People seeking asylum

Speech at Candidates Forum on people seeking asylum in Australia  (2019 Federal Election campaign)

I acknowledge the Wurunjeri people of the Kulin Nation and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. I acknowledge that I am standing on stolen land and sovereignty has never been ceded.

I also pay respect to all refugees here tonight, and I offer you a heart-felt apology for the way you have been treated by our government – both LNP and ALP.

Last night I attended a forum with some Indigenous people living in Cooper. One of the discussions involved the need for truth-telling. There is also need for truth telling in debates about refugees and migration.

The Reason Party form policies based on evidence. There is no evidence to support our refugee policies.

Human rights lawyer, Shen Narayanasamy, presented her research at the Di Gribble Argument in 2016. Shen shows how yet again those in power control the narrative – even when that narrative is not true.

Shen suggests it has been a deliberate political strategy to focus the public’s attention on a few thousand asylum seekers rather than the 800,000 people arriving each year from Asia, Middle East, India and Africa.

Historically, we have been a country that welcomed refugees. How did our narrative on refugees change so radically?

For example, we now suggest that refugees might be ‘economic migrants’. Yet we welcome 800,00 economic migrants each year. In fact, our country is built on economic migrants.

The first wave of post 2nd world war migration began with Displaced Persons. These people fled their countries that had been utterly destroyed by war. And we welcomed them.

In 1976, we welcomed the first boatload of refugees fleeing Vietnam. By 1982 Australia had accepted close to 60,000 Vietnamese refugees. And we brought them here by plane.

The current narrative: “Offshore detention is the only way to save lives at sea”. This is complete nonsense. Flying refugees to Australia would certainly save lives at sea.

Shen put the number of immigrants from 1984 – 2013 into Excel. The graph showed a steady increase that suddenly skyrocketed after the election of John Howard. By the time Howard left office in 2007, the LNP government had more than doubled Australia’s intake of migrants.

The big difference is the number of migrants that came to Australia on a humanitarian basis. Prior to Howard it was around 1 in 5. By the time Howard left office, that humanitarian intake plummeted to 1 in 50.

I regularly invite refugee families for a short holiday in my beach shack. I’ve had some fabulous holidays with people from Sri Lanka, Iran and Sierra Leone. The most recent family was from Afghanistan. The father applied for a skilled migrant visa but he was flagged by the Immigration Department. Why? Because he, his wife and children were from a war-torn country and trying to seek safety here.

This family ended up on a boat and they spent 4 years in a detention centre in Australia. They now live mostly on charity. Not working has had a terrible effect on the father. But the most dreadful thing is the trauma on the 12-year-old son. He is old enough to remember the terror of being on a boat and the terror of being in a detention centre. This young boy is deeply traumatised. And we are responsible for that.

On a positive note, this family were lucky not to become part of the Pacific Solution. What a disgrace calling our policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention centres in the Pacific Ocean, a “Solution”. A solution for who? Certainly not people from LGBTI community were have been detained in PNG, a country hostile to LGBTI people. This must never ever happen again.

The Reason Party believes the solution to the Pacific solution is to close all offshore detention centres and facilitate the immediate evacuation of Manus and Nauru.

However, if the next government delays the evacuation of offshore detention centres (as Ged suggests an ALP government might), the next government must:

  • Ensure the health and safety of people in offshore detention centres
  • Provide international NGOs and the media access to offshore detention centres

When people apply for asylum, there should be a strictly enforced time for security screening. After security screening, asylum seekers should be brought to Australia and assisted to settle in regional towns and cities while their claim for refugee status is assessed. A predetermined timeframe should be set for processing these claims.

Thank you.

Climate emergency

I acknowledge the Wurunjeri people of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. I acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded.

Reason Party bases its policies on evidence. When I was a uni student in 1979, I first heard the evidence about climate change. Over the next 40 years, the evidence has become more conclusive and more terrifying. Now we have the IPCC’s systematic review based on 15,000 academic articles. Yet our major parties still don’t use this evidence to make credible policies.

