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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11227


Mr BOWEN (McMahonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (14:18): Today the House is, of course, debating the amendments to the Migration Act, introduced by the government. We believe that this government and future governments should have the ability to manage Australia's borders in the national interest.

Today the House faces a choice: do we walk away from the progress made with regional partners over the last year or do we not? Do we walk away from the first opportunity in a long time to increase our humanitarian intake and give people who cannot or will not use a people smuggler the chance of a better life in Australia or do we not? Will we give the green light to people smugglers and say that it is okay for people who can afford a people smuggler or wish to use a people smuggler to feel that they will have a preferential chance of resettlement in Australia or do we not? Do we walk away from the regional framework negotiated in Bali or do we not? These are the questions facing the House today.

We know the Leader of the Opposition likes to say no. Today he can say no. He can say, 'No, we won't walk away.' The Leader of the Opposition can say that he disagrees with the government on so many things, as is his right and as is his role, but he agrees that people risking their lives on high seas is above politics and he can show leadership. He can say that Australia's national leaders should work together.

The Leader of the Opposition says, 'You can have any model of offshore processing you like'—provided it is his model. The Leader of the Opposition says the government of the day should have the power to implement its policies—providing it is a government that he leads.

The Australian people will judge a political party that says that it is okay to send boats to a country that is not a signatory to the refugee convention and with no protections negotiated, but you cannot send planes to a country that has given commitments and undertakings to the Australian government. That underlines the hypocrisy and the approach of this opposition.

Mr Simpkins interjecting

Mr BOWEN: The Australian people will be able to judge a political party that says that it cares about human rights but that it would be okay to send asylum seekers to Zimbabwe or the Congo or, yes, even Iran. The Australian people will judge a political party that says that it believes in offshore processing but it will not vote to make it law.

Mr Simpkins interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Cowan will leave the chamber under standing order 94(a) for one hour. If he believes that he can act like a foghorn on Sydney Harbour and not be disturbing the person with the call, I would like to see how he could argue that way.

The member for Cowan then left the chamber.

Mr BOWEN: This is about every member of the Liberal Party and every member of the National Party walking into this chamber to vote against offshore processing. As the Prime Minister has said, today we have heard from Bill Hassell, the former leader of the Liberal Party in Western Australia. He disagrees with the Leader of the Opposition. He says:

… allowing the Government of the day to govern, to have the legislation that it put up adopted by the Parliament seems to me what should and must occur.

He goes on:

The Australian public will not thank the Opposition for more boats and onshore processing, the inevitable outcome of their unholy alliance with the Greens.

Every member of this House knows there is a time and a place for politics. We are all practitioners of that art. But there is also a time and a place for leadership in the national interest. That time is today and the place is this chamber.