Motion calling for urgent aid to Afghanistan

In Parliament, Motions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:32): I move:

That this council—

1. Calls on the federal government to provide immediate assistance to Afghan people both on the ground in Afghanistan and by providing protection here in Australia;

2. Calls on the federal government to offer permanent protection visas for up to 20,000 people from Afghanistan who are at risk of persecution from the Taliban; and

3. Acknowledges that Australia’s actions have contributed to the growing threat to many Afghan people from the Taliban, and that we have a moral obligation to provide aid and sanctuary to the people who will suffer as a result.

I rise to speak on this motion today. As I do so, I am sure that mine is not the only heart that is breaking as we all watch the situation in Afghanistan unfold. The situation at and around Kabul airport is extremely dangerous and unpredictable as people try to access evacuation flights. This motion, and I hope this council, calls on the federal government to provide 20,000 permanent protection visas in addition to Australia’s annual humanitarian intake for Afghan people with a well-founded fear of persecution by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

These visas are crucial to protect women, human right’s advocates, LGBTIQ+ people, alumni of Australian universities, journalists, Afghan government workers and people from ethnic and religious minorities previously persecuted by the Taliban. Australia must act now as a good global citizen and do what we can to support people on the ground, especially those women and girls who are facing a massive curtailing of their rights, living through this dire situation.

Even in the interim we should be issuing bridging visas to allow people to get out, to help Afghan people who have fought for Australian armed forces or consulates, partners of Australian permanent residents and citizens and people who have applied for humanitarian visas, so that they can at least have a chance to reach safety or to stay here in safety. Bridging visas can be granted in real time, effectively with the stroke of a pen. The time for substantive review of applications can come later. Our priority should be getting people to safety as quickly and as efficiently as we can.

The Australian government has for months ignored urgent calls for evacuation flights and visas for translators and diplomats, and now it may be too late to ensure their safety. We owe it to the people who helped us to now help them.

Like so many others, this morning I was both relieved and thrilled to hear that we have had that first plane full of families touch down at Adelaide Airport. We have been able to bring over 100 people to safety today, and I am hopeful that we are able to do much more.

We must also be supporting and sending aid on the ground in Afghanistan, particularly after further warnings we have received this morning that without urgent aid we are facing a humanitarian disaster, with approximately 14 million people—a third of the population—facing starvation. The United Nations World Food Program has warned that without additional funds they will start to run out of food in September.

We need to urgently take action, and Australia’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan has contributed to this moment. We must not abandon the people of Afghanistan at this moment. This crisis we are now in, we now see, is yet another example of how violent wars fail people. We saw it with Vietnam, and we see it now with Afghanistan. It is yet another reminder, a demonstration, of why we must find peaceful, non-violent solutions to increasing tensions. The cost of not doing so is far too high, and it comes with unacceptable human suffering.

In the face of this, accepting 20,000 humanitarian entrants and offering permanent protection for Afghan citizens in Australia is quite literally the very least we can do. I commend the motion.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.