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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 1455

Senator KROGER (5:05 PM) —In contributing to this debate, I would like to comment on two words which have been used frequently by those on the other side: ‘compassion’ and ‘scaremongering’. It has been implicit in the suggestions of many on the other side, including Senator Collins and Senator Moore, that they are the rightful custodians of compassion. I would like to ask what is the measure of compassion? Why is it that those on the other side of this chamber believe that they are the unique bearers of compassion?

I would suggest that the best measure of compassion in this debate is the effectiveness of the border protection policies of this government. Over the last two years we have seen the total unravelling and implosion of the border protection policies of this government. There is no greater example of that than what we have seen in the last couple of months. The second word, ‘scaremongering’, has been used frequently by Senator Collins and Senator Bilyk. Their suggestion is that there is not a problem and that the coalition have been heartless and scaremongering on this. That is a total denial of what is happening.

There was nothing compassionate about the boat which tragically smashed against the rocks earlier this year when many lost their lives. We were all appalled to watch the TV footage as we saw the residents of Christmas Island trying to rescue those people. There is nothing compassionate about a policy that is actually encouraging the vile business of people smugglers making a bob out of people who are destitute and seek a future here in Australia. There is nothing compassionate about that, nothing whatsoever. There is nothing compassionate—and it is not scaremongering—about the destruction of the Christmas Island facility that we saw on TV. We have heard that 250 rioters went rampant and not only destroyed a lot of that facility but risked the lives of many in the process. We also heard from local Christmas Island resident Kane Martin about his concerns and the concerns of the residents on Christmas Island for their personal safety. There is nothing compassionate about a policy that does not put the rights of Australian citizens first. There is nothing compassionate about that, nothing whatsoever.

I suggest we are seeing a total unravelling of this. The Pacific solution under the Howard government did work. It meant that by 2004 we did not have one child in detention. It meant that we did stop the boats. We have heard that people do not like the mantra, but the bottom line is that the Pacific policy solution did dissuade people smugglers from bringing boats to Australia. They knew what the consequences were. In the end, there was no business. More to the point though, in the end we did not have children in detention—none of us likes to see that. It was a solution that worked and I suggest to Senator Furner that perhaps he look at the statistics. We have heard that it is not compassionate to look at the statistics, but I think you will find that the statistics speak for themselves. We do not want an armada of boats coming from Indonesia, risking the lives of those looking for a better future. We want refugees to explore the United Nations sanctioned refugee camps and approach asylum to this country in a lawful way.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marshall)—Time for this debate has now expired.