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Premier - Afghanistan Refugees

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Refugees, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, over the weekend Tasmania received ex pats from the UK as part of an arrangement we have made with the Commonwealth to take the pressure off quarantine facilities interstate for Afghans fleeing from the Taliban. Have there been any conversations at a national level about Tasmania doing its share in inviting - once they've been through all the quarantine - people from Afghanistan to make a new life here? So far, we haven't heard any commitment from the Tasmanian Government to take Afghan refugees who are desperately looking for safety and a new home?

Mr GUTWEIN - We are open to it. I've had discussions with DPAC and they have had discussions with their counterparts as well. If we can be a part of a resettlement we will be. This is complex. With Australia's humanitarian effort trying to bring as many back as possible, there will be any number of people who are dislocated from family, from community groups. The first stage will be to see if we can match who is who and where they've landed in the country. Should the country need a state to receive further refugees, then we will look to do that. It's too early to provide a definitive answer other than we're open to it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you for that. As a follow up question, my understanding is that other states and territories have made commitments on the resettlement of humanitarian entrants from Afghanistan. Has there been pushback from Public Health here to Tasmania proactively saying to the commonwealth, 'We'll take a certain number of Afghan refugees'?

Mr GUTWEIN - Not to the best of my knowledge. I've not been in any of those discussions. In discussions at a national level, one option for the state to assist - I can run you through them. Immediately we offered to provide financial support, noting that we're not an international port in the way that Sydney or Perth or New South Wales are. Nor are we Howard Springs. Initially we offered whatever financial support we could provide or any other support that the commonwealth required. Then it moved to 'Can we take Afghan refugees as part of this humanitarian effort, or conversely, free up space?'.

With the structure we have and the way we've managed our seasonal workers, which are a slightly lower risk than the original re pat flights we looked at out of India, the decision we made to take the seasonal workers was a good one for the state. When the offer was made to us to either free up space or take refugees, based on our current arrangements the best way to assist was to free up space in other quarantine hotels. That's what we've done. If we need to do more, then we'll -

Ms O'CONNOR - We do, don't you think?

Mr GUTWEIN - Absolutely.

Ms O'CONNOR - We do need to do more.

Mr GUTWEIN - I made the point yesterday, if anybody wasn't moved by the scenes that have been flashed on our televisions out of Kabul, now is the time that as a country we need to pull together. I agree with you on that. Regarding your original question, if there's an opportunity for resettlement and if we can provide the appropriate structures then we'll play a part. We've had discussions at a national level and we've been quite clear with them that we will do that.