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10 June 2021

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

 
E&OE TRANSCRIPT 
REMARKS, BILOELA FAMILY CANDLELIGHT VIGIL 
HYDE PARK, SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 10 JUNE 2021

SUBJECTS: Biloela Family; Liberal MPs not brave enough to speak publicly. 

KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Today that generosity extends to Tharunicaa, and Kopika, Nades, and Priya. And we thank you.
 
I'm sure like many of you. It was a pang to the heart, and a sense of fear, when the news broke that Tharunicaa, had been taken so gravely ill, followed by a sense of anger that it had taken so long for appropriate medical care to be given, and followed by a sense of distress, and love and compassion for her parents and her sister, who are undoubtedly suffering right along with her.
 
I know all of us join tonight in the hope that Tharunicaa gets the treatment she needs there in Perth and gets well soon.
 
But in all honesty, how could we have gotten to the point as a country where a young, three year old child has to come so seriously ill. So close to. let's name it, death, before our Government acts.
 
And why hasn't the Minister for Home Affairs yet acted? This sad, ongoing, costly and cruel detention of this family can be brought to an end today with a stroke of a pen. Minister Andrews can decide today with a stroke of a pen - to show generosity, compassion, and the fair go that is supposed to be the hallmark of Australia, and extend it to the Biloela family. There's a regional town in Queensland that wants its family back.
 
There are, we read in the newspaper, yesterday, Liberal backbenchers who are getting nervous about the Biloela family who want the Government to just resolve it and let them come home.
 
All of us here today are standing here bearing witness. I acknowledge all the speakers who will come after me, who will speak vocally. All of you are speaking out in your communities, you're writing letters. You're making your voices heard.
 
My message to those Liberal backbenchers who want this to come to an end: Speak Out! Tell your Minister, publicly what you’re saying behind closed doors! It is time for the Biloela family to come home to Queensland! It is time.
 
What is the point of being a member of parliament, I say to those Liberal MPs, unless you are willing to use your voice for justice, compassion and the fair go? 
 
Colleagues, I know there's many speakers tonight and it's starting to rain, but I will just tell you quickly, from my visit to Christmas Island recently, I bore witness to what that family lives through and endures every day.
 
The security guards who sat with them in church when they were there on Sunday praying with me. The security guards who take those children to school every day. The fact that they live in two bedrooms -  two bedrooms that is it. They're the only family in that detention centre, and those are the only two children in immigration detention in Australia.
 
There is a welcoming and supportive family there in Christmas Island to join with us I know tonight, and there's so many Australians across the country to join with us tonight.
 
And so I want to end by saying to you, what Priya said to me, on our last hug when I left. And that is to tell the people of Australia how grateful they are, how they feel that love, how it sustains them, and how it keeps them going, and so what I say to you about Priya tonight, over there in Perth, with young Tharunicaa. We are with you, we love you and we want you to come home to Bilo.

ENDS