Australia is a country made richer by migrants. Our schools, hospitals, workplaces and parks show multiculturalism in action.
We are made richer by our diversity, each of us benefiting from the varied perspectives, religions, beliefs, customs and celebrations that migrants bring from around the world.
We are made richer by our kids learning from the earliest age that despite our differences we belong to a country founded on mutual respect.
Economic data shows that migration literally makes us richer.
The Migration Council of Australia estimates that migration will add $1.6 trillion to Australia's gross domestic product [GDP] by 2050, adding 15.7 per cent to our workforce participation rate and 5.9 per cent in GDP per capita growth.
The project of multicultural Australia has for the most part been a brilliant success. Notable exceptions have been our treatment of Indigenous Australians, the White Australia policy and, most recently, our appalling treatment of asylum seekers.
Like many Australians, I am left angry, often heartbroken and always profoundly disappointed by our asylum seeker policies.
As a parent, I am moved to tears by the images of children, many born in Australia, who are to be deported to a camp on Nauru or Manus Island. They are being sent to an uncertain future where we cannot guarantee their good health or wellbeing or even their safety.
As a woman, I am furious that while Australia makes advances in the prevention of domestic violence the Federal Government will send women who have been raped and abused back to camps to live with the perpetrators.
As a representative and a citizen I am frustrated that our Federal Parliament cannot balance our security needs with our human rights obligations.
But as an Australian I still have great hope and great faith in our strength and promise as a multicultural nation.
I have been inspired by the nurses and midwives who made a stand at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital last week and said they could no longer stay silent about the treatment of asylum seekers, and by the staff at Brisbane Children's Hospital who resisted the release of baby Asha if she was to be returned to detention.
I am inspired by the community groups and protests—Australians joining together to fight for justice and compassion.
I am grateful to the New South Wales Government for offering free transit to asylum seekers and to the leadership provided by Premier Baird and Labor Leader Luke Foley in joining with other State and Territory leaders in offering support to let asylum seekers stay.
I am proud of Mayor Darcy Byrne and Leichhardt Labor for proposing Callan Park be a refugee resettlement hub, putting words into action and showing the kind of generous response we expect of lawmakers.
I am proud also of New South Wales Labor for unanimously supporting a motion to let them stay at our recent New South Wales State Conference demanding asylum seeker children not be sent back to Manus Island and Nauru. I take this opportunity to read the motion to the House:
"Conference notes that following the recent decision by the High Court, a group of 267 asylum seekers who were brought to Australia from Nauru face the prospect of being forcibly returned to detention on Nauru
Conference acknowledges that of this group, there are infants who were born in Australia. To send them to Nauru is to eject them from their country of birth. Numerous humanitarian organizations and medical professionals have explained that sending them back to Nauru would subject them to a life of physical and emotional trauma.
A sense of compassion is in the best interests of these families and our status as a fair and decent nation. We have an obligation to care for these asylum seekers and to provide them a safe, secure and welcoming environment.
NSW Labor congratulates Labor Leaders Luke Foley, Premiers Dan Andrews, Annastascia Palaszczuk and Jay Weatherill for offering to take responsibility for these asylum seekers [and allow them to stay in their respective states].
NSW Labor calls on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to work with our State leaders to show compassion and offer care and certainty to these families.
It is a motion I was proud to support, along with all my Labor colleagues. We have a lot more to do.
We must live up to the promise of our own generosity and compassion. We must let them stay.