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Tuesday, 3 May 2016
Page: 4189


Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (13:33): I rise to note with great sadness the reports overnight that a 21-year-old female asylum seeker is in a critical condition following injuries sustained during a self-harming incident on Nauru. It is even more distressing to note that this is the second incident of this kind to take place within a week. If it was not clear to anyone before, this should be an unambiguous sign that there is something deeply wrong with how the Australian government is managing our system of offshore processing for asylum seekers.

It should be clear to everyone in this parliament that a policy that focuses only on the chimera of 'deterrence' will not work. Leaving people in indefinite detention or otherwise in an indefinite limbo state without a feasible pathway to permanent migration in a resettlement country destroys people. It breeds desperation and despair and leaves people without hope. The kind of incidents that we have seen over the past fortnight are an unavoidable consequence of this environment.

This is why Labor has been calling for the government to secure a credible third country arrangement for the long term settlement of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru through the life of this parliament. The government must now urgently seek a viable agreement to resolve the fate of people on Manus Island and Nauru. We ought to be able to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to implement an enduring third country settlement arrangement for these people. The basic human dignity at stake here should not be allowed to become a political football in the shadow of a federal election. We can do better than that, and we must do better than that. I implore all members of this parliament to aim for this objective.