Click for menu
Senator Kerry Nettle and 'those rosaries'

The Greens: Senator Kerry Nettle

Kerry Nettle was The Greens' Senator for New South Wales from 2001, until her seat was lost at the 2007 election - her last day in the Senate was June 20, 2008. Kerry "has been instrumental in developing The Greens response to the Howard government's anti-terrorism, 'security', and War-related legislation."

About the photo: this is the t-shirt Kerry wore in Parliament on the occasion of the debate about the abortion drug RU486 in February 2006. See the article here.

Senator Nettle has been present and a key participant at several of our events in Western Australia. The links below lead to the events she was a part of.

As she leaves the Senate in 2008, we thank her for her work and extend our best wishes for her future endeavours.

What's on this page

There are six speeches or statements by Senator Nettle on this page. The quick links jump you down to the sections.


31 January 2006: Free West Papua, Let Them Stay! - A forum in Fremantle about the West Papuan asylum seekers and their reasons for the trip from Merauke to Weipa in Queensland with Senator Kerry Nettle, advocate Kaye Bernard, Project SafeCom's Jack Smit and Australian West Papua Association supporter Ned Byrne.

Click to visit the pages of our 2003 Symposium
The Cost, the Carnage and the Bill - a weekend symposium on asylum seeker policies, issues and implications at University of Western Australia with Julian Burnside QC, Dr Carmen Lawrence, Hassan Ghulam, Dr Louise Newman, Senator Andrew Bartlett, Greens Senator Kerry Nettle and lawyer Elizabeth Lacey. Moderated by former diplomat Bruce Haigh. Here's the link to the page.

Greens Refugee Action Kit

To start the download, choose right-click, 'Save As' with your mouse

Address: Now We The People conference

Senator Kerry Nettle
Federal Greens Senator for NSW

From the Opening Plenary of the Now We The People conference, 23 August 2003, University of Technology, Sydney

See the web site:

Thank you, it's good to be here with everyone and have the opportunity to discuss where Howard and Bush are taking us, and then to have the opportunity over the next couple of days to talk about where we want this country to be taken, and how we put in place strategies for being a part of taking the country where we want it to go.

I'm bringing today a Federal Greens perspective to the debate, and I want to start by pointing out someone who I really think exemplifies the close relationship between the Bush Administration and the Howard Administration [...and that's Tom Schaeffer, the US Ambassador to Australia...] who took the ALP off for a meeting about their public disrespect for George W Bush in the Parliament and took them aside to have a go at them about that one. And then just last month it was, Tom Schaeffer thought nothing of attending a Liberal Party function with Alexander Downer in Alexander Downer's electorate. So the Ambassador for the USA Administration thought it was OK to go to a Liberal Party function in Alexander Downer's electorate. Now this man is not a diplomat; this man has never been a diplomat, this man is a mate of George W Bush. Together they bought a baseball team, and then he stayed on as president of the baseball team when George Bush got elected as Texas Governor, then when Bush got into the Presidency he took his friend Tom out of the - where was he working? - stadium real estate consultancy and made him the ambassador to Australia. This man is not a diplomat.

Now I think the Scheaffer approach to diplomacy doesn't just highlight the close links between the Liberal Party and the Bush Administration which of course that Liberal Party function which is a symptom of, but it is also a link between an attitude we see coming from the Bush and Howard administrations in he way in which they do politics. And that's what I want to talk about today. It's aggressive, it's personalised, and it's elitist, in the way in which they carry out their politics. Other people are talking about particular issues; I want to talk about a modus operandi of both the administrations, in the way in which they engage with the public on a whole range of different issues.

It is characterised - and we see it here in Australia - by willingness of the government to mislead, deceive, and to lie to the Parliament and to the electorate. Some will say lies are nothing new in Parliament, but I think the Howard Administration has taken this to a great extent in terms of the number of lies, in terms of the significance of the lies, and also the motivation behind the lies of the Howard Government, are not just your normal politician-covering-their-arse kind of lies. That's not what we're seeing, it's something far more significant than that. When it comes to winning elections on the lie of children being throw overboard, when it comes to SIEV X, when it comes to when we made a commitment to go to war, for what reason we made a commitment to go to war, whether there are weapons of mass destruction, and the last couple of weeks we've had the ethanol subsidy fiasco.

