Some really good things happen in the Australian Parliament at times. But sadly they receive little media coverage, because the stories aren’t as immediately exciting as some of the more tawdry events.
For example, how many column-inches, how much air-time has been wasted on the “Ute-Gate” saga about fake emails, and prime-ministerial favours to political donors?
One story worthy of far more attention than it received was the Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill.
In 1992, the then Labor Government, with the support of the Liberal / National opposition, introduced a law which placed Assylum Seekers (men, women and children) in Mandatory Detention, and made them liable for the cost of that detention. This meant when a detainee was eventually deported, or released, he or she was presented with an invoice for the cost of that detention. An amount which could easily run into tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even exceeding one hundred thousand dollars. This, in a country where we don’t charge rapists, murderers and other criminals the cost of their detention – regardless of their nationality.
These people came to our shores for help, and we were treating them worse than criminals.
The mandatory detention policy continued under Coalition Governments througout the Howard Years. It wasn’t until 2009 that the Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009 was introduced by the current Labor government. Sadly, the bill wasn’t supported on a bi-partisan basis, and the Liberals and Nationals did not support it.
But to their credit, four Liberal members voted against their party, and supported the bill: Petro Georgiou, Russell Broadbent, Judi Moylan and Danna Vale. Although you might not often do it, I’d recommend you read their speeches. It’s good stuff, and helps underline the fact that we do have decent human beings in the parliament, who care about justice, and doing the right thing: