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Posted by David Chibo ( on January 28, 2002 at 23:54:31:

In Reply to: Cracks begin to appear in the Labor Party posted by David Chibo on January 28, 2002 at 23:35:31:


Ms PLIBERSEK (Sydney) (4.40 p.m.)-I rise today to extend my condolences to the families of all of those who have perished in the United States, to the families of those who are still missing and of the citizens of countries other than the United States who have died or are missing since the terrible tragedy last Tuesday. I think that all members of parliament here share a sense of compassion for the families of those people who have died or are missing.
I am a little surprised that we have been referring to this-as President Bush has been referring to it-as an act of war, because, in a terrible way, that almost cleanses the act. I think that we all know that terrible things happen in war. Yet I think what happened last Tuesday is more accurately described as murder: it is murder that has happened 3,000, 5,000 or 10,000 times-we do not know how many times-that has been committed again and again on one day. I think it is worth remembering that the only thing that will stop the numbers continuing to grow is that the final plane load of terrorists was actually thwarted. We do not know how many more people would have died had that not happened.
When someone is murdered there is no way to prepare for it. There is no way of understanding it, there is no logic to the act and it is not something that any human being or any family should have to deal with in a lifetime. It is worth thinking about the effect on a country where this happens 3,000, 5,000 or 10,000 times in one day. There is an inevitable effect on a country when such a tragedy happens. It is difficult to understand that effect fully until we see the individual photographs of people who are still missing, see the families who are still searching for loved ones and hear the stories of people who tried to phone their families in their last minutes of life. That really brings home to us the true human tragedy of this event.
We also wish to express compassion from this parliament especially to the families of the Australians who have died or are still missing but also to those of the citizens of the 40 other nations who have been affected. We express our admiration for the bravery of the rescue workers. I know that many of my colleagues have expressed admiration for this bravery. But what an extraordinary thing it is to ignore every human instinct and, instead of fleeing from danger, turn around and walk into the heart of it in the hope of saving some other life.
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While we debate this condolence motion, I think that it is wise to remember also that there are countries around the world where acts of terror are perpetrated on civilian populations every day. While nothing has happened in our recent history to match the scale of this act of terrorism, it is worth remembering that in countries such as Ireland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Egypt or-in our own region-the Philippines, their citizens face this fear every day: that they will say goodbye to a loved one and never see them again because of some act of terror.
Some people have drawn comparisons with what happened in Pearl Harbor. Yet it is wise to take heed of what former Secretary of State Warren Christopher said in relation to Pearl Harbor: there is one mistake that we should not repeat when we are talking about the response, and that is that after Pearl Harbor many citizens of Japanese nationality were locked up for no reason other than that they were Japanese. In my final comments, I want to say that we must not compound the tragedy of this event by punishing the innocent. When we are talking about pursuing Osama bin Laden perhaps in Afghanistan, we have to remember that the civilians in Afghanistan have suffered perhaps more than any other people on earth. And they are suffering still: from famine, drought and the rule of the Taliban government. When we set out to punish those who are responsible, it is also worth remembering not just the civilians in the countries such as Afghanistan but also that the US, when they seek to punish, sometimes make mistakes. When the United States initially backed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in the hope of fighting communism, they created part of the monster that we are dealing with today. When we seek to punish, we need to be accurate and to be sure of who we are seeking to punish.

Afghanistan Women and Girls
Ms PLIBERSEK (Sydney)(10.27 p.m.)-I rise tonight to speak about the very tragic and serious situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. Historically they have been discriminated against, but since 1992 their status has deteriorated rapidly. The situation has worsened significantly since the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996 and the implementation of severe social strictures. Women were immediately forbidden to work outside the home and were denied access to health and education. This is despite their involvement with the Taliban militia in fighting the Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan. US Senator Barbara Boxer said to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee this year:
Today, under Taliban rule, women in Afghanistan cannot work outside the home, attend school, or even wear shoes that make a noise when they walk. They must wear a head-to-toe covering called a burga. Parents cannot teach their daughters to read, or take their little girls to male doctors. Women have been stoned to death, beaten, and otherwise abused for `breaking' these harsh laws.
She continued:
This intolerable treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan has continued despite repeated international requests that the Taliban restore their rights. We cannot in good conscience watch in silence what is happening in Afghanistan. Afghan women will continue to suffer at the hand of the Taliban unless the rest of the world presses for change.
Reports from within Afghanistan and from refugee camps in neighbouring Pakistan are alarming. I should just say that it is estimated that over a million people are living in these refugee camps in Pakistan. Many women and girls are suffering chronic depression and
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anxiety. Some are managing to escape to neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, while others are choosing a more tragic and permanent form of escape in suicide. There are credible reports of women swallowing detergent or pesticide, or even setting fire to themselves. The USIA Washington File said:
Womens and girls access to medical services and hospitals have been drastically reduced. Although they are allowed to receive emergency care in all Kabul hospitals and non emergency care in a few, women have died because male doctors were not allowed to treat them. Many of them suffered easily treatable ailments. The lack of ready access to medical facilities that do exist is further impacted by shortages of medicine and equipment.
Of course, if young girls are not allowed to learn to read, let alone study further, the next generation of women doctors is certainly in doubt. As well as the restriction on access to medical services, women's health is affected by the poverty enforced on them by loss of income. Tens of thousands of war widows are the sole providers in their families and, when they are not able to work, they are forced to beg to feed themselves and their children. Both widows and their children are suffering malnutrition and some have starved to death.
The Taliban has restricted education for girls, particularly in Kabul. Girls over eight years of age cannot attend formal schools and parents are forbidden to teach daughters to read at home. For some of the women who fled Afghanistan there was the possibility of continuing an education in refugee universities in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar. Unfortunately, in August 1998 the Pakistani government shut down these universities, alleging that they were operating illegally. These schools taught more than 1,000 female students in separate buildings. The Pakistani government claimed that the education offered was substandard and was business oriented. However, human rights activists claim the closures were part of a joint campaign on the part of the Pakistani government and its Taliban allies to force the refugees to return to Afghanistan. Pakistan wants to access the lucrative trade route through Afghanistan to Central Asia and, as a result, human rights officials claim, the Taliban have virtually
been given a free hand to root out opposition within the refugee community.
I would like to conclude by saying that the United States government has condemned Taliban policies publicly. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, during her visit to a refugee camp in Pakistan, described the Taliban treatment of women as `despicable'. She said:
We are opposed to their approach to human rights, to their despicable treatment of women and children, and their lack of respect for human dignity, in a way more reminiscent of the past than the future.
I believe that we here in Australia and people throughout the international community cannot allow these terrible crimes against women and girls to continue with impunity. We must do everything within our power to stop what is happening to women in Afghanistan. (Time expired)

