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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5056

Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (17:39): It is a pleasure to follow the member for Paterson and his thoughtful contribution on the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test and Other Provisions) Bill 2011. The member for Paterson is a member who is in touch with his community. He is a member who has won a marginal seat more times than people care to remember, he does a wonderful job in this place representing his constituency—and he is a wonderful housemate, too, despite what the owner of the house sometimes says on national television. But I digress.

This bill is yet another example of failure by those opposite in managing Australia's borders and the border security system. Let us not forget that it comes as a result of some very disturbing incidents which occurred around Easter time this year which were handled appallingly. As much as I have some time for the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, his handling of these incidents was terrible and it really reflected the problem that the Labor Party in government have with managing this issue.

We remember the scene of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship trying to defend the government's policies when there were people on roofs at Villawood after half the Villawood detention centre had been burnt down. This was following riots at Christmas Island and at Curtin prior to that, and the minister was standing there saying, 'We can't get them off the roof, but we will change the law to make this not happen again.' This is the bill which attempts to cover over the political problem that was the episode of people on the roof during the riots at the Villawood detention centre. It has been reported in the media that the New South Wales riot squad sat at the gate for about 4½ hours watching half the detention centre burn down. These issues are pertinent to my electorate, because we still have no evidence which says that the South Australian police would be able to act if a similar incident occurred at the Inverbrackie detention facility. There have been reports about this in the media and yet no satisfactory response has come from either the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship or the South Australian police minister. I know that the South Australian police minister has many other things on his mind, but if he could at some point turn his attention to this issue it would be appreciated, because my community is concerned because of the events at Villawood.

We heard during estimates hearings about the complete farce of how the riots were managed. In a classic Senate estimates scene we heard about how Senator Cash, the Liberal senator from Western Australia, punched a hole in the minister's and the government's management of the system. She went through, in intricate detail, the events when the deputy secretary of the immigration department stood on two boxes—not one—to get into the roof cavity to try to convince those who were protesting to come down. I think it highlights nothing better than the failure of this minister and this government to properly address this issue. We have the two-box minister standing up there trying to fix what is a complete debacle of a policy. This bill highlights that and it does not fix the problem, because the problem had been fixed when the Labor Party came to government. It was stopped when they came to government and created a problem with their changes to the law in August 2008. The shadow minister for immigration makes this point day in and day out, and yet the Labor Party refuses to listen to the solution because it is a solution proposed by this side of the House. We really should be debating the solution that we suggested some time ago, that we put in place in government, which did stop this occurring. No-one on this side of the House wants to see people get on the boats in the first place. We think that is a terrible thing to encourage people to do, and that is unfortunately what this government's policies do. They put the people smugglers back in trade. They have done that and, since then, we have seen more than 11,000 people take that perilous journey. Unfortunately we have seen incidents like the Christmas Island incident just before Christmas last year, which was a terrible occurrence.

We are seeing these incidents in the detention network because the detention network is under an enormous amount of stress. I hear reports daily from within the Inverbrackie detention facility—the one in my electorate which was foisted on the community without any consultation at all. The minister at the table, Mr Butler, knows this and he knows the shame that it is bringing the Labor Party in the great state of South Australia because of the lack of consultation and the lack of honesty with the community when they foisted this decision on the community. The day before it was announced, the Prime Minister was in my electorate and she did not tell the community or ask the community what they thought about it. It was just announced because they failed to manage this issue properly. This is putting pressure on the detention network and we are seeing outbursts at Villawood, Curtin and Christmas Island—and we hope not to see it at other places. But, as the member for Paterson said, we are seeing daily occurrences of unfortunate incidents. At Senate estimates, the incidents at Inverbrackie were well outlined by the department. They were not fully outlined, but the department is going to come back with some details. It was quite remarkable that at estimates they had very little details about many of these incidents, but we are looking forward to the information that they will come back to us with to tell us what is actually happening within the centres.

