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"This is the most appalling behaviour coming from a minister." Doorstop interview transcript, Australian Parliament House





SUBJECTS: Manchester terror attack; “Fake” refugees

SENATOR LISA SINGH, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: I wanted to express my deep sorrow and sadness this morning about what has occurred in Manchester that we've heard overnight with the death of some 22 young people and so many more injured. Of course Australia is waking up today to hear of these horrific tales that have occurred in Britain, in Manchester, and those that set out for a night of enjoyment with Ariana Grande. To now hear of this tragedy is just horrific and of course as Australians we will stand in solidarity with the people in Manchester, stand united with the people in Britain against these evil and cruel acts of terror.

Of course it just shows how indiscriminate these acts can be and how we need to ensure we remain very much committed to fight these attacks but also to not change the way we go about our daily lives. Because these acts of a few are there to try and ruin our way of life and we should never, ever let that occur. So it is a day of deep sadness, of grief – to be honest there are no words that describe how awful and horrific it must be for the people in Manchester, indeed in Britain, but also for us here in Australia waking up to what has occurred overnight in that part of the world.

I would also like to make some comment this morning about how we in Australia treat some of our most vulnerable. Now what we have heard in the last few days is a minister in this government stoop to an all-time low. If we thought he couldn't get any lower – he is now attacking a group of asylum seekers who have not had the opportunity to submit their claims for refugee status and yet before doing so he has already deemed them to be “fake” refugees.

I mean this is the most appalling behaviour coming from a minister. And it says a lot about his moral compass when we reflect on our humanitarian side and the needs that we need to provide to people that seek our support and our help.

 We are talking about a form of some 100 questions that asylum seekers need to complete and we are talking about a group of asylum seekers who have been left in limbo for years. Up until December last year most of them didn't even have the opportunity to apply for refugee status.

 So I think that this arbitrary deadline that the minister has picked out of the air and the way he has then gone about demonising those people that are seeking protection is absolutely appalling and he should reflect on the way he does his job as an immigration minister and ask himself the question; is this really the role of an immigration minister to demonise and declare those seeking refugee protection and refugee status already fake before they have even had the opportunity to apply? Now I think that is incredibly misleading and incredibly detrimental indeed to them making that application. They of course will need legal assistance – it is a lengthy process and he knows that. He knows as well that with the application process itself the assessment process takes some 250 days to complete at the other end. That just shows you how long it takes on the government’s side. You could imagine the complicated process for those refugees applying.

And I know that some refugee centres, like in Victoria, have some 2000 of these legacy case load asylum seekers on their books that they are working so hard to help and support. And now to have this arbitrary deadline pushed upon them the way the minister has and the way he has described them is absolutely appalling.

JOURNALIST: Senator on the Manchester tragedy, do you think Australian parents will think twice about allowing their youngsters to go to concerts here?

SINGH: Well I am one of those parents; I have a 20 year old and a 23 year old. Boys. They like to go to those concerts, they go to those concerts. I don't want them to stop being young people and enjoying those concerts. I mean that is the thing about this. It is so important that we go about our daily lives and continue to enjoy what makes our country great; hanging out with friends, going to concerts, listening to music.

But of course, as a parent, of course I am concerned. I am deeply concerned about the indiscriminate nature of these attacks. But look, this is a matter for government – to address the safety and security that is provided at such events. I am sure that they are looking into this and I am sure that our law enforcement agencies will do their utmost to ensure that our safety – as much as they can – is protected at such events.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there is any merit in banning backpacks from stadiums and sports events? Perhaps making patrons use clear plastic bags for their belongings?

SINGH: I haven't given much thought into that. I really believe that proper searches that go on before you enter concerts, that your bags are checked, is a very necessary and good way to look at this kind of issue. If we start curtailing our freedoms then we are letting the terrorists win.

JOURNALIST: No worries, thank you.

SINGH: Thank you.