NSW Premier Mike Baird Calls On Australian Government 'To Do More' For Refugees

05/09/2015 7:15 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 19: NSW Premier, Mike Baird addresses the media during a V8 Supercars media announcement about the Bathurst 1000, at Overseas Passenger Terminal on August 19, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

In a heartfelt plea, NSW Premier Mike Baird has urged the Federal Government to boost its efforts to assist Syrian refugees, claiming "stopping the boats" just isn't enough.

Mr Baird used his Facebook page to emotionally describe his "sorrow" at the image of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi. The three-year-old's body was washed ashore on a Turkish beach this week.

In the Facebook post, Mr Baird said he would be "having discussions with the Federal Government" in the coming days "to see what “more” looks like and how we can work together to act."

The post:

Sometimes you can know all the facts and statistics surrounding an unfolding tragedy, but it somehow remains an intangible or external problem. A problem that is almost too hard to get your head around.

And then you see a photo. And somehow it changes everything.

I don’t know how you felt when you saw the image of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi lying lifeless, face down in the sands of a Turkish beach. I felt sick with overwhelming sorrow. And despair. And anger.

I turned away, but that image will never leave me. That photo isn’t just a story of one tragedy. It is the story of thousands of real people in a fight for life itself.

On one hand, none of this was new information. The crisis unfolding in Syria has been apparent for a while. The plight of the persecuted and the poor, seeking a better life in a different land, and the migration challenges that it brings to Europe and beyond… well, this has been well documented.

But that photo. That little boy.

I found that as the feeling of anger dulled, my next response was…. surely we can do more. But what is “more” and what does it look like?

The scourge of illegal people smuggling has been well covered, and I won’t rehash it all now. But I will say, it is a great thing that we don’t have children drowning at sea trying to get to our shores. That has been a significant humanitarian achievement.

But stopping the boats can’t be where this ends. It is surely where humanitarianism begins.

I have said in the past that not only are we a lucky country, we are a great country - and the thing that makes us great is our willingness to share our luck.

I am deeply encouraged by the Federal Coalition Government's commitment to increase our humanitarian intake over the coming years.

But I believe we should do even more. And we should do it now.

NSW remains ready and willing to do more than our fair share.

We cannot see the images we have seen, and feel the things we have felt, and then go back to business as usual.

Last week we saw that the NSW economy is the strongest in the nation. But that means absolutely nothing if we can’t use that economic strength to help the vulnerable both within and beyond our state boundaries.

Over the coming days I will be having discussions with the Federal Government to see what “more” looks like and how we can work together to act. I will assure the PM that he can count on NSW to do whatever is needed.

The unfolding tragedy has a long way to run but my hope is that these terrible events will bring out the best in humanity -- our humanity. In the meantime, my prayers remain with little Aylan’s family, with all those suffering persecution, and with our world leaders as they seek to address this growing crisis.

Social media lit up in support of Baird's resolve.

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