All of those lies are indicative of a steamrolling PR campaign to facilitate public support for government decisions that have already been made. What we see in terms of the way the government makes decisions - the government comes up with an outcome that they know will bring benefit to themselves and the vested interests that they protect in their government of this country, then they implement those policies, and at the same time as they implement those policies they bring on board PR companies to run campaigns to convince the general population that these decisions that are being made are in the interests of the Australian public. So, having started out making that decision on the basis of "this is in our interests", then they bring on the PR companies to try and convince everyone that it is in the Australian public interest, for whatever it proposes they take or forward on different issues.

Now this is a fundamentalist style of politics to run, this is an elitist style of politics to run, this is a politics where there is no consultation with the public. Interaction with the public is through the PR companies. It is also an aggressive style of politics. People see Tom Schaeffer as a pushy American but it would be a mistake to take that down as an accident of culture - it is a general approach. We are seeing a level of bravado, of tough talk, threat, insult - and ultimately violence - that is displayed by the Bush Administration. It is a result of a calculated abuse of the power of leadership.

It is an interpretation that is born perhaps because of a realisation that the prestige of office allows much more scope to manipulate public opinion than was previously thought. The Bush and Howard Administrations use their positions of power and leadership to manipulate public opinion.

Now of course the times have to be right, and the lies have to be bold, and you have to be prepared to bet big. But the Bush and Howard Administrations have shows that George Bush and John Howard are leaders who are prepared in their circumstances to manipulate the public mood. And they don't care what lies, deceptions or scaremongering and bring up of fear they use along the way as a part of their strategy for strengthening their power, their control, and their leadership.

For George Bush it's been a dramatic expansion of the US's global, military, and imperialist activities that have been facilitated with his "you're either with us or against us" way in which he does politics. For John Howard, at the same time as George W Bush was making these sorts of comments, he and his ministers were weaving an elaborate and audacious myth about baby-abusing subhuman invaders threatening our way of life, and in illustrating this compelling yarn with ample military props, including helicopters, warships and, of course, the beloved SAS.

It's worth noting here that the success of the Coalition in the leadership-led manipulation of the public mood was significantly assisted by the failure of the Opposition to rise to the challenge. I think one example of that comes from the electorate of Calare, where Peter Andren is an independent there. That's a conservative electorate in a lot of ways, and I know that Peter Andren has been going around and speaking to the street about his support for the rights of asylum-seekers. He faced abuse, he faced people yelling and spitting at him in his campaign when he went round and he talked to people on the street about the pro-refugee steps he was taking in his electorate. He got a 15% swing towards him in that electorate during that election campaign.

Now some people might think that there's less aggressiveness in Howard's style of doing politics as opposed to George W Bush, but certainly the "we'll decide who'll come to this country and in what circumstances they come" line is firmly entrenched in the George W Bush tradition. We also see in Howard a Christian conservative of the 1950s church district cricket player and Bradman enthusiast. But it's within this conservatism that we find a conflict in the direction that Howard is taking us - a conflict between this and the other strong tradition that both these leaders share, that masquerades as Liberal free market capitalism but is in fact more a kind of crony capitalism that tips the playing field in favour of big and influential players in the economy.

The tension exists because the kind of family oriented community oriented mateship and barbecues vision that Howard would like to realise, is hard to see thriving in a deregulated, user pays, dog eat dog world that his social and economic policies endorse. He talks much about mateship, but his social policies don't create an environment where mateship and a sense of community can thrive.

In terms of social policies, both George W and John Howard are anti-gay marriage and equal rights, prohibitionist in the drug debate, they are environmental vandals, they are climate criminals, they have an atrocious track record when it comes to indigenous rights and these strongly held personal beliefs may sometimes struggle to find articulation in policy detail, but their power still finds ample expression through being set in a leadership context. Many would have dismissed Howard's recent comments on gay marriages as stupid and irrelevant, but the fact that the Prime Minister made those comments brings them into the debate. And it is the same thing in relation to the death penalty. The fact that it is the Prime Minister making comments on the death penalty brings it into the public debate, and engenders a sense of conservatism in relation to gay marriages, homophobia and in relation to the death penalty engenders a sense of revenge within the Australian community.

Now the battle against leadership that we see in George W and that we see in John Howard requires leadership. It requires conviction politics that deals with principles and that deals with vision. It requires bravery and it requires belief, and I know that that is the politics behind Now We The People. The Greens also hope to play that kind of role and those kinds of politics, and we call on others to do the same.


