Speech by Veronica, a convenor at Mums4Refugees who arrived in Australia as a Cambodian refugee. "Boats were involved".
My name is Veronica. I am a Convenor at Mums4Refugees, and I was a Cambodian refugee. Boats were involved, but don't tell anyone; it's a secret.
Why was I a refugee? Because decades ago in Cambodia, nationalism and ignorance won. The Khmer Rouge worshipped the idea of the racially pure farmer Cambodian, free of the corruption of science or higher education, and set out to destroy anyone who failed to live up to their standards. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, students. Anyone mixed race. My too-light skin colour was a death sentence. Over two million people died over four years. Seventy of them were my family.
Now, I'm here with you as an Australian citizen. I'm safe. My children are safe. My new family is safe. How did this happen? Because of people like you, standing here today. Community support. Australia took me in. Australia gave me an education and a chance to contribute. People like all of you welcomed me and were patient with my fears and my struggles to adjust. People like you gave me a voice and taught me my values. The value of human rights. The value of respect for the law and for true justice. Australia taught me the two are not always the same thing. Australia taught me the value of the fair go, and never to count the underdog out too soon.
But if genocide of over two million Cambodians happened today instead, Dutton would not want someone like me here. How ironic that he might resettle me back in Cambodia, and throw $55 million at Cambodian PM Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander himself, to accept me. Or he'd leave me languishing in offshore detention for years without end, and laugh and say and I quote "time doesn't mean anything when you're about to have water lapping at your door." Too extreme? I don't think so, when Dutton has openly admitted to and defended deporting Syrians assessed as legitimate refugees back into an active war zone.
Unlike the Australians that welcomed me, Dutton would suggest I was illiterate, or innumerate. He'd accuse me of stealing Australian jobs, or living on Australian welfare. If he found out I'm a actually small business owner employing five other people, it wouldn't stop him from calling my Australian-born children, my grandchildren or my great grandchildren "second and third generation migrants" as he did with the Australian Lebanese community. If he saw the old war time scars on my body, he might say I did it myself to blackmail Australia into accepting me, as he did after the horrific tragedies of Omid and Hodan, or accuse my parents of doing it, as he did with baby Asha's family.
And when he's caught out lying, as he did about the Good Friday attacks on Manus Island, like a petulant child blaming an imaginary friend he says someone else has given him this secret briefing on what really happened, someone senior on the ground in PNG. Who? What information? Will he release the CCTV? It's classified. Do the PNG police who responded to the attack agree? The Manus police commander maybe? The navy commanders and personnel on the base where it happened? Local PNG government, who make no secret they want the detention centre gone? No, no one knows what he's on about, it's all a big secret between Dutton and his imaginary friend. It's frightening to think that this man was once a serving police officer. It's an embarrassment to the Australian police force that their former colleague has no respect for the law, be it Australian or international. If he did, he would understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty, instead of recklessly accusing people of paedophilia, for the act of giving a hungry boy some fruit. He would respect the judgement of the PNG Supreme Court, that declared the Manus Island detention centre constitutionally illegal and ruled it must be closed. He would show the PNG Constabulary some respect instead of publicly declaring he knew more than they did. If this former police officer had any respect for either Australian or international laws, he would quit calling refugees illegals. He'd know that even the Australian Parliament House website quotes RCOA in saying "It is not a crime to enter Australia without authorisation for the purpose of seeking asylum. Asylum seekers do not break any Australian laws simply by arriving on boats or without authorisation. Article 31 of the Refugee Convention clearly states that refugees should not be penalised for arriving without valid travel documents."
You see unlike the wonderful community that welcomes people like me here, Dutton's no true Australian. He might not even be a true member of the Liberal Party, and that is bloody saying something. Turnbull's impotence is obvious as his Immigration Minister trashes former Australian Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser. Former Liberal leader John Hewson is publicly calling Dutton's BS. As Dutton goes the full-Trump and starts crying fake news, complaining about Fairfax or the ABC, even conservatives like Steve Price, Andrew Bolt and the Herald Sun are calling for Dutton to show us the evidence or apologise, and for Turnbull to step him down. And Turnbull must do it! If Prime Minister Turnbull has not sold his soul to the wilful ignorance and frightened intolerance of the far right, then now is the time to show it. Malcolm, if you're listening, give us something to respect! End this ridiculous farce, this horribly unAustralian punishment of people who've done nothing but need our help, this internationally condemned shame that is offshore detention, and sack Peter Dutton.