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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2721


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (11:17): I have brought these amendments to the chamber today because there is no guarantee that anything that the minister has just described will happen. Back in October I asked the minister and the department during Senate estimates when we would get media protocols and access guidelines for Manus Island and Nauru. We were told they would have a look at it; they might try to draft something. That was almost nine months ago.

This government have no intention to provide proper scrutiny and transparency of what is going on in these god-awful places. No commitment could be undertaken that would convince anyone that they are serious about doing this. If they believe it is important, they can make sure it goes in the act. I am not dictating how the provisions have to look, or in what time frame they have to be put in place. They have already had nine months and nothing has eventuated. I am saying that the act must stipulate that it should be done. Otherwise, we know there is absolutely no way the Australian people can trust the government to do this.

The Australian people know there is no way we can trust this government on anything to do with asylum seekers and refugees. Every time we are promised something, the promise is broken. Every time we are told people will be treated properly, we find out they are not. Every time we hear children will not be subject to harsh treatment, we find out they are being subjected to harsh treatment. Every time we hear from the government that they are working on making the system fairer, we find out there has been nothing done. Unless it is in the act, it will not happen.

I do not believe the other side would be any more inclined to stick to their word. I do not have any hope that, if we had a coalition government, they would be allowing the media to access detention centres on Manus Island or Nauru either. If this government believe that it should happen and that it is important, they should put it in law. They either believe it is important and it needs to be in the legislation—particularly ahead of the September election—or they do not. The fundamental message from all this is that there is no commitment to proper scrutiny of what is going on in these places, and there is absolutely no way the government wants the media finding out about it.

A couple of weeks ago the Four Cornersreport on Manus Island and Nauru was aired. That footage had to be smuggled out. What does that say about our government and our laws—that the only way to find out how we are treating vulnerable refugees, under a system we are paying billions of dollars for, is to smuggle out footage of these places?

What does that say about basic democracy, about fundamental understandings of transparency, about how we spend our money, about how we treat people and about how the government is in line with the law? When it gets to a point where refugees have to smuggle out footage of the conditions they are in, or Australians have to go in to get it and sneak it out, to give us an understanding of what is really going on, that is not something Australia should be proud of. These conditions are more like those in some of the countries these people fled from in the first place.

It is clear that the only take-home message from all of this is that the government does not want the Australian people to see what is really going on inside. If there is nothing to hide then let the media in and commit to putting it in law so that it cannot be abused, so that there is no ambiguity about the right of media to speak to people in detention, to see the conditions and to report back to the Australian people about how their money is being spent and how these individuals are being treated. If there is nothing to hide, then open the doors.