Sunday Telegraph article

Kim is an illegal immigrant. Like most illegals, he mixes mainly with others like him. He wants his brother to join him here. He lives in cramped accommodation, eating dried noodles and tinned fish and drinking beer: lots of it. Kim works illegally behind a bar, and he arrived by plane.
Kim is typical of the illegal immigrants in Australia. He is from the UK, source of 11% of our illegal immigrants. Of the 57,000 people living illegally in Australia, only 4,000 arrived by boat. The other 53,000 people entered Australia legally and overstayed their visas.
If Kim had applied to stay in Australia while on a visitors visa, he might well have been granted a bridging visa and been allowed to live in the community and work while the Department of Immigration processed his application. Instead of costing Australian taxpayers $105 a day, he'd be working and paying taxes.
Of course, people must be detained until their identity, character and health are established. But bear in mind, over 75% of asylum seekers in detention will be found to be genuine refugees. Of people from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, over 90% will be accepted as genuine refugees. They are much more likely to be accepted than those people living in the community on bridging visas. Keeping them in detention for months or years is expensive and impractical, when they could be beginning the process of becoming useful Australian citizens.
Asylum seekers should not be detained one day longer than absolutely necessary. Most European countries only detain people in "reception centres" for a matter of days or weeks; many don't detain women and children at all. Asylum seekers shouldn't be mixed with criminals guilty of offences on Australian soil and awaiting deportation, nor with those who have been refused refugee status and are awaiting deportation and have nothing to lose.
Children should never be kept in detention centres. Last year, 900 children passed through our detention centres. Thirty were detained for more than a year. At last count there were 39 unaccompanied minors in detention who really should be in foster care in the community.
Australia cannot have an "open door" immigration policy. We have every right to make choices about who can migrate to Australia. We must, however, be prepared to take our fair share of the world's displaced people. Australia takes about 12,000 refugees annually, of a world population of 21 million. Pakistan and Iran, both poor countries, each have about two million refugees to care for.
Unauthorised asylum seekers have been criticised as queue jumpers. The sad reality is that most refugees waiting in camps around the world will never be relocated. They have been criticised for "buying their way out" yet often these victims of people smugglers have only been able to afford their passage because a whole extended family has sold all their land and possessions to afford one passage. It is usually the young men who leave, to avoid forced military service. In Afghanistan, for example, young men have been marched across mine fields to clear a path for the Taliban.
The fact that detention centres are privately run is also a problem. Australasian Correctional Management is an off-shoot of the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation in the United States. Wackenhut makes over US $400 million per year running private jails in the US and around the world, but their record is blemished both here and overseas.
There have been a number of allegations of brutality by guards and subsequent cover-ups in Australian detention centres. There was the guard at Port Hedland who pleaded guilty last year to twice beating a teenager who was restrained and not able to defend himself. There is a current case where 10 inmates of Villawood allege they were beaten.
Employees of detention centres should be trained in dealing with traumatised people. They should not just be prison guards. Labor has called for a full judicial inquiry into the operations of detention centres.
Modern Australia is a country built by migration. Yesterday's refugees are today's solid citizens. Their children will be Australian through and through. How they fit into Australian society depends less on their country of origin and more on learning English, finding a job, and a decent education for their children. These are all things that governments can help with. Not at the expense of those who are already here, but to the benefit of us all.

Letter to the SMH Editor
Fax: 02 9282 3492

When people say that we should "look after our own" before caring for refugees, they should remember that the Howard Government :
a) spends $20 million a month of your money on government advertising;
b) has spent $500 million on consultants;
c) has wasted over $1 billion on IT outsourcing;
d) spent at least $6 million on the rescue of Tony Bullimore and Thierry Dubois;
e) spent $5.8 million on the rescue of Isabelle Autissier;
f) will spend at least $33.7 million for the CHOGM Taskforce and Security; and
g) will spend at least $1.9 million for the Queen's upcoming visit.

Money is not the problem - our priorities are the problem.

Tanya Plibersek MP
Federal Member for Sydney
Level 3
10 Mallett St
Camperdown NSW 2050
0413 777 787

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