Greens MP Adam Bandt was told he had "overstepped boundaries" with a question on why the government is "slowly killing kids" on Nauru, and was forced to withdraw the comment in parliament.
Bandt made the comment in Question Time on Wednesday, about the 85 refugee and asylum seeker children who remain detained on Nauru, many suffering severe mental health conditions that doctors say are caused by their ongoing detention.
Earlier this week a large coalition of medical groups and doctors delivered a letter to prime minister Scott Morrison saying kids who are suicidal and suffering from the life-threatening resignation syndrome can never recover while they remain detained on the island.
But after Bandt asked the government "Why are you slowly killing these children?" on Wednesday, leader of the government in the lower house Christopher Pyne stood up and said the Greens member for Melbourne had to withdraw.
Here's the exchange:
ADAM BANDT: Kids need to grow up in a stable loving environment, but under your watch, the refugee children on Nauru are in absolute crisis. When a 10-year-old boy repeatedly tried to kill himself, your government refused to transfer him to Australia for treatment until a court ordered it. And as emergency grows to catastrophe, Australia's senior medical officer was reportedly arrested and is today being deported from Nauru. Why are you slowly killing these children? Are you seriously arguing threatening these children's lives is some kind of necessary evil? Acceptable because you want to send some kind of broader message? Why won't you accept doctors' advice that it is never in the interests of a child to lock them up until they die?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Clearly the member for Melbourne has overstepped the boundaries even in this building. I would ask him to withdraw those insinuations and statement that we are trying to kill children by locking them up.
SPEAKER TONY SMITH: I would ask the member for Melbourne to withdraw.
BANDT: I am prepared to rephrase the question ... Why is the government slowly killing these children?
SPEAKER: The member for Melbourne needs to withdraw, a rephrase doesn't do it. There is one rule for everyone I'm afraid.
BANDT: I withdraw that part of the question.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
Prime minister Scott Morrison went on to say that his government had "ended the carnage" of children dying at sea in people smuggler boats as they travelled to Australia.
"We will continue to treat every single case based on the medical advice that is received and transfers that are undertaken on the basis of that medical advice, and we will continue to pursue that practice in each and every case," Morrison said.
Earlier this week, an open letter to Morrison signed by the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, multiple other medical organisations and almost 6,000 doctors was delivered to parliament.
The letter said that investing in paediatric mental health would "never bring resolution to these children’s symptoms" while they remain on Nauru.
"The circumstances of an involuntary and indefinite stay on Nauru directly contributes to their deterioration in mental state, which is why extending services on the island can never be the solution," the letter said.
The doctors said the situation was "urgent".
"Medical experts, including doctors who have worked on Nauru, have spoken repeatedly about their concerns. They report widespread, significant deteriorations in physical and mental health," the letter read.
"There are disturbing reports of young children attempting suicide by lethal means and withdrawing from their environment until they are almost comatose (increasingly called resignation syndrome). This is an extreme physical response to sustained psychological trauma, and is life threatening."
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at email@example.com.
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