On Tuesday, 14 November 2017, Senator Lee Rhiannon gave the following speech in the Senate as a Matter of Public Importance.
Peter Dutton should be charged and tried with crimes against humanity. The evidence is clear from UN bodies, the AMA and Amnesty, and we've heard the contributions of Senators Nick McKim and Richard Di Natale—like Senator Di Natale's description of what is happening to the health of the 400 men forced into the most appalling situation, which is deeply shocking on its own, and Senator McKim's description of the deprivation with regard to the removal of water containers.
How could it come to this? We know why it's come to this. The Liberals and the Nationals see this as a way to retain power. They have been cultivating fear of refugees in this country for so long. This is the ugly side of politics in the 21st century. That it has come to this is incredible. I've lived in this country all my life, but to see our government, whatever its persuasion, doing this is deeply shocking. Peter Dutton, the minister, is holding on to his seat by 1,505 votes. That is what is motivating him so deeply to cultivate this fear amongst people, hoping that's how he can cling on to power. How forceful he is in wanting to retain that tactic was shown in the way he handled the offer from the new Prime Minister of New Zealand, Prime Minister Ardern, which said very clearly that 150 of these people could go to New Zealand. Before the Australian Prime Minister had had the opportunity to discuss that offer with the New Zealand Prime Minister, he was already out there condemning and rejecting it, because he wants to hold on to this scare tactic that they're running.
Why? Because we also know what the purpose of Manus is. The Prime Minister knows it, the former minister, Mr Morrison, knows it and Minister Dutton knows it—that is, they are using Manus Island as a deterrent by making the whole place so repulsive, so brutal. The degree of suffering, abuse and torture that the 600 men who have been there for many months have experienced is beyond belief. And that's the intent of this island—to make it so repulsive that the message will percolate out: 'Don't try and come to Australia; it's a ruthless regime, and this is what will happen to you.' So that's the situation with the coalition.
Now, as to Labor: Labor do need to look at what they're doing. There is a pathway for them to change their position. The United Nations Human Rights Council has called for Manus to be closed immediately. The United Nations refugee council has talked about the unspeakable persecution going on there. And, despite what Senator Macdonald says, the PNG government has said, very clearly, that this is Australia's responsibility, as have all those people there—the AMA; Catholic Social Services; Amnesty. Labor, if they could find their backbone, would have the backing of so many. They can have a pathway to standing up and doing the right thing by Australian law and by international law.
I do congratulate the protesters who disrupted the Melbourne Cup, and those who got onto the Opera House and took over the immigration department. Direct action is now being taken up by more people. People are angry in Australia; they're deeply disturbed. I very much congratulate Senator Nick McKim for going to that island and getting evidence from those people and bringing it back here. The clear message now is: evacuate. Evacuate now. Bring these 400 people to safety. That's 400 people; other countries have millions of refugees. It's time we did the right thing, and it should start with these 400 men.