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Monday, 22 November 2010
Page: 3333

Mr DANBY (1:24 PM) —I have been called late into this debate and am pleased to take part as a former chairman of the parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration. The opposition has made this motion, which claims that the government has not consulted on the development of this centre, into a political issue that is not based on fact. The brief I received from the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship indicates that he has met a number of times with people from Woodside and that Woodside residents are going to have further opportunities to meet with him. As the member for Hindmarsh said earlier when he was in the chair, the mayors of the local area will also be meeting with him on Wednesday, 24 November.

This motion needs to be seen in a wider context. The real issue is not some faux concern about consultation. It is another attempt by the opposition to use its old faithful political weapon: hysteria about unauthorised boat arrivals. Debates surrounding unauthorised boat arrivals in this country have had many low points, but some of the worst occurred during the recent election campaign. We all remember the opposition’s extraordinary ads with red arrows pointing at hordes of people coming from Asia and the Middle East to our shores. Who can forget the overblown rhetoric of the member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition, that Australia is suffering a ‘passive invasion’? We have 13½ thousand people who are part of an authorised refugee program, and that overall number is not altered. Those who come by boat—there are no extra people who become refugees—are but part of that small segment of our migration program.

The debate descended into the downright bizarre when the member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition, suggested that he would establish a ‘boat phone’ to turn boats back. Of course, he would not do that. We all know that the rhetoric of the member for Warringah is worse than what he would actually do. He would not drag women and children back out to sea. But slogans and publicity stunts are what we have come to expect of the opposition, rather than measured and sensible responses to the issues facing our country.

The government is developing a policy response to this issue that is focused on regional engagement. We will only be able to successfully manage this issue of unauthorised arrivals by working with our neighbours—those countries through which the vast majority of unauthorised arrivals transit. This policy will not necessarily be a quick fix, but it will achieve a lasting result. As I said previously, every person who is seriously involved in the asylum seeker issue knows that the central issue is what happens in Indonesia. The government in Indonesia is democratic and the best friend Australia has ever had. Indonesia has an excellent President and an excellent foreign minister. The possible passage by the Indonesian parliament of legislation giving sentences to people smugglers is much more germane to people in Adelaide who are upset about unauthorised arrivals than is this hysterical motion.

We also must remember the context. Around the world approximately 42 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of conflict during 2009. Developing countries host 80 per cent of the world’s refugees. Australia received 6,170 unauthorised arrivals in 2009, which is 1.6 per cent of the world total. Please, let us place this debate in some context. As I said, we had 13½ thousand asylum seekers in our humanitarian program. The people who come as unauthorised arrivals are subtracted from that 13½ thousand, so there are no extra people coming to Australia—something I hope the member for Mayo and the member for Cook point out to people in the Adelaide Hills.

I cannot understand the opposition’s policy on this. I was on the Joint Standing Committee on Migration when the shadow minister for migration, the member for Murray, voted in 2009 at the committee for asylum seekers to be treated more humanely and more rationally. She voted for that policy. That was the time when the opposition ought to have been up there demanding any changes they wanted to make to our migration policy, to the way we receive asylum seekers, rather than making people hysterical for political purposes during an election and when we actually have to deal with a group of asylum seekers who need to be housed in a particular centre in Adelaide.

Our policy is about ensuring that Australia retains its rightful role of welcoming a reasonable number of the world’s refugees while maintaining the security of our borders. Our policies will achieve this; cheap slogans will not.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 1.29 pm to 4.03 pm