that we do not need to a lengthy report—a 300-page report—to tell us that having children in detention is not good for children and that problems will arise with children in detention. That is why the Abbott government has got rid of all of those children in detention. Practically speaking, today, there are no children in immigration detention in Australia.

Why is it irresponsible? Because the evidence at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs estimates committee showed that the Human Rights Commission was apparently concerned about this when there were almost 2,000 children in detention under the Labor Party, but the commission chose not to inquire prior to the 2013 election because it might have caused political problems—it might have been politically unnecessary. That was the Labor government. That is why this was an irresponsible activity.

Why do I say it is irrelevant? It is irrelevant because it goes on to tell us how bad it is to have children in detention. We do not need a 300-page report to tell us that. We know that. That is why the Abbott government has taken all of the children out of immigration detention in Australia. It tells us all about that and how bad that is; we do not need that. It is irrelevant. We know that. We know there are mental problems. That is why the Abbott government has put enormous resources and professional health assistance into looking at the mental health and wellbeing of children who were in immigration detention but who are not there now.

It is inaccurate. Senator McLucas says, 'You haven't read it. How do you know it's inaccurate?' I will tell you how I know: because this is about the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. They have read it. They have read it from cover to cover and they have given their assessment of it. If you have a look at what the department said, they identify a litany of inaccuracies, bad assessments and poor and inaccurate facts that would indicate that nobody should waste their time reading a document that is unbalanced and which has not taken into account all of the evidence given by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. That is why this report is inaccurate.

Again, I repeat: it is irresponsible because it is political; it is irrelevant because it addresses a subject that is no longer relevant in Australia because there are no children in detention; and it is inaccurate because the department directly involved went through it with a fine tooth comb and pointed out to the commission a lot of their facts were wrong, there was no proper analysis and there was no balance in their approach to it. As a result of that I say, as others will say, this is a document which you should not waste your time reading. There are far more important things to do. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.