Federal LNP MP Ted O’Brien was caught awkwardly backing out of a press conference with Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Friday when the subject changed to the fate of the Biloela Tamil family.
O’Brien and Palaszczuk had been fronting the media after the International Olympic Committee all but tapped Brisbane on the shoulder as the host city for the 2032 Olympics. Great news!
Yet towards the end of the press conference, Palaszczuk was asked about a family of Tamil asylum seekers who had settled in the Queensland town of Biloela before being sent to a detention centre on Christmas Island.
The mum and dad of Biloela family, as they’re known, came to Australia separately as asylum seekers in 2012 and 2013. After meeting in Biloela, they eventually got married and had two daughters.
In 2018 the family was detained when their visas expired, and they’ve remained in offshore detention on Christmas Island since 2019. The federal government claims three out of four of them aren’t even eligible to be resettled in New Zealand or the US, like some other asylum seekers held in offshore detention.
Fast-forward to last week and the youngest daughter, three-year-old Tharnicaa, was rushed to hospital in Perth after she contracted sepsis. That’s not to mention the vitamin deficiencies and other health issues the children have suffered due to spending most of their lives in detention with a lack of sunlight and fresh fruit. Anyway, that’s why they’re now back in the news.
As soon as a question about the Biloela family was asked, federal MP Ted O’Brien – who is a member of the government responsible for how the family has been treated – noped the fuck out of there.
He claimed he was “happy to come back in” but in actual fact just chilled alone in the corner, grinning into space like a bored parent at their child’s school assembly.
— Johnpaul Gonzo (@JohnpaulGonzo) June 11, 2021
Palasczcuk even jokingly called him out.
“Oh, unless you want to talk about the Australian [federal] government issues?” she said.
“You’re more than welcome, Ted, I extend the hand of friendship.”
With O’Brien standing on his lonesome, the press conference continued.
“Look, what’s happening to that family, I think, is incredibly tragic,” Palasczcuk told reporters.
“They were a family based in Biloela and I think it’s time the federal government made a decision about that.”
And that’s the real story in all of this.
But Ted O’Brien seemed more concerned about optics.