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
WEDNESDAY, 21 APRIL 2021
SUBJECT: Trip to Christmas Island to visit Biloela family.
CARRIE BICKMORE, HOST: Kristina Keneally continues to push for the release of a Biloela family being held in detention on Christmas Island. The Labor Senator has been to visit them and says new Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews could simply use her discretionary power to release them.
WALEED ALY, HOST: Senator Keneally landed back in Perth this morning and she joins us now. Senator, before we get into it more fully, how is the family holding up?
SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Well, as you can imagine Waleed it's an incredibly stressful situation for this family.
Nades, the father, he's quite a quiet man but there's this deep and profound sadness in him. He fears deportation. He fears that if he's returned to Sri Lanka he will be killed and he will leave his daughters orphans.
Priya, the mother is an extrovert. She loves being with people and she's quite obviously lonely and distressed in detention.
But these two parents are at their most stressed when they talk about the impacts of detention on their children. Their children are the only two children in Australia in immigration detention. And Kopika, the oldest, when she gets picked up from school by the security guards, she asks her father every day, why can't she go to a house like all the other kids, why does she have to go back to jail.
BICKMORE: The government's position is incredibly firm. They say that this is the application of the rules and that you can't make exceptions for people no matter how well loved they are. How do you respond to that?
KENEALLY: Well, in the Migration Act, the minister has very broad discretionary powers. And indeed, ministers use their discretion thousands of times a year in cases like these.
What we have here is a family that has been in Australia now for some 10 years. Nades was holding down two jobs. He was paying taxes. Priya was involved in the local community.
And they still have ongoing legal processes. The younger daughter, the Federal Court found, has been denied procedural fairness. We've now spent nearly four years and $50 million of taxpayer money trying to deport, and keeping in detention, this family. And this is exactly the type of case where a minister should use their discretion to bring this expensive and sorry, saga to an end.
RACHEL CORBETT, HOST: Well, we've got a new Home Affairs Minister, do you have a read on whether she'll approach this case differently?
KENEALLY: Well, she can look at this with fresh eyes. And I'm quite encouraged that she has said she's getting a high-level briefing and a detailed briefing. I'd encourage her to go to Biloela, speak to the local community there, understand how well loved this family is. She might even consider travelling to Christmas Island to talk to some of those residents or indeed the family because she's going to make a profound decision that will impact particularly these young children's lives.
PETER HELLIAR, HOST: Let's hope we don't have to wait this long Senator, but if Labor was to win the next election, would you be making a commitment to releasing them?
KENEALLY: Oh very much so and we have been saying this for some years now, Pete.
We really do want to see this family returned to their regional Queensland town in Biloela. And I must say there are Coalition figures like Michael McCormack and Barnaby Joyce, Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott, who agree with that position.
This can be solved with the ministerial stroke of a pen. And I join you in this hope that we're not waiting until the next election to see these two little children, born here in Australia, able to return to their homes.
ALY: Senator, thank you very much for your time.