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Wednesday, 9 September 2015
Page: 9650

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (16:02): I rise to support this matter of public importance and I am proud to endorse the Prime Minister's announcement that the government will resettle an additional 12,000 refugees who are fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq. This decision demonstrates once again the generosity of our country and continues our proud history when it comes to resettling refugees and helping those in desperate need. Australians are always prepared to stand up, to reach out and to do more. In every essence this announcement is what it means to be Australian.

These 12,000 places will be in addition to the existing humanitarian program of 13,750, which is scheduled to increase to 18,750 in 2018-19. Last financial year, Australia settled more than 4,400 refugees from Syria and Iraq. In addition, the Abbott government will provide an expected $44 million in humanitarian support to more than 240,000 Syrian and Iraqi people who have been forced to flee their homes or seek refuge in neighbouring countries. This funding will deliver much-needed food, water, health care, education, emergency supplies and protection, including support for women and for girls.

Our focus will be on those most in need—the women, the children and the families of persecuted minorities who have sought refuge from the conflict in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. A team of government officials will depart for the region as soon as possible, to begin identifying and processing potential candidates for resettlement. With this additional commitment, Australia's contribution to help address the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq will be around $230 million since 2011. This commitment will require the support of all Australian governments and community organisations. As a government, we will engage the state and territory leaders and community organisations in coming days to discuss how the nation can contribute to this effort.

I want to congratulate the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Immigration and Border Security on the manner in which they have organised Australia's response to this crisis. Crises such as this require calm, thoughtful and responsible consideration in order to be able to determine the most effective response. In this regard, I want to particularly mention the work undertaken by Minister Dutton in consulting the international community in Geneva and coordinating how Australia's response can and should be coordinated to complement the international community's effort to address this crisis. As the Leader of the House pointed out yesterday, the government has been going through a very methodical and sensible process. Today's announcement from the government is the result of that work. This issue should not be used for political gain or in a manner that creates division in our society. This crisis is also an opportunity for our nation to come together to demonstrate the best of who we are as Australians. I want to thank the many constituents from the electorate of Brisbane who have contacted me over the past weeks. I want to thank you for your concern and your compassion.

Australia's response to this crisis is multifaceted and, regrettably but inevitably, must also have a security and a military response. Again as a result of extensive consultations with our allies and the international community, the government has decided to extend Australia's air strikes against Daesh into Syria. This action marks the next phase of Australia's contribution to the international coalition and their efforts to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat the Daesh death cult. The decision to expand air operations into Syria has not been made lightly, and it has not been a knee-jerk reaction. It follows Iraq's requests for international assistance to strike Daesh strongholds and a formal request from the Obama administration. I thank the defence forces for all that they do every day in the Middle East. The legal basis for these operations is the collective self-defence of Iraq, under article 51. The Daesh death cult does not respect borders and threatens the security of Iraq and the international community from its safe havens in Syria, and it is the correct decision—it is the right decision—that the world responds in the defence of humanity. It is absolutely critical that in the coming days, weeks and months—Australians will see more human tragedy—that we be a country that is generous. I support the decision to take 12,000 refugees into our country in a manner that is consistent with our best tradition of generosity.