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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3374


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (10:58): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Let us cut to the chase in what has been the worst policy debate for Australian public policy in at least the past 20 years. The truth is that 148 of the 150 members of parliament in the House of Representatives agree that offshore assessment should be an option for executive government. 150 MPs recognise the status and worth of the Bali process as very good bipartisan work done in the regional Asia-Pacific forum. No MPs want lives lost at sea because the 43rd Parliament cannot resolve something that the vast majority of MPs want resolved. So I say to colleagues again: why can't we pass legislation through the House that 148 MPs, at least, support in principle?

I have asked all MPs to read and get to know the principles of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. They were circulated to colleagues last week. For me, they address the failure of the domestic policy debate in trying to deal with people smuggling via an asylum seeker and refugee debate. That will never provide a suitable answer for sustainable policy on people smuggling. Instead, we should look at the international bipartisan forum that focuses on people smuggling if we really do want to deal with this topic. The Bali process is it. Therefore, rather than questioning bilateralism within a humanitarian framework, we should be actively encouraging it, not just for Malaysia but for many creative and cooperative options. So long as there is a humanitarian backbone in any arrangement, so long as there is oversight by the parliament of any arrangement, we should be encouraging rather than discouraging such regional work.

This bill, the Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012, does it. It strongly encourages bilateral and multilateral regional agreements on people smuggling and does so within a recognised bipartisan, humanitarian framework. Yet, despite the support of 148 MPs in principle, we need to deal with the straw man in the room. I saw again today that Mr Abbott will not support anything offshore unless it is with UN refugee convention signatories only. This is not the position Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison took to the last election, and they have no mandate for this position. Worse, they are now arguing the complete opposite of what they took to the election and the complete opposite of what is on their own personal websites right now. In my view, they are all at sea on this key point of the importance of signatory status with regard to the UN refugee convention. I will read out several quotes from Mr Morrison's own website. Here is the first one, about the UN refugee convention:

The Convention provides no permanent rights to refugee status at all.

Here is the second:

… the Refugee Convention is not infallible …

Here is another one:

A refugee in one jurisdiction is just as likely to be assessed as an economic migrant in another.

And here is another:

Non-refoulement is the core protection provided by the Convention. This is now a welcome and generally accepted principle of international law, regardless of nation’s signatory status. It transcends the convention.

Mr Morrison: True.

Mr OAKESHOTT: I agree. I am hearing from Mr Morrison that it is all true. I agree with that. But let us not worry about onshore and offshore issues. Let us explore online and offline Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott. Online we see 'sensible Scott', who has just been saying he agrees—

Mr Morrison: The member for Cook!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Lyne needs to use people's appropriate titles.

Mr OAKESHOTT: He has been talking about the principles within the refugee convention and their importance that transcends signatory status. Yet offline, for the press gallery, for talkback radio and for his leader, Tony Abbott, we see the complete opposite. If it is about a truth and values campaign that is being run pre-election and about who said what pre-election and post-election, this cuts to the heart of that position with regard to the coalition on migration policy. I raise this for two reasons. One is to expose the absolute front of the political positioning with regard to this topic. The second is an important one with regard to policy, and that is that online Scott Morrison—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member needs to use the member's title.

Mr OAKESHOTT: has a sensible position and a position that strongly supports this parliament supporting my bill. The coalition does have ownership of the Bali process. It is a good process. It deserves to be supported. This bill puts the Bali process as the framework for allowing executive government to make decisions to deal with people smuggling in as humanitarian a way as we can, as per the member for Cook's very own website. (Time expired)