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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2704


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (09:34): What an absolute disgrace it is that we have now got the coalition and government working together to engage in what has been previously described by the Labor Party as a stain on our national character. You are right: it is a stain on our national character. As Mr Bowen said in 2006, it is a bad bill with no redeeming features—a bad bill with no redeeming features for which you are seeking to suspend standing orders and to bring on here in a rush, with the support of the coalition.

I am not surprised that the coalition support it, because it is their bill. It is what former Prime Minister John Howard tried to bring into this parliament. The nation was horrified at the prospect that a prime minister would seek to wipe Australia off the map in order to avoid our global obligations under the refugee convention. It is an affront to the decency of the whole Australian nation. I am shocked that the Labor Party have now abandoned any sense of decency.

The Prime Minister was out this week trying to sell a budget which she says will deliver a fairer Australia—great!—a fairer Australia in which we wipe the entire country off the map when it comes to decency and human rights and which imposes what the Labor Party itself has described as a stain on the national character. This policy takes away the legal rights of asylum seekers. They will no longer be recognised if they land on Australian mainland territory. That is what this is about. It is not about looking at why people are seeking asylum in the first place, what is driving people to leave their countries. It is a failure to recognise that deterrence does not and has not worked. In fact, three or four times more people have arrived here seeking asylum since you brought in crueller and crueller policies—policies lacking in compassion.

I see that several members of the Labor Party who go around the country to forums and refugee conventions, who hold positions in United Nations organisations, saying, 'I don't agree with it,' are not here. Where are you today, Senator Singh? Where are you today? Where are all of these people in the Labor Party who stand up around the country saying they uphold the United Nations conventions? Where are you? Today Labor are standing with the coalition, delivering what John Howard could not. But in 2006 you did not think it was fair, and it was not; you did not think it was legal, and it was not; you did not think it was decent in terms of international law, and indeed it was not. This demonstrates once and for all why people are so disappointed that a government that says it wants to deliver a fair Australia is doing nothing of the sort. It is not only delivering an unfair Australia; it is delivering an Australia which is increasingly, in the international context, becoming a disgrace.

Here we are, elected to the United Nations Security Council. What does the rest of the world think of us now that we are going to excise our entire nation from the map so that we can be crueller to refugees, crueller to people seeking asylum? It is a stain on our national character.

The motion for the suspension of standing orders because of urgency implies that it is more urgent than normal to do what is an affront to international law, an affront to decency in this country. You want it to be more urgent than it otherwise would be, because the urgency is that you want to be crueller, Senator Collins—I am glad you think this is amusing—

Senator Jacinta Collins: Oh, come on, Christine! I was responding to something Senator Sterle said.

Senator MILNE: As I indicated a moment ago, it is not urgent to be crueller, it is not urgent to excise the whole country and it is not urgent to stop people making valid visa applications. In fact, what the Labor Party is now doing, far from making us a stronger, smarter, fairer country, as I said and I will say again tonight, is making us a weaker, dumber, meaner country. (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Ludlam ): The question is that the motion to suspend standing orders be agreed to.