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Thursday, 22 November 2012
Page: 9540

Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (15:09): I rise to make a contribution to this debate in which we have heard a number of severe inaccuracies in the contribution just made by Senator Cash.

Senator Cash: Please tell me what they are.

Senator CROSSIN: Senator Cash, month after month, as I chair the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and as we sit in that committee three times a year at estimates, you sit alongside us at the table. On the day when the Department of Immigration and Citizenship is before us, you hear its representatives when they usually—almost nine times out of 10—begin their contribution by explaining to us what is happening in the world when it comes to the movement of people seeking asylum and the movement of people who are refugees. There are push and pull factors, the former secretary Andrew Metcalfe said, time and time again. So, standing in this chamber and making the comment that under the Howard government you single-handedly stopped the boats is an absolutely incorrect statement. We know, for the record, that the evidence will show that movement of people around the world seeking asylum stops and starts for many reasons.

We also know that, if you go back and have a look at the record, it will show that when TPVs were introduced the number of people who were seeking asylum in this country spiked because of the nature of the TPVs, which totally prevented family reunions. So, once the man or even the woman arrived in this country, their partner or their family had no choice but to get on a boat to join them, because they were not going to get here any other way. So please go back and look at the figures and accurately reflect what happens.

We stand in this chamber every single day having a debate about what is going on with the refugee policy in this country simply because you have failed to endorse wholeheartedly the Houston committee report and the 22 recommendations it made. So, yes, people will still keep arriving. Yes, the costs were included in the budget appropriation bills debate that you were part of last Monday—the cost is there in the MYEFO. But the essential element we need to understand and people listening need to understand is that, as a way of moving forward, this Prime Minister and this government got together three eminent people in this country and set up an expert committee headed by Angus Houston, the former Chief of the Defence Force, a person that your government appointed as the Chief of the Defence Force.

Those three people came up with a report that had 22 recommendations. They clearly said that the situation needed all of their report to be endorsed, that all of the fundamental propositions they put together needed to be endorsed as a package. But what do you across the chamber do? You want to cherry-pick and pick the eyes out of it. You do not want to endorse the Malaysia agreement, which was their pre-eminent recommendation. You want Nauru, but you do not want Malaysia. You want to do offshore processing, but you do not want to do it in a way that is going to comprehensively deal with this problem. One minute you want TPVs, but you do not want bridging visas. So I sit opposite you and listen to your contribution, Senator Cash, but—try as hard as you may, day after day—I still cannot get a handle on exactly what the policy of the coalition is. What is it that you fundamentally want?

Senator Brandis: The Howard government policy.

Senator CROSSIN: You want offshore processing, so you want Nauru? You have got Nauru. You want TPVs. We offered you the chance to have an independent inquiry into whether or not TPVs were effective. We did not rule them out. On the table we put a negotiating chip: here's TPVs—let's have a joint look at whether they are effective or not. You ruled that out. You do not want to give the Malaysia agreement a try. You want to tow back the boats to a country that is not going to accept your boats. You want to tow the boats back to somewhere, but you cannot tell the people of this country where you would tow the boats back to—because Indonesia sure as hell is not going to have them. So where are you going to take these people back to once they get halfway to Australia and they are on a rickety boat? You do not have a policy. Your policy is that you just want to keep playing politics with people's lives. (Time expired)