Sponsored refugee resettlement program - May 22, 2017

23 May, 2017

Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (18:58):  I would be a hypocrite if I did not say that Anne Jones from Maryknoll rang me today. She is not happy with the way this nation is treating its asylum seekers, especially those on Manus and Nauru. She shares that with a lot of people. I have to say to you here, very sincerely, that it is up to this parliament to give the Prime Minister and the opposition leader the best shot they can possibly have to resolve the situation of the dilemma we face today for the Australian people.

I want to mention the member for Gellibrand and thank him for bringing this forward. I will name him so that the public listening to this know that the member for Gellibrand is Tim Watts, a Labor member. What he has put out is a clarion call for compassion, conscience and common sense. What we can actually do here in this moment is look at what other countries have done in the first instance about bringing people in, whether it be 500 more or, as in Canada's case, 275,000 over and above quota.

Canada has 36 million people. We have 24.6 million people.

They have brought in 275,000 over and above their quota. Under Tony Abbott, it was 13,750, commendable; for Shorten, the desire was 27,000; and Turnbull had 16,250 but 'I'll up you to 18,750'. The difficulty is that it is a tiny drop in the bucket for those just in our own region. In our region, we have five times the number of people who go to the grand final and some home-and-away games waiting off our shores. I know we cannot take them all; I am not even dreaming about taking them all. But what we can do is say, 'Righto, where a community wants to sponsor families or individuals, we could make it easier for them to do that.'

There was a pilot program under the Gillard-Rudd government and that has been followed through by the Turnbull government. It is all positive, but it is 500 people. That is terrific but there are more people who go through the pie stand at the MCG in about 20 minutes than that. We are a better country than that. We have talked about our values and the way we approach this world. We have a view of ourselves as the fair go country, as the country that really makes a difference to its populace by saying, 'No, no, no. It doesn't matter if it is education or the law—any area of life—we're going to make sure that you get a fair go.' My dad always said to me, 'Give them a fair go.' Fairness is in our DNA, but we do not carry that through internationally in the way that I believe we should. I cannot stand here and say, 'Well, I can't say this because my party will be upset with me,' because this is about relationships.

What the member for Gellibrand has put forward is this: you bring a group of people into a community that has sponsored it and so they have skin in the game. They want a desired outcome because they have sponsored it; it has cost them money. They want an outcome from those people, but what it causes within that community—which the member for Mallee raised without actually saying it—is that it enhances the relationships between the refugee and the broader community. It is not a matter of integrating them into the community; they are already there because they have skin in the game. You have to make it work because we have committed ourselves to this. These are the important things that this type of program which the member for Gellibrand has raised with us for our discussion tonight.

 I do not know what it would be like to be displaced and to be on my own tonight, but I would like to think there is some Australian somewhere with, as Tim Watts said, a community or private sponsorship program to allow non-government actors like business or religious organisations or community groups and individuals to meet the costs of that visa application. I am really sorry that I am out of time, because this can be an important program that everybody can get value from. You can actually feel good about something we are doing together as a nation. I commend the member for Gellibrand for bringing it to the attention of the parliament.



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Russell Broadbent MP
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