First published at the Conference Web Site--

New Immigration minister must not sacrifice the mental health of asylum seekers

Senator Kerry Nettle
Media Release
12th Nov 03

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today spoke at the 'Forgotten Rights' conference that detailed the psychological trauma caused by current immigration policies, and used the opportunity to challenge Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone to take a more humanitarian approach.

"Amanda Vanstone, is presiding over an immigration policy that systematically abuses detainees psychologically. She must end this cruel regime, she must start today," Senator Nettle said.

"We have children with depression, mothers attempting suicide, already traumatised detainees further brutalised and all in the name of political expediency.

"The Minister has recognised the trauma of this policy generates, granting an humanitarian visa in the Sammaki case. Other suffering families deserve our compassion too.

"The conference today has detailed new information on the prevalence of suicide attempts and widespread depression and mental anguish. These are the flesh and blood consequences of John Howard's political posturing and they shame us all.

"The cause of this trauma is the mandatory detention policy.

"The Greens continue to call the abolition of the mandatory detention of asylum seekers, because we simply cannot support a policy which amounts to torture for so many children, men and women - who came here look for our help.

"The Greens call for the scrapping of Temporary Protection Visas, which simply continue the limbo for these people, and the introduction of a community based asylum seeker processing and resettlement programme."

Deportation patterns to Syria

Question to the new Immigration Minister

Senator Kerry Nettle
Senator for New South Wales
13th October 03

Senator NETTLE- My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Vanstone. Is the minister aware that, over the past seven years, dozens of asylum seekers have been deported to Syria from Australia, despite the fact that they were not Syrian, in many cases had never been to Syria and had no connection with Syria? Is the minister aware that at least six asylum seekers deported from Australia to Syria have recently testified in face-to-face interviews in Syria about their lives as third-class, stateless individuals in fear of persecution, detention and torture? Can the minister explain why so many asylum seekers are being dumped in Syria, a country with an appalling human rights record that has not signed the refugee convention and has no domestic laws relating to Iraqi or Afghan refugees? Does this practice indicate that there is an agreement or arrangement in place between the Australian government and Syrian authorities? If so, what is the nature of the agreement?

Senator VANSTONE- I thank the senator for her question. It gives me the first question that I have had in this portfolio and I am grateful for that. It gives me the opportunity to say how pleased I am to have this portfolio. As you would know, senator, apart from full-blooded Indigenous Australians, all of us have immigrant blood, and therefore I regard representing immigration as well as the Indigenous community as a great honour and opportunity.

As to the allegations in the question that a country the senator names, namely Syria, is being used I think in her words as a dumping ground, I have no advice to that effect. I would be surprised if it were the case but I will make inquiries of the department to get details of the numbers you allege: 'dozens' over the past few years. I do not know which years you are referring to and how many there might be. I will ask the department how easy it is to get that information. You obviously would not want thousands of dollars spent extracting it but it may be very easy to get and, if it is, I will get it for you. As to whether there is any particular agreement with Syria of the nature to which you refer, I will make inquiries about that and get back to you on that issue as well.

Having said that, let me remind you that we have a policy that the government will decide who comes here and the circumstances under which they come. We have a controlled immigration program. I am a great fan of immigration. This country is an immigration success story, but if you believe in immigration and if you believe in having a very important part of your program being your humanitarian and refugee component, then you also must agree that it must be controlled according to an appropriate system. We will not revert to a system of some sort of Rafferty's rules to determine who comes here. We will decide who comes and the circumstances under which they come. We will repatriate people appropriately in accordance with our rules. I will investigate the allegations that you make and come back to you if I have anything further to add.

Senator NETTLE- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In relation to the deportation of asylum seekers, is the minister aware of the contents of a report issued by the Edmund Rice Centre last week which details case studies of numerous asylum seekers who have been deported from Australia only to be imprisoned, beaten, tortured or disappeared? Can the minister explain how this practice of forcibly returning asylum seekers to dangerous situations is justified under this government given that it clearly breaches Australia's responsibilities under international law, specifically the 1984 convention against torture and the 1996 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? When will the department agree to appropriate monitoring of their deportations in order to ensure that these legal and ethical responsibilities can be upheld?

Senator VANSTONE- I did see some mention of that report last week. My office did not have a copy at the time and I understand some sort of briefing is going to be prepared for me on that report. I would simply caution taking any document put forward by anyone - and I am not being critical of that centre - at face value, which I think your question assumes and which I think is somewhat unfair. I make the point with respect to people who are sent back to their home country that there is a point at which we cannot continue to monitor the situation. People are not sent back if there is a view that they are at serious risk.

