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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 6714


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (16:04): As has been indicated by Senator Abetz, we will not be supporting the suspension for the simple reason that Senator Hanson-Young's foreshadowed amendment completely changes the intent of Senator Abetz's motion. I agree with Senator Ludwig and Senator Abetz that it would indeed be helpful if the Australian Greens did circulate their amendments in advance. This chamber does operate largely on cooperation and there is usually good cooperation on motions and the intent to seek to amend them, so I think that is something that would be of benefit to the chamber. The motion moved by Senator Abetz does, I think, deserve to be given the opportunity for a straight up or down vote—which the move to suspend and to seek to amend Senator Abetz's motion certainly denies. I also think that, because the government's absolute hypocrisy does deserve to be judged by this chamber, it does warrant the consideration of Senator Abetz's motion unamended.

I do hate to give the Australian Greens some credit at this point but it would not be fair not to recognise that when it comes to asylum seeker policy at least the Australian Greens do have a consistent position. They are against offshore processing, and they have been consistent on that. The Greens are wrong. I think they are sincerely in error but at least on this issue they, unlike the government, do have a clear position. The Australian Labor Party have lost any shred of credibility that they had on the subject of border protection and asylum seeker policy. When those of us on this side were in office, the Australian Labor Party announced that if they were elected they would systematically set about dismantling the coalition's border protection and asylum seeker policy. And they were true to their word, as the Australian Labor Party did that. They abolished offshore processing and they abolished temporary protection visas—they weakened their resolve—which again is something that they undertook to do. We were told that pull factors were not a consideration for people-smugglers, that it was all about push factors and that it was all about factors outside the control of the Australian government. We know now, beyond any doubt, that there are both pull and push factors. What frustrates me incred­ibly is when I hear the current government say that they want to break the people-smugglers' business model. The truth is that the product that the people smugglers have to sell was given to them by the Australian Labor Party. We hear the government say that they want to bust the business model, but that business model was the one designed by the current government. Our policies were aimed at—and I think they were effective—putting the people smugglers out of business and ensuring that people who were seeking asylum did not put themselves in harm's way. That was a good thing. That meant that we did not have people at risk on the high seas with their lives in peril.

On this side of the chamber we are not interested in public acts of conspicuous compassion. We care about effective compassion—having policies that do good and take people out of harm's way. Our policies were effective. We heard initially from the current government of the East Timor solution—nothing came of that. We heard of the Malaysian solution—to date, nothing has come of that. The government is running away from any policy that will actually work. We had the farcical situation at the South Pacific Forum where Prime Minister Gillard was basically jumping behind pot plants to hide from the President of Nauru. We thought At Home with Julia was a farce; you ain't seen nothing until you have seen 'Away with Julia'. It is a bit like that Fawlty Towers episode about the war—'I think I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.' 'I think I mentioned Nauru only once but I think I got away with it.' It was a farcical situation.

The government deserves to be condemn­ed for its asylum seeker policy. It has no policy. The policy, such as it is, has put people in harm's way. It should adopt our Nauru solution with TPVs and a strengthen­ed resolve. Senator Abetz's motion deserves to be put unamended.