Bill's Speeches










All of us in this place have watched the refugee crisis unfolding in the Middle East, and indeed Europe, with growing concern.

The violent evil being perpetrated in the Middle East is driving the largest movement of displaced people since the Second World War.

This is a humanitarian crisis, gripping our global community.

And the consequences, for desperate people in dreadful circumstances, have played out in front of the world’s watching eyes.

Mr Speaker

Much has been said and written about the photo which moved so many of us here in Australia, of the Turkish police officer carrying the body of Aylan Kurdi up off that Turkish beach.

As a father, it shook me to my core.

I cannot imagine, and I hope to never know, the toll that such a loss would take upon a person’s soul.

But that image is, after all, merely just a snapshot of the human tragedy afflicting literally tens of thousands of desperate people.

It is only a brief glimpse of a nightmare that so many other parents are living through, right now.

Parents, children, husbands and wives will carry the scars of this moment for the rest of their lives.

And, if we can find it in ourselves to confront this reality, to accept the scope and the scale of the challenge before us - surely we can agree that words of sympathy are not enough.

Surely we can see, our compassion demands action.

So as I announced earlier today, I am asking the Prime Minister to convene a bipartisan emergency meeting of state leaders, community and religious representatives.

To work towards Australia making an offer of 10,000 additional places for refugees displaced by the crisis in Syria.

This one-off additional increase in the humanitarian program, would come on top of Australia’s existing intake.

In addition, we seek for the government to immediately contribute an extra $100 million towards humanitarian relief efforts in response to the Syrian crisis.

This would help provide essential assistance to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, including millions of people living in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

I believe at a moment such as this, Australians expect our Parliament to show leadership, decency and compassion.

Europe is dealing with these issues and Australia has a contribution to make too.

Labor believes that Australia should play its role in an international response to relieve the suffering and the pressure on Syria’s neighbouring countries and the people within them.

Australia has been here, in not dissimilar circumstances, in the past.

Back in 1976 and 1977, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser stood up in terms of the tragedy of the exodus from Vietnam.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke offered safe haven to Chinese students studying here following the Tiananmen Square massacre.

And Prime Minister John Howard, when dealing with the plight of the Kosovars, made a decision to go above and beyond.

Let us fulfil this tradition.

It is now the turn of members of this Parliament to step up, to go above and beyond.

And I note that many members of the government, and indeed the cabinet, have indicated their instinctive support for such a move.

We welcome this, because bipartisanship is important here too.

Let our determination for Australia to be better, and to do more, be one shared by our entire Parliament – and our whole nation.

Let us speak with one voice, to the world.

Let us live up to the standard that we have always set for ourselves, as the land of the second chance and the home of the fair go for all.