Senator NETTLE- They are.

Senator VANSTONE- That, of course, is a matter for conjecture but it is not a view that I accept.


Iranian Asylum Seekers Motion


Senator Kerry Nettle
Senator for New South Wales
18th September 2003

Senator NETTLE (New South Wales)(9.36 a.m.)

-by leave

-I move the motion as amended:

That the Senate-

  1. notes that:

    1. there are currently more than 250 Iranians in immigration detention in Australia,

    2. the Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Iranian Government that creates a bilateral response to Iranian asylum seekers that fail to be granted refugee status in Australia,

    3. a number of these detainees were, in August 2003, offered $1,000 to return to Iran voluntarily, or face forced deportation,

    4. Amnesty International has described ongoing concerns about human rights abuses in Iran, including its 2003 report on Iran which states: Scores of political prisoners including prisoners of conscience were arrested. Others continued to be held in prolonged detention without trial or were serving prison sentences imposed after unfair trials. Some had no access to lawyers or family. Freedom of expression and association continued to be restricted by the judiciary and scores of students, journalists and intellectuals were detained. At least 113 people, including long- term political prisoners were executed, frequently in public and some by stoning, and 84 were flogged, many in public,

    5. at least 4 Iranian asylum seekers who were returned to Iran by Australia have reportedly 'disappeared', and one of them was reportedly killed, and

    6. these disappearances add to a tragic list of deaths and disappearances which have occurred following deportations and repatriations triggered by the failure of Australian authorities to correctly ascertain refugee status or monitor the situation of returnees; and

  2. calls on the Government to:

    1. suspend forced deportations of Iranian asylum seekers whilst their safety cannot be guaranteed and no monitoring of returned asylum seekers is undertaken, and

    2. release the details of the MOU with the Iranian Government.

Question agreed to.

Second Anniversary of Tampa Incident


Senator Kerry Nettle
Senator for New South Wales
26th August 2003

Senator NETTLE- (New South Wales) (3.55 p.m.)

- I move:

That the Senate-

  1. notes that 26 August 2002 is the anniversary of the beginning of one of the most shameful chapters in Australia's recent history, the turning away of the MV Tampa;

  2. acknowledges that the Australian Government acted callously and against international convention in turning away the asylum seekers, who had been rescued by the MV Tampa on the request of our own Coastwatch;

  3. condemns the Howard Government for its ongoing scare mongering and cynical manipulation of public opinion against refugees and asylum seekers;

  4. calls for an end to the system of mandatory detention, which is inhumane, inefficient and an international embarrassment to Australia;

  5. calls on the Government to abandon the 'Pacific Solution', which is designed to avoid Australia's international responsibilities, and to rule out any expansion of this approach including the excision of Australian islands for migration purposes; and

  6. reaffirms Australia's commitment to its international obligations to shelter and assist humanitarian refugees.

Question put.

I'll wear that ovaries T-shirt again: Nettle

Sydney Morning Herald
February 10, 2006 - 4:33PM

Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle says she is sorry if her rosaries/ovaries T-shirt offended anyone, but pledged to wear it again.

Senator Nettle wore the "Mr Abbott get your rosaries off my ovaries'' T-shirt earlier this week as the Senate started its emotion-charged debate over who should control the abortion drug RU486.

Prime Minister John Howard today said the T-shirt was deeply offensive to Catholics and called it an undergraduate stunt.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley said he was offended by the T-shirt and Health Minister Tony Abbott described it as tacky.

Senator Nettle said: "For any people who took that message incorrectly I apologise if people are offended but I think what is important, is that I do not apologise for taking a strong stance on women's health, and women's right to control their bodies.''

She denied the T-shirt was an undergraduate stunt, and instead claimed the prime minister and Tony Abbott were "sore losers''.

Responding to Mr Howard's criticism that the shirt was offensive, Senator Nettle said it was her role as an activist to promote a diverse range of views.

"One of the things that activists do is stand proud with their message, and if it happens to be emblazoned on my T-shirt - well, so be it,'' Senator Nettle said.

"It's not the T-shirt that needs changing, it's the prime minister's attitude, which we are seeing increasingly is about bringing fundamentalist religious views into the parliament.

"Religion has no place in politics, and religion has no place in a decision for a women about what drug is safe for her to use.''

The T-shirt was sponsored by the Young Women's Christian Association.

Mr Howard today said the message was offensive to Catholics across the country.