Freya Noble, 9News, March 18, 2019
Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds has been accused of linking terrorism and refugees seeking medical treatment in Australia in a discussion about the twin terror attacks in New Zealand.
The Minister for Emergency Management and North Queensland Recovery urged politicians not to politicise the recent Christchurch tragedy on the Q&A panel tonight before following it with a comment that sparked widespread fury.
She went on to say the issue was “very personal” for her, and that she had been sickened when members of the senate supported Labor’s amendments to the medivac bill because she has “lived through terrorism”.
Senator Reynolds was chief of staff to Chris Ellison, then-minister for Justice and Customs, at the time of the Bali bombings in 2002.
“I was one of the few who has lived through terrorism and the impact up in the Bali bombings, I was up there, I saw, I smelt and I got to understand the what was happening,” she told the Q&A audience in Townsville.
“There are people in our own nation and there are people overseas who want to do us harm. They don’t respect our compassion. And they certainly do not respect our way of life.”
“Can I interrupt you there,” host Tony Jones said. “Are you drawing a link between the Bali bombings and refugees coming to Australia for medical services?”
Senator Reynolds attempted to defend her comments, saying she was highlighting that the policy would “inevitably lead to the boat trade coming again”.
“There are thousands of people, people smugglers don’t see them as human beings, they see them as commodities to profit from. And I saw that first hand in 2001 and 2002 … And I saw the consequences of those who were desperate enough to pay to come here.”
She went on to talk about the toll tragedies such as mass drownings take on authorities, and said parliament had “a responsibility to think about the consequences of the policies we implement”.
“We absolutely have to reserve our compassion for those who are genuine refugees and like we have always in this country, we have brought people in who genuinely need our help,” Senator Reynolds said.
Her comments have sparked swift backlash on social media, with her name becoming one of the highest trending topics on Twitter in Australia.
Viewers expressed their shock at her apparent attempt to draw a link between the New Zealand terror attacks and the Bali Bombings.
Others accused the senator of hypocrisy, saying she was politicising the issue immediately after saying it should not be done.