SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
VISIT TO CHRISTMAS ISLAND
I am relieved to say that I will still travel to Christmas Island this weekend to meet with the Biloela family, after Peter Dutton yesterday at the last minute cancelled the plane in which I was due to fly for the visit.
I am travelling to Christmas Island on commercial flights, leaving tonight. I thank Virgin Airlines for assisting my office with last minute booking arrangements. I also thank Australian Border Force for their assistance and prompt approval of my request to visit the family. I am glad I will be able to meet many members of the Christmas Island community during my visit, and of course, I especially look forward to meeting Nades, Priya and their two Australian-born little girls.
During Senate Estimates yesterday, the Australian Border Force - which Peter Dutton no longer controls - confirmed that I could visit the Biloela family during my planned trip to Christmas Island, as part of a bipartisan parliamentary delegation visit to both Christmas and Cocos Islands.
The ABF even wished me a pleasant visit with the family.
Within an hour of that information becoming public, Peter Dutton did the one thing he could as Defence Minister and cancelled the committee’s flight on a Government Special Purpose Aircraft.
This from the same Minister who didn't hesitate in spending $36,000 of taxpayers' money flying himself on the same Government Special Purpose Aircraft from Queensland to Tasmania to announce a highly political “Safer Seats Rorts” grant during the Braddon by-election.
The visit to Christmas and Cocos Islands had been planned for months by the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, of which I am a member. Former Defence Minister Linda Reynolds had approved the use of a Government Special Purpose Aircraft to visit the two islands, due to the limited commercial flights available.
Government members Senator McMahon, Gavin Pearce and James Stephens were due to join me and my Labor colleagues Senator Lines, Dave Smith, Warren Snowden so we could hold community consultations specifically looking at communications infrastructure, as well as an opportunity for parliamentarians to hear from residents of the Islands.
I am disappointed that my fellow parliamentarians can no longer join me on this trip. While I can't do everything that the parliamentary delegation planned to do during this visit, I will do as much as I can, including meeting with the Biloela family and assure them of the broad support in Australia for their return home.
Nades, Priya and their two Australian-born daughters have been in Immigration detention on Christmas Island since 2019, when an injunction stopped them from being deported to Sri Lanka. Since their detention, they have been strongly supported by their friends and neighbours in the Central Queensland community who want them to bring them Home to Bilo.
Liberal and National leaders such as Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Michael McCormack and Ken O'Dowd have all agreed with Labor that it is well past time for the Biloela family to come home.
As has always been the case, Scott Morrison, Alex Hawke or Karen Andrews could bring this whole process to an end by using ministerial discretion under the Migration Act and allow the family to return home to Biloela.
They are simply choosing not to intervene, allowing this cruel and inhumane saga to continue at considerable cost - some $50 million - to the taxpayer.
Further, Scott Morrison needs to explain why his tired eight-year-old Liberal Government has stopped the people of Christmas and Cocos Island from meeting with a bipartisan parliamentary delegation. These communities deserve to have their voices heard.
THURSDAY, 15 APRIL 2021