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Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Page: 2635


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (13:09): Minister, my first question relates to the extra 12,000 places that were promised to refugees fleeing the conflict in Iraq and Syria, and I commend the government for their decision in relation to that. Today, reports indicate that around 4,000 people have actually arrived in Australia. Canada, during the same time period, has resettled more than 30,000 Syrian refugees. Effectively, they have done that in the same period that we have resettled 4,000 refugees. Why is it taking the Australian government so long to meet their commitment, and what instructions have responsible ministers issued to the department which bear on the rate in which Syrian refugees are being processed to meet the target?

I would like to ask the minister: will your government be considering a one-off amnesty for people who have been found to be genuine refugees on Manus and Nauru, and will you consider some sort of program for them to settle in New Zealand or Canada which, I understand, are two countries that are welcome to take refugees, as in refugees that we have responsibility for? My understanding is that Canada has a scheme that will allow families in Canada to billet, to sponsor, refugee families, particularly families from Syria. Will our government consider the option of a similar program for families here in Australia? That would assist refugee families to more easily connect with the Australian community and would, I am sure, considerably reduce the cost of resettlement.

Minister, I would like to ask you: in relation to the children and young people on Nauru, could you give some details in relation to the engagement of those children in education? My understanding, from certain reports that I have read, is that there are lower rates of engagement for children who are studying, children who have since moved from studying within the detention centre to out in the community, and that they are not going to school for a number of reasons. Will your government commit to ending the long-term detention of the children on Nauru? We understand that the gates are open in the detention centre; however, these children are in a camp. They are not in homes—homes that your children, that my children, live in. They are not in an environment that is conducive to learning, to having a good quality of life; an environment that is conducive to good wellbeing and the kinds of opportunities that our children in Australia have—to go to university, to study further. I would like to ask what the plans are to get those children off Nauru.

Finally, Minister, I would like to ask you about transparency. My party is very focused on transparency, so my question relates to the freedom of the press. My understanding is that, thus far, only A Current Affair and journalist Chris Kenny have had the opportunity to attend Manus Island and Nauru, so I would like to ask: have Fairfax, Huffington, The Guardian, the ABC or any other media outlets made contact with your department to seek to go to Nauru and/or Manus Island, and what were the answers from you in relation to that—did you approve such requests?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Can I remind the minister that, if he wishes to, he can respond after batches of two or three speakers.