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Monday, 7 September 2015
Page: 6108

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (16:47): The images and reports coming from Europe arising from the Syrian conflict are shocking and heartbreaking. Australia has seen its own share of tragedy on our borders, including more than 1,200 deaths at sea in recent years of asylum seekers callously exploited by people smugglers. This is a refugee emergency the like of which Europe has not seen for 70 years. We must not ignore the genesis of this conflict, the evil that is ISIS—Daesh—and the brutality of the Assad regime in Syria. We must also not ignore the fact that the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, welcome as that was, was followed by bungling and reckless mismanagement that many sensible commentators believe contributed to the rise of ISIS and instability in the region.

The exodus of Syrians from the Middle East demands an exceptional effort from good international citizens like Australia. We cannot claim to be surprised. In 2013 World Vision head Reverend Tim Costello visited Syrian refugee camps and called for an increased humanitarian response. Just this morning, Tim Costello spoke about the need for more humanitarian aid in those camps. Now it has come to this. According to World Vision, after five years of conflict in Iraq and Syria more than 220,000 people have lost their lives and 7.6 million people have been displaced from their homes, with half of those being children. The wealthy nations of Europe are rising to the challenge. Australia is a big country with a big heart. Surely we can do more to respond to this humanitarian crisis. Pope Francis has called for members of his church to open their hearts and homes to refugees. It is a sentiment that we must also heed.

Unambiguously, we need a strong border protection policy. That is why I have supported the Abbott government in its approach, with concessions including an increased humanitarian intake. However, the eminent persons group headed by Sir Angus Houston in 2012 spoke of the need to have an increased humanitarian intake in addition to tough policies. That is why I agree that we need to do more, and that is why I believe that we need to significantly increase our humanitarian intake.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Seselja ): The time allotted for the discussion has expired.