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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 1275


Senator CASH (3:03 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (Senator Carr) to questions without notice asked by me today, relating to Immigration.

Senator Carr confirmed in question time today everything that is going wrong with the Labor Party’s border protection policy. When you actually look at where the Labor government has taken this country in relation to border protection, this is the situation that is currently facing the Australian people: we have on the minister’s own admission in question time today that Christmas Island is overflowing beyond capacity. I have just recently been informed that the AFP have actually stopped boats stopping at Christmas Island and they have to be taken to the mainland because of the overcrowding on the island. If that report is true that is an absolute indictment on this government because it is not their decision to stop the boats, it is the AFP’s decision. It is an absolute indictment on this government.

Labor are now opening detention centre after detention centre particularly in relation to Northam in Western Australia with almost no consultation at all with the local community. We all know that universal offshore processing is now completely, totally and utterly finished because the Labor Party announced that they will not be taking boats to Christmas Island; they will be brought straight to the mainland. Minister Carr confirmed today in question time that there is an absolute debacle on Christmas Island. In fact he almost accused me of downplaying the situation.

Then we have the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship who must be really questioning the poisoned chalice that he has been handed by the Prime Minister. We have abysmal failures with what is going on with border protection. And what is the government’s response? They try to downplay it with a wall of spin to the Australian people. Minister Bowen, on Thursday, 17 March, following a night of rioting by some of the asylum seekers on Christmas Island said: ‘The situation on Christmas Island is calm.’ Then the following day, when he realised that he really did have a problem on his hands, he came out with the statement: ‘At no stage during the week have I underplayed the seriousness of the situation.’ And if that was not bad enough, if the minister himself was not misleading the Australian people in relation to what was going on on Christmas Island, let us now have a look at what Prime Minister Gillard said. Last Sunday after the week of riots at Christmas Island Prime Minister Gillard told Australians: ‘The situation at Christmas Island is under control.’

I stood in this place three weeks ago and said that one of the greatest betrayals of the Australian people was when the Prime Minister, just before the election, said she would never implement a carbon tax under her government and then, post the election, the reality that she did. That was not the greatest betrayal at all. One of the greatest betrayals that this parliament has ever seen is the failure of those on the other side on their border protection policy. Christmas Island has descended into absolute chaos. We have the AFP having to use tear gas and beanbag rounds. We have mass break-outs. We have fires. We have rock throwing. We have protests. We have asylum seekers who are on the loose. And the government says that the situation is under control.

The situation is far from under control. The situation in relation to the Labor Party’s border protection policy is in complete, total and utter disarray. If those on the other side actually think that this is the way to run Australia’s border protection regime, then quite frankly they deserve to be thrown out at the next election. This government has shown in the few short months it has been in office that—just like the former Rudd government—when it comes to protecting Australia’s borders it has absolutely no idea whatsoever. This is a government that—just like the former Rudd government—when it comes to protecting Australia’s borders lurches from one problem to the next. This is a government that is now reaping what it has sown, but it is the poor Australian taxpayer that will pay for these border protection failures. (Time expired)