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Motion: Afghanistan

08 September 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I want to take the opportunity to speak on this motion put by my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC regarding the ongoing tragedy that is unfolding in Afghanistan. We know that this year is 20 years since the war on terror began, of which Australia was a participant, joining the United States and other allies as part of the so-called 'coalition of the willing'.

During that time, as a result of this 20-year conflict, Brown University has conducted a report on the cost of the war on terror. It has found that this has cost the United States $8 trillion, but it has also resulted in the deaths of over 900,000 people. Those are direct deaths, not the other deaths that have been associated with this conflict, such as those from disease and so on that accompanies war.

Australia has been part of this conflict, and I think we do have a moral responsibility to help. Like many Australians, I have been really horrified by the scenes that we have seen unfolding in Afghanistan. There has been an outpouring of concern in South Australia. Along with the Hon. Tammy Franks, I attended a fundraising dinner on Sunday night, the Parwana fundraiser for Afghanistan. There was a strong community presence there, and there were several other members of parliament in attendance. It is testament, I would argue, to the concern that is felt by many in the community regarding this conflict.

I will not talk for a long period of time, but I do just want to put on the record some of the atrocities of the Taliban regime. They are seeking to reposition themselves and arguing that they are a new Taliban. Sadly, we know for the people of Afghanistan that this is a murderous terrorist regime. I refer to a report that has been released by Human Rights Watch looking at the impact of this regime on women, which is already being felt.

They have told women that they have no place in this new order. Women are saying, 'We told them that we want to continue working, but they [the Taliban] say only female nurses and teachers are allowed to work. We are engineers and lawyers and we want to work in our professions, but they say we cannot and should stay at home instead.' Taliban security forces have reacted violently to these protests. There have been protests from women against the changes that they are seeing in terms of their rights being stripped away. In Kabul, the Taliban have stopped these women and beaten at least 10 of them.

We are also seeing LGBTI people being targeted by this murderous regime. I refer to a report of the ABC from just last week, referring to a young gay man who discovered that his boyfriend had been dragged from his house, beaten and beheaded in the street. This is the brutality of this regime. It is, I think, appalling and despicable to see the way in which Western nations, which have been part of this conflict in Afghanistan over so many years, have shirked their responsibility to help these desperate people.

What can we do here in Australia? The Greens are calling to offer and expedite bridging visas to Afghans who have made substantive visa applications. We have also been calling to offer and expedite bridging visas to Afghan people who have worked for Australian armed forces or consulates, partners of Australian permanent residents and citizens, and people who have applied for humanitarian visas.

We need to see Australia take on board 20,000 additional humanitarian visas. We have a responsibility to help these people. The federal government's response, as on so many issues, has been poor and lacking compassion and lacking leadership. We really need to see Prime Minister Morrison step up. I hope that Premier Marshall does everything he can within his power to urge the federal government to show some leadership on this important issue.