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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 80

Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and it follows on from Senator Nettle's question and the minister's comment about people preparing themselves for three more years of this government. Minister, isn't it the case that the Iraqis on Nauru—and, indeed, Iraqis in detention in Australia—have already had three years or more of being locked up by this government? Is it not a fact that those Iraqis on Nauru who have asked to be returned home are not able to be returned? Is it not a fact that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees' global advisory on returning Iraqis has specifically said that Iraqis should not be returned forcibly and that governments should postpone measures intended to induce voluntary returns, including of rejected cases? Is it not also the case that the UNHCR recommends that such people—rejected refugee claimants from Iraq—be granted some form of complimentary protection, in line with human rights principles? How can the government continue to justify locking up these people, who have nowhere else to go and who have committed no crime?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —The government will not be giving temporary protection visas to people who have been judged not to be refugees. People who come to Australia, irrespective of how they come, have their asylum claims properly heard. If they are refugees they are given either a permanent protection visa or a temporary protection visa. The choice between those two may well depend on the method of arrival. People who are judged not to be refugees are not entitled to Australia's protection, and we do not give it. As to any comments the IOM, the International Organisation for Migration, has made recently, they have not been drawn to my attention and I will seek them out.

Senator BARTLETT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. This question is line with the minister's wishing of compliments of the season, and I might say that is a very politically correct wish to these people and everybody else. The global body responsible for assessing refugee situations, the UNHCR, recommends to all countries that asylum seekers from Iraq—even those not recognised as refugees—be granted some form of complimentary protection. If those who have been locked up on Nauru or in Australia for three or more years have nowhere else to go, what does the minister recommend they do for Christmas?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) —Senator, I am not sure if you used `politically correct' as a disparaging term, but I think it is somewhat offensive to say to people who are not of a Christian religion, `Merry Christmas,' as if the rest of the world shares your own world view. It is a multicultural world and there are differences. I do not think there is anything wrong with acknowledging them and choosing a form of greeting to include all people. Christians would say, `Merry Christmas.' Saying, `Compliments of the season,' includes all people. Not everybody happens to be of a Christian religion. Some are Muslims. Some have other religions—for example, the Jewish faith. I do not see anything wrong with that.

Senator Hill —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.