Federal Parliament - Afghanistan

31 August 2021


Dr ALY[by video link] As we approach the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, I'd like to start first by acknowledging all those who lost their lives and lost their loved onesour troops, innocent Afghans and victims of terrorism. The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly every single day. I was most distressed to hear that the sister and brother-in-law of one of my constituents were murdered recently by the Taliban. His brother-in-law was a subcontractor for the Australian Army working with our country and our troops in Afghanistan. They have three teenage children who are now orphaned in Afghanistan. They have no remaining relatives in Afghanistan, and the Taliban is hunting down those orphans as well. It is just disgraceful that we are leaving behind those Afghans who worked with us.

On 20 September 2018—that's almost three years ago—the member for Maribyrnong, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, asked a question in question time. He asked the then Minister for Home Affairs why our veterans had been trying for three years to secure visas for Afghan interpreters who had helped them in Afghanistan , and why it was so much easier for the minister to grant visas to au pairs but not to those who had helped our troops. Three years on and that question remains unanswered.

I would also like to acknowledge my staff, staff from other offices and shadow ministers. It has been emotionally and mentally draining for them. My office has escalated close to 1,000 cases for emergency evacuation from Afghanistan. We provide assistance to anyone who needs it. One thousand cases is one-third of the government's emergency intake from Afghanistan—from this office alone. Three thousand people simply isn't adequate to address the dire situation in Afghanistan. I have absolutely no faith in anything that the Taliban says about granting any sorts of rights to anyone in Afghanistan, particularly women and children, and I have grave concerns for the wellbeing of women and children in Afghanistan.

We have a large Afghan-Australian community in Cowan, and so it perhaps makes sense that my office has been so flooded with calls for help from members of the community here. However, dozens of those cases are coming from outside of my electorate. It concerns me that many of those people report that they have contacted their Liberal members of parliament and were turned away, not given any form of assistance. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that we're all here for the right reasons. Regardless of where we sit on the political divide, we represent all the people in our electorate, regardless of where they sit on the political divide, regardless of their personal circumstances, regardless of their beliefs or their status. I simply cannot abide members who turn away desperate people and refuse to help them, especially when it is a case of life or death.

Australia must do more. People in Afghanistan put their lives at risk to help our troops in the belief that, in doing so, they would be assisting their own country and their own nation-building. We made many mistakes in Afghanistan, and I've spoken before about the mistake of treating the incursion in Afghanistan as traditional warfare and why we needed to treat it differently. But we are in this situation now, 20 years on. Twenty years on, women in Afghanistan are facing some dire consequences. We cannot leave them behind. I urge the government to consider increasing the intake of refugees from Afghanistan. Those who are here have made an incredible contribution to Australia, and I have all faith that all the Afghan refugees that we take will continue to make an incredible contribution to Australia. They are hardworking people. I have witnessed this myself. I know them. I know them as family friends, I know them as members of the community, I know them as constituents of Cowan and as constituents of other electorates here. I also urge government members: please do not turn your back on those people who are asking you for help, who are coming to your offices and seeking assistance. Please do everything that we can to help these people.