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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7199


Mr WINDSOR (12:53 PM) —I will speak briefly to the Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009, and I will be supporting it. I believe that many of the things that the member for Lyne just mentioned need to be considered, particularly in relation to the failed nature of the current policy, not only in economic terms but also in social terms. It has essentially failed. It has delivered wrong and quite inappropriate messages about what Australia is attempting to do with people who have come here from other nations and who have been placed in very adverse circumstances. So I will be supporting the legislation on those grounds.

I congratulate the members for Kooyong, Pearce, McMillan and Hughes for the position that they are taking. It is very important that our parliaments allow people with strong convictions to state those convictions and stand up for them. I understand all the ramifications for them within the parties and the party arrangements. I can see the logic that is built into those systems in a perverse sense, but I think there are times when members of the parties need to stand up for the principles and views that they actually believe in. I know that government will probably use this situation as some sort of wedge and say that the Leader of the Opposition has lost control of his people. I would suggest to the government that this is not an issue on which they should do that; this is an issue on which these people should feel support for what they believe in. If the government runs the line that this is all about Malcolm Turnbull losing control of his people, in the community’s eyes it will be to the detriment of the government. It is probably a shame that from time to time people within the government do not stand up for some of the principles that they believe in and that are tested in this parliament.

I heard the member for Hume, Alby Schultz, speaking on this legislation. Although I did not hear the first part of his speech, I do not think Alby will be voting in support of the amendment. I was pleased to hear him speak of the member for McMillan in the way in which he did. He actually recognised that we can have differences in this building and that those differences are quite valid and part of our democratic processes. We can respect one another even though we do not agree with one another on particular issues. I appreciate the point that he was making.

I see days like these as being quite special. I think one of the great failings of our Westminster system is that it is based on right and wrong, black and white, yes or no. That is a failing. We all get criticised about our voting patterns. In terms of the people within the parties, there should be a capacity for them to abstain if they do not agree with either side, or if they do not agree with some particular nonsense that is going on—as went on yesterday and has been going on all week from both sides—or if they want to cross the floor and vote for something they believe in.

I had a good friend in the state parliament who was within the National Party at the time and who left parliament because he felt that he was voting for things that he did not agree with. In the end, that became too much for him. It is a tribute to him that his principles overruled his political career. As I said, I congratulate the four members, who are in the chamber, on their position. I know that Petro is not standing again. I have admired his contributions. I have not always agreed with him and no doubt he has not agreed with me. But I know that he and the members for Hughes, Pearce and McMillan actually believe in what they say they believe in. It is not cast in some sort of party guernsey—the propaganda that comes out from time to time from all the major political parties.

On a slightly different note, I will make some comments about why people are coming here. Why are we debating a bill such as this? Why have we had to put in place some of the previous legislation that has failed? Some of the very obvious reasons are that, in the countries the people come from, there may well have been persecution, abject poverty or starvation. There could be a whole range of things that are driving people to leave their homes and, in a lot of cases, their families. During Refugee Week last week I went to a very nice luncheon in Armidale where there were people from a whole range of different backgrounds.

One of the issues that I would like to raise, and I raised it in Main Committee only last week, is in relation to the situation occurring in Zimbabwe. As we all know, there has been a despot running Zimbabwe for quite some time. There have been changes within the governmental structure in the last 12 months and there has been an incredible, economic catastrophe occurring within that nation.

Most of the developed countries are, in essence, penalising Zimbabwe because of the Mugabe factor. I have spoken to people who live in Zimbabwe or who have been in Zimbabwe in recent months, and they have been talking to people mainly from the Tsvangirai faction of the new government—the national unity government I think they call it. The plea being made is that we really should not ignore Zimbabwe in an economic or financial sense because, long term, Mugabe will use the fact that the economy maintains a collapsing shape as an instrument against the, what I call, ‘good forces’ in that particular country. There is a plea that Australia and other parts of the developed world should look to assist Zimbabwe. The plea from the Tsvangirai group in the national government is that if at all possible we should assist those people, otherwise this tragedy will just perpetuate itself, and what is a magnificent country in terms of people, scenery and agricultural production will continue to spiral downward.

The Sudan is another example of where there have been historical differences over many, many centuries between various tribes and religious groups. But one of the things that I have mentioned in this place before is that the Sudan has very, very fertile soils. I raise this issue because we are moving to a carbon economy, and I do not think anybody has taken into account what a carbon economy overlaid on our normal economy, particularly in terms of food production, will actually mean to people who are in dire circumstances in poor countries. I think we really need to examine some of those issues. The Sudan, for instance, has 100 million acres of very rich, black soils. It does not have a lot of rainfall but has similar rainfall to that around Narrabri in New South Wales, which is a little bit north of my electorate. The Sudan has similar soils to Australia and with Australian technologies, for instance, the country of Sudan could produce six times what Australia produces.

Many of us would think that countries in many parts of Africa are struggling with food production. The Sudan, irrespective of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and other countries that are considered by others in the world to be dry land environments, has massive potential to produce food for itself. We tend, more often than not, to respond to a famine or a tragedy in a country by just sending over a boatload of food, which then collapses any domestic markets that may be operating within those particular countries. If you overlay a carbon economy on that as well, particularly in Australia’s sense where we are so far from these countries and include the carbon footprint costs of transporting food around the world, we really need to go back and have a close look at things.

Even the starch content of wheat, as the member for Pearce would know, is carbon. Who pays for that and at what price? Which economy does it work within? I do not know the answers to these sorts of things but I think we should at least have a close look at them. In conclusion—and I have spoken for longer than I intended to—I, again, announce my support for the amendment bill, and thank the government and recognise those in the opposition who are standing up for the principles that they believe in on this particular issue.