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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5871


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (16:43): I rise to support the matter of public importance raised by the member for Cook and supported by the member for Stirling. They made excellent contributions to the discussion, and I do feel very sorry for the member for Reid following what he has just had to go through. Whoever it was in the office of the Leader of the House who forced the member for Reid to go through this today is cruel and they should never do it again. For 10 minutes the member for Reid struggled with himself. It highlighted exactly what would have gone on in caucus this morning, where there is this battle between the Left and the Right, both trying to stand up for something which they know it is fundamentally impossible to stand up for—a solution where they are going to send back people to a country which has not yet signed up.

The member for Fremantle will be the next speaker in this debate, standing up to defend the solution of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Is she not the next speaker? She is a former UN lawyer. She knows more about this than pretty much everyone on that side of the chamber and pretty much everyone on this side of the chamber. I thought she would be ahead of the member for Reid, because she would be such a big and strong supporter of this proposal to send asylum seekers to Malaysia, which is a signatory to UN conventions. Or are they not a signatory to UN conventions? Maybe that is why the former UN lawyer, the member for Fremantle, is not able to speak on this—because they know that this is not a humane solution. They know there is a solution they could adopt today which would be a humane solution—the Nauru solution; a proven solution, one that has worked before and one that will not cost the Australian taxpayers $1.75 billion in a blowout of the management of this issue. We had the Leader of the Opposition in question time moving an important motion to suspend standing orders so that the Prime Minister could come and answer some very legitimate questions about this. He made the point that there is a solution which is proven because it was in operation when the former Liberal government was in power. It was a solution which stopped the boats from coming. In his response earlier, the minister talked about how 90 per cent of the people who were on Nauru were resettled in Australia. Of course, it was 90 per cent of a very diminished figure because the boats had stopped coming. They stopped coming because solutions were put in place in 2001 and 2002 which prevented the practice of people smuggling from occurring. That was the whole idea of it and that was what we did.

In 2008, after coming into government, they thought: 'This will be a great idea. What we will do is find a solution and create a problem.' Now they are desperately looking around. We are coming up to fundamental injustice day—a day that the minister at the table will remember—on 24 June when Australians went to bed with Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and woke up with Julia Gillard as Prime Minister the next morning. One of the three great problems she was going to solve was, 'How do we stop the boats?' The first solution before the election was the East Timor solution. There were to be no more additional detention facilities on the mainland of Australia and the East Timorese people would provide a regional processing centre. We remember that and I am sure the member for Fremantle remembers as well.

Straight after the election at the beginning of October last year, my community, like the former Prime Minister, was ambushed by this Prime Minister and this minister. The Prime Minister was in my electorate the day before they announced the detention facility. She was in Aldgate, which is 18 kilometres from Woodside. It would take the Leader of the Opposition a mere five minutes on his bike to travel between them, even up the hill. But she could not possibly tell my community the truth about what their intentions were because she knew when she said the East Timor solution would occur that it was a lie, that it would never occur and that they had no agreement. Now we are hearing the same thing. We just heard the member for Reid talk about how there is an agreement between Malaysia and the Australian government. Of course, there is no agreement.

Then the member for Reid made this great claim that the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Cook travelled to Nauru even though they would have had a deal already sorted out. What was the purpose? Funny that—can you imagine going to a place where you worked out the details before you went and before you made an announcement? I know it is radical. It is very difficult for those on the other side to understand. You can go through diplomacy by announcing what you intend and putting all your cards on the table as in a game of poker, allowing the Malaysian government to sit back and play its hand knowing what it is playing against. That is what this minister has done in a weird attempt to try to spite their own budget by pre-announcing an agreement which has not been agreed to yet.

We heard again in question time today that the minister has not even visited the law enforcement facilities which these people will be sent to. We have seen reports in the Australian media about the treatment that some of these people are subjected to. We know in the Labor caucus this morning that members of the Left raised these legitimate concerns because we read it on the front page of national daily newspapers. They are right to be concerned because there is a reasonable solution which can be enacted today that would prevent these things from occurring.

I just want to go through the time line of what happened in my community after this government's announcement. Upon being re-elected to government and after she promised the Australian people prior to the last election that there would be not only no carbon tax but also no more onshore detention facilities, the Prime Minister rolled into my electorate on Sunday 17 October last year for a photo opportunity with the hardworking members of the Aldgate CFS. She had that photo opportunity and did not mention one word about a detention facility at Inverbrackie. The next day in a press conference at 1.30 pm, just prior to question time, she announced the detention facility at Inverbrackie. My community was rightly concerned and outraged at being ambushed by this Prime Minister. In fact, a community meeting held at Woodside, which is the town adjacent to Inverbrackie, had more than 400 people attend in a state of complete outrage at their treatment by this government.

The announcement was that the government would spend $10 million on this detention facility. We cannot get the actual figures from the government. After several FOIs and questions on notice, nothing has been answered. We are still being told that we have to wait for the final figure. We know it is going to be much more than that because in the budget there was a $1.75 billion blowout in the cost of these detention facilities. It is not just my community that has had this foisted upon it—there is also the community of Northam. We know that there have been extensions at Curtin, and now in Tasmania there has been an announcement that there will be another detention facility built there. It is a government that has lost control of this issue and which is desperately seeking a solution when the solution is staring it in the face. It is communities like mine that suffer.

The member for Reid and the minister talked about psychological damage. The minister quoted from a report on a Nauruan centre and no doubt there have been claims about psychological damage from people who have been in detention facilities. It must be added that there are also claims from people who are currently in detention facilities and from those who currently work in detention facilities. Three times a day there are reports of critical incidents occurring at detention facilities. These are very concerning reports.

There were also other concerning reports that came out of estimates regarding media reports of riots and so on, and of workers and children at these facilities being assaulted. These are all very concerning; however, Australia is signing up to an agreement where we send 4,000 people to a place which we know canes people and engages in that type of inhumane conduct. For those people on the other side of the chamber to defend that and to claim that that is more humane than sending them to Nauru is a complete joke. We saw the member for Reid expose that in his body language and in the way he spoke on this motion. He showed no passion for the defence. They are desperately hanging onto their old mantra about the Howard government and are reaching back 10 years, making claims about the way the Howard government treated these people. Yet they know they are signing up to an agreement which is far worse. If it were not far worse, the member for Fremantle would be on her feet defending the arrangement. She knows the arrangement is indefensible. This is a completely indefensible arrangement that Minister Bowen is trying to sign the once compassionate Labor Party up to. They are compassionate no more. They are an emperor without clothes. In their haste to try and find a political solution to this problem, they are creating an inhumane situation that will expose Australia's international reputation. They are trying to save their own skin politically. It is a disgrace. There is a solution; it is Nauru. They should adopt it and they should do it today.