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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6236


Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:18): I firstly echo Senator Pratt's comments in her contribution to this motion to take note of answers. She was absolutely right. The opposition is not genuine at all in its remarks seeking to support a policy that would stop people smugglers. The comments of opposition speakers are all about show and pretence, and that is quite disappointing because they have not taken any time out to renew their approach or contribute anything of substance to this debate. All we see and hear in this place is their continuing reliance on dog-whistle policies, fear mongering and misinformation, all designed to distract Australians from the fact that the opposition does not have any credible alternatives. Their alternatives do not work.

Senator Brandis: Nauru worked.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Nauru did not work. The Gillard government recognises that there are no quick fix solutions to the issue of asylum seekers. We have worked hard to strike a balance between a plan for the strong management of our borders and antitrafficking initiatives and a comprehensive and people focussed care plan for asylum seekers in Australia, as well as within our region. At the Bali Process in March this year, Australia was able to reach an agreement with our neighbours for a regional protection framework. That regional framework fits with Australia's respon­sibilities as a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and was a response endorsed by the UNHCR.

Since Bali, we have been having ongoing discussions with our neighbours about how as a region we can deal with those who are seeking asylum. We have also worked hard to develop policies aimed at breaking the business model of people smugglers to prevent tragedies such as the boat smash on Christmas Island, because this is the key to solving the people smuggling problem. If the people smugglers do not have a product to sell, if we can stop this problem at the root, then we have a better chance of stopping people paying exorbitant amounts of money to people smugglers and risking their lives by jumping on dangerous boats.

Whilst we face significant challenges to break the people smugglers' business model, let me be clear: Labor supports strong border protection. I will take a moment to reflect on the record of the Labor government and what we have been doing. We have detected and intercepted more than 99 per cent of boat arrivals before they have reached the mainland and have brought in new offences of up to 10 years jail for providing support to people smugglers and up to 20 years jail for people smuggling involving exploitation or danger of death or serious harm. We have overseen the offshore arrests of more than 270 people-smuggling suspects.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator CAROL BROWN: The Labor government has invested in eight new Cape class patrol vessels, strengthening our fleet to 18 ships and 17 aircraft.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator CAROL BROWN: We have reached an agreement with Afghanistan and the UNHCR on returning unsuccessful Afghan asylum seekers—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator CAROL BROWN: and worked with Malaysian, Pakistani, Thai, Indonesian and Sri Lankan police to break up people-smuggling rings.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Williams interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order, Senators!

Senator CAROL BROWN: It is clear that our policies, as I have mentioned, aim to break the people-smuggling business model and discourage dangerous boat journeys before they start.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Williams interjecting

Senator CAROL BROWN: And we reject the Liberal Party's inhumane temporary protection visas—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator CAROL BROWN: and Mr Abbott's plan to tow asylum seeker vessels back to the sea. Let us examine the record of those opposite. As I have mentioned, those opposite introduced the—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Wong: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Brandis simply has not shut up through this entire contribution. Can he just at least put a pause between his interjections?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order, but I remind senators to listen to Senator Brown in silence.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I understand that Senator Brandis does not want to hear about the opposition's record on this matter—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator CAROL BROWN: because their policies did not work; they are not viable, credible alternatives. They do not work and they did not stop the boats.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Williams interjecting

Senator CAROL BROWN: After the Howard government introduced TPVs in 1999 nearly 8½ thousand people arrived by boat, and more than 90 per cent of those people are living in Australia. And those opposite must accept that Nauru was an unequivocal and costly policy failure. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Williams.