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Monday, 21 May 2018
Page: 4064


Mr PERRETT (MoretonOpposition Whip) (17:03): I commend the member for Fowler for bringing this motion forward, and the members for Hotham and Holt for speaking on it and also, in anticipation, the member for Cowan. But I particularly commend the member for Wright, who I think we'd all agree has a big heart and great compassion. I commend him for supporting this motion—without trying to curry favour of the chair, of course, Deputy Speaker.

This is a serious matter, as we know. The world has watched in horror as nearly 700,000 Rohingyas have fled their persecutors in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar over the last nine months or more. Nearly 700,000 refugees have sought a safe haven across the Bangladeshi border in Cox's Bazar, a community that was already under stress before they arrived exhausted and traumatised. More than half of the Rohingya refugees are women and children. Hundreds of children have been separated from their families and are particularly vulnerable. The suffering we are witnessing is on a catastrophic scale. It's the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world.

The Rohingyas are an ethnic minority in Myanmar. The United Nations has described the military offences in Rakhine as a 'textbook example of ethnic cleansing'. The Rohingya refugees have reported house-by-house killings, women and children being raped, homes and villages burnt to the ground. To say that Cox's Bazar is overcrowded is an understatement—almost 100,000 refugees have been treated for malnutrition. They are in desperate need of food, shelter, health care and water. This is a humanitarian crisis on a grand scale.

Many people in my electorate of Moreton are concerned about the Rohingya people. In fact, last year I met with members of the Bangladeshi community who live in my electorate of Moreton and also the neighbouring electorate of Rankin: Adjunct Professor Adil Khan, Professor Reza Monem, Mr Azharul Karim, Dr Asad Khan, Adjunct Professor Iyanatul Islam and Dr Mazhar Hague, to name a few who were present. They presented me with a petition calling on this House to do all it can to persuade the Myanmar government: to establish a UN led or independent investigation into these allegations of genocide and human rights violations, to immediately stop the genocide and killing of innocent people, and to ensure that the rights of the Rohingya minority are respected. The atrocities committed against the Rohingya community in Rakhine state are almost beyond comprehension. These human rights abuses are unforgivable, and I hope that the perpetrators are brought to account. It may take time, but we should be relentless in pursuing those responsible for the atrocities.

Sadly, these refugees, having fled extreme violence, are now highly vulnerable to a new danger: disease from a lack of basic services in the camps. They are reliant on humanitarian assistance, and it is crucial that there is unimpeded humanitarian access to the camps in Bangladesh and that regional partners, including Australia, work together in response to this crisis to ensure that the Rohingya population has a safe and secure place to live in peace.

Labor has made formal representations to the Prime Minister and the foreign minister to do everything in the Turnbull government's power to respond to this escalating humanitarian crisis that is taking place in our backyard. We must speak up to set an example to the rest—not only to ASEAN countries, but to those in our backyard. So I make this request again to the Turnbull government to turn their gaze to the Rohingya crisis.