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Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 5450

Senator HARRADINE (11.59 p.m.) —I want to raise three very quick matters. How many persons does the Department estimate the rights of whom are likely to be affected by this legislation? Are those people only Cambodians or are they Chinese or Vietnamese?

  In respect of the forcible return of PRC nationals who have sought refugee status in Australia, what is the situation in regard to Mr Conybeare's visit to the PRC? Can the Government give a guarantee that persons who have been forcibly sent back to the PRC have not and will not be punished? Finally, the Minister mentioned that I had used the word `racist'. I used the word, but I do not know that I used it in my statement. If I did, I probably did so because on 11 November 1992 on the SBS program Dateline Michael Phillips, the assistant director of determination of refugee status at DILGEA, described the attitude of some people in the Department in this area as having a rejection mentality, as being biased and extremely racist and having preconceived ideas.

Senator Teague —His statement does not justify this Bill being called racist. It is not racist.

Senator HARRADINE —These people have been detained in custody. They have been illegally held in detention, and deliberately so. Michael Phillips, the assistant director of determination of refugee status has been saying this. I reiterate the fact that it is not the problem of these people who have been detained. They have been offered, at any stage, to go back to Cambodia or China. Although they have been held in detention, sometimes for three years, they have not chosen to do so. They could have had free flights to China or Cambodia with chicken and champagne breakfasts. They have decided to suffer the illegal detention. That is what we are talking about. Do not get me going on the situation. The points that have been made here are red herrings. As I have said before, church groups and community groups have asked for these people to be released into their custody and the Department has deliberately refused to do so. It is the Department which is holding them illegally in custody.

  I will come back to my questions. I want to know how many are involved whose rights are affected by this Bill. What guarantees have been received and how have these been tested? I have asked this question again and again and I have not been given a satisfactory answer: are those seven refugees who were forcibly sent back from Port Hedland to China in custody? An affidavit has been presented to the Federal Court in Perth which states that they are in gaol and are undergoing re-education which involves forced labour.

Friday, 18 December 1992