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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 1180

Senator IAN MACDONALD (4:12 PM) —That speech from Senator Cameron will certainly not go down in history as his finest. The speech from Senator Cameron that will go down in history is the one in which he referred to himself and other backbench members of the Australian Labor Party in this place as ‘zombies’ and ‘people who had a political lobotomy’. Senator Cameron’s speech today has demonstrated that clearly. It is a speech written in the minister’s office—certainly not a speech that Senator Cameron himself believes in and certainly not one that the people he is supposed to represent would believe or support. If Senator Cameron had taken the time to go and talk to people in Western Sydney and people in other parts of New South Wales, the state he represents, he would understand the real issues that are before the Australian people at the moment.

The decision of the Labor Party to open up the borders, its soft approach to border protection, has meant that Labor is running out of places to place the ever-increasing number of illegal immigrants. Their decision to house some of the overflow in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia and at Northam in Western Australia led to howls of protest because nobody from the Gillard government had bothered to let locals know in advance. Talking about Inverbrackie in the Adelaide Hills, I want to refer senators to a very thoughtful article by Alexander Downer in today’s Adelaide Advertiser, where he relates this very interesting scenario put to him by a constituent:

She thought it would be strange there would be the children of serving Australian Defence Force personnel, some of whom are in Afghanistan, at Woodside Primary School with children of boat people from Afghanistan.

As he goes on to say in his article:

The point was simple. How is it that we are sending our young men to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and young men and women from Afghanistan are paying people smugglers to come here in a method which circumvents our laws?

It is a very interesting point Mr Downer makes. I think people might like to reflect upon it. It also brings the point—and Senator Cameron slightly mentioned this—that we have a very generous refugee immigration system in Australia. We take approximately 13,000 every year, and most of the people that we have taken in are people in refugee camps—not wealthy people who can pay tens of thousands of dollars to people smugglers to bring them into Christmas Island because they know the Labor Party is soft on border protection but genuine refugees in refugee camps who have escaped there with their lives. And, for everyone that we allow in who has come by other methods, some of those people languishing in those horrible refugee camps around the world are prevented from coming in, because they are taking the place of those who would normally be coming in.

I have just returned from a tour of northern defence forces in Darwin and Cairns and I want to take this opportunity to note the important work that the men and women of our Navy and Border Protection Command are performing in these areas, policing our very vast coastline against illegal fishing and immigration, particularly now that, under Labor, the boats continue to come in ever-increasing numbers. Looking at a .50-calibre machine gun made me think of the time when I was able to commission a .50-calibre machine gun on the Oceanic Viking, a vessel that the Howard government had proudly brought into Australia, armed quite substantially, to deter illegal fishing. I was always distressed to find that this boat that was brought by the Australian government to look after our waters insofar as illegal fishing is concerned was being used to house immigrants in Indonesian waters who refused to get off the boat until the Rudd government gave in to their demand—as the immigrants knew the government would, because everybody around the world knows that the Gillard government and, before it, the Rudd government is soft on border protection.

I am also concerned about the fact that Labor is now flying asylum seekers into Scherger Air Force base in Cape York. After stringent denials prior to the election that this was happening—a fact that was exposed by the Hon. Warren Entsch, now the federal member for Leichhardt, but denied by the Labor Party at the time—we now have the extraordinary situation of this Air Force base, which is bare but has accommodation for a couple hundred Air Force personnel if it has to be used, now having nowhere for those Air Force personnel to go. Let’s hope we do not have any sort of incident which requires that base to be activated by the RAAF. If we do, the RAAF pilots and the support crew will have to sleep on the ground. I do not blame the asylum seekers for that; I blame the Gillard government in its duplicity and its mismanagement of this whole situation.

I also raise in this debate an incident where I am conscious of a constituent who is in Australia—I do not want to mention names, because I do not want to prejudice his case as it comes before the authorities. He is in Australia, applied for a visa, thought he had got it but made a mistake, and then set up a very substantial business in Australia which employs 15 people. He will never be a burden on the Australian taxpayer. He is a young, active, go-ahead professional man very keen to employ people and get involved in substantial infrastructure works in North Queensland. He is the sort of immigrant that Australia desperately needs and that we want. When he realised he did not have the right visa, he contacted people and asked what he could do about it. He is now being told that he has to leave Australia and he might get back at some time in the future. I said to him: ‘Perhaps the best thing I could do to you would be to lend you my tinnie so you could go offshore and sail your boat in, because if you could do that, under the way the Labor government runs things, perhaps you would be allowed to stay. You wouldn’t have to leave the country and stand in a queue to hopefully get back and give to Australia your expertise—the sort of skills and technical knowledge Australia desperately needs. We would be able to take advantage of that.’

The Labor government is simply incompetent at handling this issue of immigration and border protection, as they are incompetent at dealing with roof insulation and as they are incompetent at dealing with the economy. The Labor government simply cannot be trusted with any sorts of serious governmental issues. That is why I am so pleased today to be able to participate in this debate to continue highlighting the deficiencies of the Labor government—not to make a political point, not to gain votes but in the hope that at some time some of the zombies in the backbench of the Labor Party that Senator Cameron so well described might get the intestinal fortitude to stand up to their leaders and the Greens, who now seem to run the government, and say: ‘Enough is enough. Let’s do this right. Let’s go back to the way that the Howard government treated these sorts of things. Let’s go back to the way the Howard government had a very generous refugee intake policy but did it properly.’ The sooner the zombies in the backbench of the Labor Party have the intestinal fortitude to get up and tell the Greens and Ms Gillard that that is what is needed, the better off Australia will be, the better off our immigration program will be and the better off will be those people who currently put their lives at risk coming to Australia in leaky boats.