The shadow minister has put forward a worthwhile motion to have a full inquiry into the detention facilities. What is going on in these centres is very deeply concerning, particularly to those of us who have detention centres in our electorates and are experiencing the problems they are causing within those electorates. At the time that these centres were announced the minister for immigration waltzed into the electorates and told everybody, 'It will all be fine. There will be huge economic benefits. There will be no problems at all. It is a family friendly facility. This will be great. This will go really well.' What we have seen from estimates is violent incident after violent incident; we have seen people walking out the front gate; and we have seen that the South Australian police have no powers to deal with any occurrences like we saw at Villawood—thus this legislation.

To highlight the problem that the Labor Party have, I will briefly address one of the comments made by the member for Moreton, which I thought was quite a disgraceful comment, in his contribution to this debate. In fairness, the member for Fadden rightly pulled him up on this point. He attempted to compare the campaign of exposing Labor's failure on so many of these issues that the Leader of the Opposition is running to those who rioted in Villawood, rioted in Curtin and rioted in Christmas Island. It is a great shame on the member for Moreton that he would stoop to those levels.

I know he is under a great deal of pressure in his own electorate about this issue and about the carbon tax issue. I know that not because of any private conversations; I know that because I read the Courier-Mail, and pretty much every second day the member for Moreton is in there bagging the current Prime Minister and the current Treasurer for the way that they are running the government. He is right to do that—though it is an interesting strategy for his own career—because the analysis of it is right. But his comment about the Leader of the Opposition is disgraceful and reflects on where the Labor Party are at in trying to manage this issue. It is killing them and they know it out in the community. People have seen through this government. They know it was the change that Labor made that has caused this problem and that that it is the reason that these incidents are occurring.

One of their great policy ideas last year was to have a processing freeze. That was a 'brilliant' idea that resulted in probably three riots. And we have got, in effect, another processing freeze at the moment—which, again, will be like putting the pressure cooker lid back on the pressure cooker and waiting to see if it explodes. Of course, it will explode because people will be desperate and they will react. It is unacceptable behaviour—and the coalition has always said that—but what is also unacceptable is creating policies which encourage people to get on these boats in the first place. That is what the Labor Party have done with their legislation. That is what has led to 11½ thousand people getting on boats and trying to make it to Australia. We absolutely support a strong intake of humanitarian refugees each year and we support ensuring that we take those from appropriate places. What we do not support is a flimsy attempt at legislative paper to wallpaper over the cracks which are in the system, because it has encouraged these people to get on these boats in the first place.

There was once a shadow immigration minister—at a time when you might remember these matters, Mr Deputy Speaker Thomson—who put out a very famous press release which said 'Another boat; another policy failure'. Of course, that can now be sheeted home to the now Prime Minister, who was the shadow minister for immigration when she put out that press release, because every single boat is another policy failure of this Prime Minister, this minister for immigration, this Labor Party and this government.

They do not manage this issue properly and it is causing a huge problem. It is causing a massive blowout in our budget of $1.75 billion—money which could otherwise be spent on worthwhile things such as giving money back to Australians so that they can spent it how they best choose. Instead this money has been spent on the bungling, the debacles and the mess that is the detention network, because the government decided in August 2008 that they were going to try to look like they were compassionate, humanitarian and soft and make it look like they were not the Howard government. Of course, what that has done is create a situation which has encouraged the people smugglers back into business. The truth is that it is not humanitarian to encourage people to get onto these boats. It is far from it; it is the opposite of it. The best thing we can do is have strong laws which do not encourage people to get on these boats in the first place, so we do not face these problems and we do not have to deal with this flim-flam legislation that comes before this place trying to cover over Labor's policy debacles.

This is another bill which highlights this minister's failure and this government's failure. As the shadow minister consistently outlines, we should be having an inquiry into the detention network and the failure of the Labor Party to manage this system properly. We should be reinstituting the solutions that were put forward by the Howard government when this was a substantial issue in 2001 and 2002. Those solutions worked. They stopped the problem. The government should grow up and adopt our solutions. It will save an enormous amount of taxpayers' money, it will save an enormous amount of human grief and it will save this minister the ongoing embarrassment of what is his complete failure to manage this issue properly.