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Thursday, 23 June 2005
Page: 254

Senator NETTLE (12:28 PM) —The Greens will not be insisting on these amendments passed by the Senate, which were opposition amendments. This is essentially because we do not think they are worth insisting on. They support an ongoing system of mandatory detention. They support discriminatory temporary protection visas. They continue to support the holding of innocent people in Nauru. We are not going to insist on them.

Senator Bartlett has already talked about some of the concerns that have been raised in the debate on this particular bill, including the excessive amount of ministerial power that has been given to the minister and the way in which that will almost inevitably lead to abuse of that power. This piece of legislation sees no fundamental changes to the system of mandatory detention but does provide opportunities for some individuals to be released from detention, but not because there has been a systemic change—it is not an across the board; there are still many people in detention. I spoke with one person tonight who has been in detention for five years. There is nothing in this legislation that indicates that he will be able to be released.

There are some improvements in this bill, and I think that some congratulations need to be given to the people all around the country who have been involved in the campaign that has led to the small improvements that we see this legislation. First and foremost, congratulations go to Mr Georgiou, to the other members of the coalition backbench who have played such an instrumental role in this campaign and to the senators in this chamber who have indicated that they are prepared to stand up for compassion and humanity in these issues.

But most importantly support needs to go to all the people in the community who have been advocating for changes to the system of mandatory detention, some of them since 1996 and some of them since 1992. It has been their pressure and their voices in our newspapers, on talkback radio, in people’s workplaces and in chats in cafes that have led to the changes in this legislation today. I think it is really important that we pay tribute to that groundswell of support within the community for more compassion and humanity and for relabelling ourselves as a welcoming country.

I think it is worth acknowledging people such as a woman I met who has been up in the public gallery. She flew over from Perth three days ago and she has been moving back and forth between the Senate and the House of Representatives to watch and to engage in this debate. Clearly it is something that she feels passionately about so she has been involved and come along to hear the debate. They are the sorts of people it is worth acknowledging in this debate because, if it was not for their contribution, commitment and passion, we would not be seeing coalition backbenchers prepared to stand up and fight for changes, some of which we are seeing in this legislation. I want to acknowledge their contribution in shaping the bills that we are debating today.

Question agreed to.

Resolution reported; report adopted.