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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 10699


Mr MARLES (Corio) (10:41): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In introducing the Migration Amendment (Mandatory Report) Bill 2015, I note that this bill will be seconded by the member for Grayndler, and I thank him for the assistance that he has provided me in the preparation of this private member's bill.

The most important asset that any country has is its children. An icon of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela, said:

Any nation that does not care for and protect all of its children does not deserve to be called a nation.

Back in 2007 I became a patrol of the Care Leavers of Australia Network. The Care Leavers of Australia Network, otherwise known as CLAN, is an advocacy and support organisation for people who grew up in Australia's orphanages and children's homes, in foster care and in other institutions. I was asked to become a patron of this organisation because, historically, there were more of these institutions in my electorate in Geelong than in any other electorate, as I understand it, in the country.

In the process of representing CLAN in a really important issue that they seek to bring to public prominence, I have become aware of the tragedy of the significant number of Australians who grew up in institutions and were the victims of physical and sexual abuse.

A giant in the advocacy for the forgotten Australians, as these people have come to be known, was former Senator Andrew Murray, himself a survivor of having grown up in an institution. He said:

If you hurt a child, a harmed adult will often result.

That was why the former Labor government made an apology to the forgotten Australians. The then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in making that apology, said:

… the protection of children is the sacred duty of us all.

…   …   …

And, as a nation, to resolve that such systematic abuse should never happen again.

…   …   …

Because the truth is great evil has been done.

That is also why the former Labor government established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. In announcing the establishment of that royal commission, former Prime Minister Julie Gillard said, 'Child sex abuse is an evil crime.'

There are a number of children today who are in immigration detention, and those children are in the care of the Australian government. The first point to make is that immigration detention is absolutely no place for children. The opposition supports every effort to continue the work that began under the former Labor government in moving children and their families out of detention and into the community as soon as humanly possible. The overwhelming number of children in detention facilities are with their families and the best thing that we can do to get them out of detention is to quickly process refugee claims and move children and their families into the community.

I do note that yesterday a number of health professionals held a rally at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne to call for the removal of all children from immigration detention. These health professionals are dealing with complex cases involving children who have gone through some pretty difficult experiences fleeing persecution and war. These doctors and nurses raise legitimate concerns and they deserve more than a one-line response from the Turnbull government. Rather than repeating slogans, the Turnbull government should focus its efforts on speeding up processing of refugee claims so that children and their families are not left to languish in detention centres. Where children are in the care of our nation we must take our obligations seriously and fulfil them very carefully because the majority of these children have, as I stated earlier, escaped persecution and trauma that no adult should have to endure, let alone a vulnerable child. Occasionally these children do not have the support of family and it is even more incumbent on us as a compassionate nation to ensure that they receive care and support.

Labor has consistently condemned the Turnbull government for its management of offshore processing. In particular, it is a disgrace that after nearly two years asylum seekers on Nauru are still living in tents. Greater sexual abuse and assault is the inevitable result of such living conditions. Last year the Moss review found allegations of abuse within the detention facility on Nauru were credible. That is why Labor established the Senate inquiry—to allow these issues to be appropriately examined. The inquiry made 15 recommendations regarding the improved management, transparency and accountability of the Nauru regional processing facility. Labor will continue to hold the government to account for its role in the management of the Nauru facility, including its response to the Senate inquiry recommendations.

I note that the Senate is currently considering recommendation 15 from the inquiry, which proposes that a Senate committee undertake a further review of the accountability and transparency of both the Nauru and the Manus Island processing facilities. Furthermore, Labor has announced that it will establish, if elected to office, independent oversight of Australian-funded facilities, and we will establish a children's advocate. The Australian community rightly expects the Turnbull government to make sure people seeking protection are treated appropriately. The children currently in detention, however, need action to be taken right now. That is why today I am introducing this bill, which mandates the reporting of child abuse in all offshore and onshore detention facilities.

This bill is consistent with the existing requirements on many professions to report any sign of child abuse and has been largely modelled on the Victorian Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. The bill requires persons working in Australian-funded facilities to report any form of child abuse to the Australian Border Force commissioner, who must in turn report it to the relevant police authority and child protection agency. This bill ensures there is absolutely no doubt that staff in these facilities have not only the freedom to report abuse but also a legal obligation to do so.

While the bill will apply to both onshore and offshore detention facilities, we of course continue to respect the sovereignty of Nauru in assisting the Australian government with regional processing arrangements. While the bill has extraterritorial application in relation to the conduct of Australian citizens within the facilities, the bill does not purport to apply to Nauruan citizens who are working within the detention facility. It cannot and it should not because these are matters for the Nauruan government, and we obviously respect their independence in relation to this.

Immigration detention is absolutely no place for a child. The reports of the abuse suffered by some of the children in Australia's care, under Australia's obligations, have been horrifying. The provisions in this bill are a necessary step to ensuring we stamp out any and all abuse in the immigration detention network. I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Craig Kelly ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Albanese: I am very proud to second the motion before the House. I reserve my right to speak and I congratulate the member for Corio for presenting this bill to the parliament.

Debate adjourned.