It is not only the coalition to blame for the mess we’re in. Shame on both the ALP and the Greens. Fiona Patten’s favourite saying is the “perfect is the enemy of the good”. A member of the Reason Party would have voted in favour of the ALP’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009. The policy was far from perfect, but it was a start.

And shame on the ALP. Reason Party would not be flip flopping over Adani. We oppose the development of new coal mines, full stop. And we oppose fracking for onshore gas and building pipelines in the NT because it is not evidence-based policy.

Evidence indicates we must close existing coal-fired plants and transition to renewable energy. This is the only way Australia can reduce our emissions in line with the Paris agreement.

Today the coalition released a policy to help younger Australians buy their first home. There is no point buying a home if we don’t have a planet.

Thank you.

Mother Of All Myths That Only Mums Mother

Looking for the perfect gift for Mother’s Day? Forget the dust buster. It’s a myth buster.

Motherhood is a fertile breeding ground for myths. Take the myth implicit in Bill Heffernan’s recent comments about Julia Gillard: that women who don’t give birth are “barren”. When we put this myth into the myth buster, we find that there are many reasons that women don’t have children. Calling these women “barren” denies the rich and fruitful relationships that many women nurture with children – you don’t need ‘your own kids’ to mother.

When people talk about mothering the way Bill Heffernan does, they perpetuate the myth that motherhood is defined by biology, breast feeding and “buckets of nappies”. This limited definition of motherhood assumes that ‘mothering’ is exclusive to biological mothers. It ignores the fact that women without children can also be good mothers and that there are many ways to mother.

There are many other myths around motherhood that we should feed to the myth-buster. Take these old favourites: “only women who give birth are mothers”; “children can only have one mum”; “there is no substitute for a mother’s love” and, the mother of all myths, “that only biological mothers are ‘real’ mothers”.

When the myth buster does its work we see that lots of women mother children – adoptive mothers, step mothers, social mothers, foster mothers, ‘aunties’, friends, neighbours, nannies, and so do some men. It is simply not true that all this mothering is second best or that these contributions to raising a child are less real or less motherly.

A child can have many mothers. In fact, there are many days when many, many mothers are needed – to get the kids to footy or netball training, to prepare dinner and get to the dentist on time, to make costumes for drama club, to drive kids to music lessons and parties, to take a turn with the wheel-chair, the shopping trolley or the pram, to help with maths homework, to remove nits from hair and dispense first aid to the guinea pig.

From childhood to adulthood, lots of people provide mothering in the form of sex education, learning to drive, mentoring about responsible drinking. They also share tears, reveal secrets and provide hugs and support children through the rites of passage. Yes, it takes a village. The myth that only mothers mother denies the important way that women without children can and do contribute to childrens’ lives.

With so many women mothering, why limit Mother’s Day lunch to only one mum? Every Mother’s Day, a lot of women who mother miss out because the traditional celebration of Mother’s day excludes women without children. This exclusiveness can make Mother’s Day a sad day for some women. However, by expanding our view of mothering, and by moving an apostrophe, we can share the celebration and make it a Mothers’ Day.

By acknowledging that mothering doesn’t just come from mothers, we provide opportunities to welcome more women to Mothers’ Day lunch and, in some families, we might also welcome a man or two to the celebration.

It is not only women who benefit from motherhood myth-busting. There are some children who feel sad on Mother’s Day because it focuses on the notion of ‘real’ mums. Kids who do not know their biological mothers, or cannot be with them, may not feel like joining in. However, if we acknowledge that there are lots of ways to mother and place less emphasis on biological definitions of mothering, we could make the lives of some kids happier. If we expand our rules about who is a mother, we might find that more children can enjoy the Mothers’ Day stall at school.

This Mothers’ Day, lets put all the myths in the myth buster and buy a toaster for Philomena for taking kids to the footy, a perfume gift pack for Auriol for all her school holiday baking, gardening gloves for Tina for telling the kids a bed-time story and chrysanthemums for Julia Gillard for caring about the future of work for kids.

This Mothers’ Day, the myth buster is the perfect gift for people who want to share the ritual of breakfast in bed. Perhaps we should send one to Bill.

The Australian May 11 2007