Liberal MP Julia Banks slams the government for 'political game-playing' over refugees

Full text: 'It is our humanitarian obligation to remove children and their families from Nauru'

Julia Banks in parliament this afternoon:

“We could have made progress this week with the New Zealand solution, but the parties are too concerned to not back down on their position to make concessions so that we can find a solution.

“The message will be clear – a solution to this situation that it is a one off act of grace, a humanitarian decision. A decision that comes from our hearts but our minds will ensure that we have the capacity to ensure we maintain our secure borders.

“Just as nothing surpasses the unconditional love a parent has for their child, nothing should be stopping or delaying our getting these sick children, and their families, off Nauru.

“I ask members of this House to see this situation through the prism of a child’s years, not in adult’s years. Because childhood is fleeting. The time period of a month is enormous in a child’s world.

“In the past months, the political games and distractions of both parties have disgracefully played out in this place and in the meantime the situation on Nauru with sick children has reached a crisis point.

“There is no more noble profession, than that of the health care professional. The Hippocratic oath contains the element of ‘do no harm’.

We as a parliament should be grateful that in this same time period of the past few months, when these children and their families voices were drowned out by the game playing and the delay of the New Zealand option, we have thousands of doctors, the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Law Council of Australia, UNICEF, UNHCR, all gave voice to these children.

For all the political games in this place, on Monday, this place, saw that across the political divide, Australians have good hearts.

“Our country, overwhelmingly on Monday, committed to keeping children safe. Children are citizens of the world and the children on Nauru are our ultimate responsibility.

“Long term indefinite detention is no place for any child. It is wrong to say these children and their families are not detained.

“Sure they are not behind bars and they can walk about, but the will, especially the will of a parent with a sick child, wanting help, is a detention of their mind and their spirit.

“I know there are many MPs on both sides of this House, across this House, who share my concern and compassion. But many are constrained, by the machinery that gos with belonging to a major party.

“The major parties should put political point scoring, horse trading, combative politics and trying to think of the next clever wedge, or worse, trying to work out how, in the words of that wise man who didn’t attend the national apology, ‘to make MPs themselves or their respective parties look good’.

“Despite all the political games, this issue comes down to a simple truth – it is our humanitarian obligation to get these children and their families off Nauru.

I heard today from the head of the UNHCR that when he was in Nauru, a little girl asked him ‘why am I in prison’ he then tried to engage in dialogue with this little girl and when he asked her name, she immediately recited a number.

That little girl has a name. That little girl has a life. And she is living in child years.

Let us as a country, not to have to apologise to this little girl and the other children in Nauru in years to come.