Q&A: Ged Kearney refuses to say whether detainees should be brought to Australia | Australia news
The Labor MP Ged Kearney has refused to say whether people on Manus Island and Nauru should be brought to Australia, but said she was sure a Labor government would intend to get people off the islands as fast as possible.
Kearney made the comments on the ABC’s Q&A program, where a fellow panel member, an architect of Operation Sovereign Borders, the retired general and now senator Jim Molan, agreed to talk to Peter Dutton about a family who had spent 84 days in detention after a dawn raid on their Biloela home by Australian Border Force officers.
“Indefinite detention is an appalling policy and for people to be detained without any hope of ever knowing when they’re going to move in to safety is appalling and it shouldn’t happen,” Kearney said. “I think we would hope that we could get them off those islands as quickly as possible … and settled as quickly as possible. I’m sure that that would be the intention of a Labor government.”
She would not be drawn on whether they should be brought to Australia, suggesting it was politically unwise.
Over the weekend union representatives joined forces to shut down policy debate at the Victorian Labor conference.
“We have to increase our intake and Labor is looking at increasing our asylum seeker intake,” she said, calling for an increase in offshore assessments of refugees, as were conducted under Malcolm Fraser.
Molan said the Coalition government had “solved the problem” but “naive activists” were keeping people on Nauru and Manus Island by convincing them not to return to the countries they fled.
Monica Doumit, a Catholic commentator, said it was not an ideal situation “but we need to ensure people are given a sense of finality in their journey, and they aren’t held in an indefinite limbo, and while they are waiting they are treated with some dignity and freedom”.
Earlier, a resident of the regional Queensland town of Biloela raised the dawn raid carried out by border force officers on her Sri Lankan asylum seeker neighbours and their two daughters, aged four and two, the day after their visa had expired. They have been in detention in Melbourne for almost three months.
“Our town love this little family and we want them to come home,” Marie Austin said. “What more could we do to ensure that Priya, Nade, Dharuniga and Kopika return to Biloela?”
Molan said he did not know the full details of the case beyond what he had seen in the media, but he had great faith in Dutton.
“You put your case to him and let’s see what he does,” he said. “And I hope that your good family comes back – if there is no technical issues – that they come back to Biloela.
“There must be some technical reason as to why these people were taken away.”
He committed to seeing “what we can do”.
Gosford Anglican priest Father Rod Bower said the family’s mental health would be deteriorating.
“How do we get to a point where [we are] raiding family homes at 5 o’clock in the morning in the most terrifying way?” he said. “There seems to be no real reason they can’t be processed in the community.”
Prior to the broadcast, a 60-year-old woman was arrested while protesting against offshore detention outside the ABC studios, according to activists.
The panel had begun by discussing the suicide of an ambulance officer, Tony Jenkins, after his daughter, Cidney Jenkins, asked a question from the audience.
She said the focus needed to be on why paramedics were misusing drugs like fentanyl, as her father had been. She said her dad left behind written complaints to management that had gone without response.
“They shouldn’t have to ask for help, it should be there, no question that they receive support, whether they want it or not.”
Drawing on his military background, Molan suggested the armed forces might be a long way ahead of the ambulance services, and change had to come from the top.
Kearney called for more investment in mental health services and efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness, particularly with men.