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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 310


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (19:14): I would like to commence my address-in-reply by thanking the voters of Tasmania for expressing confidence in the Tasmanian Greens and for allowing us to retain the two seats that we held in this the states house, and I would like to commit both myself and, I am sure, Senator Whish-Wilson to doing everything we can in this place to represent Tasmania and the values of our party during the 45th Parliament. I also make the observation in the context of the vote in Tasmania that it was nothing less than an absolutely shocking result for the Liberal Party. They lost all three of their House of Representatives seats, and we saw, thanks to the machinations of Senator Abetz, the demise of the only Liberal minister from Tasmania in the previous government—former Senator Richard Colbeck. It has been instructive, to say the least, to watch Senator Abetz dance his way away from responsibility for the appalling result that the Liberal Party suffered in Tasmania.

I also want to make the obvious observation that Tasmanians voted unambiguously in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for an increase in the delivery of essential public services—increased funding for schools, increased funding for hospitals and increased funding for a range of other public services. They voted for Labor members, they voted for Greens members and they voted for Independents, in the form of Mr Wilkie in the lower house and, of course, of Senator Lambie in the upper house—all of whom are unambiguous supporters of increased levels of public service in Tasmania. Tasmanians have had a gutful of the cut, cut, cut approach of the Liberal Party. They want to see more money expended on essential public services in Tasmania, and the Greens will stand with them and work as hard as we possibly can to help deliver on that aspiration.

I want to acknowledge that this is the first address that I am making to this chamber as the Greens immigration spokesperson and I want to thank and pay extreme credit to former immigration spokesperson for the Greens, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. She gave her heart and her soul to this portfolio for a long period of time, and I hope to continue to build on the work that she has done both inside this parliament and outside it. It is worth noting that, as we speak, the government's so-called border protection regime is crumbling before our very eyes. We are seeing in the recently revealed Nauru files yet more allegations of widespread abuse and, pertinently, a complete and abject failure by government to respond in an adequate way.

Within 12 hours of those shocking items of film being aired on Four Corners, we saw the Prime Minister had, quite rightly, moved towards calling a royal commission into Don Dale and into child protection and child custody in the Northern Territory. That was a quite right and quite reasonable response from the Prime Minister. But I have to ask the question: what is it about Don Dale that motivated the Prime Minister to respond so quickly, that is—according to him, to the Liberal Party, to the Nationals and to the Labor Party—lacking in regards to the allegations we have heard around what is going on on Nauru and on Manus Island? What is so different? Is it that it is happening on mainland Australia? If that is the only reason, people need to look again at what is going on and at the frameworks that we have established around Manus and Nauru. This is not only being done in Australia's name but also being done by Australia. It is being done by our government. Australians will not be happy to let this government continue to wash its hands of responsibility for what is going on on Manus Island and on Nauru.

It is also worth pointing out that we are still seeing the boats. They are still coming towards Australia. We may turn them back and we may drop a veil of secrecy over what is going on in international waters, in Australia's territorial waters and in the territorial waters of other countries. We may drop that veil of secrecy on it, but we know that the boats are still departing. We know that people are still putting their lives at risk going to sea in unseaworthy vessels and we know that the business model of the people smugglers is still viable.

Debate interrupted.