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Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Page: 13438


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (13:16): I say at the outset that I support this bill, the Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012. Illegal arrivals by boat have been completely out of control since this Labor government came to power. As this government slowly creeps back closer and closer towards the Howard government's policy positions, I will support these moves. However, I remind the government that it should embrace temporary protection visas and a few other aspects of our policies—and then they will be there again.

The objective of this bill is to expand the existing offshore processing regime to apply to all persons arriving unlawfully on mainland Australia by sea—and that does sound familiar. The bill will also replace a concept of 'offshore entry person' with the concept of 'unauthorised maritime arrival'. As a result, even persons who arrive on Australian soil by boat will be subject to removal to an offshore processing country and processed according to that system. The bill therefore excises the Australian mainland from the Migration Act and is intended to be a disincentive for people to make the journey to Australia. However, following on from the government's decision to allow all offshore entry persons access to merits and judicial reviews through the RRT and the courts in March 2012, the impact of this measure has weakened. This bill is almost a carbon copy of the bill passed by the House of Representatives under the Howard government in 2006, as it also expanded the offshore processing to apply to people arriving on mainland Australia.

When the coalition introduced an identical measure in 2006, its impact would have been much more significant, since it would also have denied all asylum seekers access to merits and judicial review. Whilst Labor has significantly watered down a number of previous coalition initiatives that reduce the intended impact of this bill, the principle is consistent with coalition policy and should be supported. There is, however, a special significance that this bill brings to the House, because this exact measure was one of those salient issues that so many on the other side railed against. The question is now: how did this come to pass? And oh how the mighty have fallen. The side of grand moralistic words, the side of sermon and sanctimony, have now dispensed with long-held moral positions and high principle in order to save themselves from their own failings—so clearly seen in the disaster that has weakened porous borders provided wholly by this Labor government.

It is little wonder that the government speakers list consists now of just three first-term MPs. Once, they lined up en masse to speak against pretty much the same bill—in 2006, when it was introduced by the Howard government. They lined up to take what they believed to be the high moral ground, ignorantly believing that strong borders could remain without the will to take the measures required. History has shown that the measures that worked to bring the boats to almost a full stop and restore the integrity of our immigration system were dismantled by those on the other side. They took a solution and created a problem. It remains their problem and their failure in every respect, and the people of Australia know it.

As I said before, this bill has only a few to speak on it on the government side. Today, in this debate, none of those who were so strident in their opposition in 2006 are coming out to recant and to say that they were wrong. Where is the courage? There is no courage on two levels. Those who spoke against the 2006 bill should come out and say that they were wrong, particularly those who spoke about this concept in such moralistic terms. Yet they are without courage. Those who spoke against this bill in the caucus will not vote against it because they are more interested in maintaining their preselection than they are in maintaining their moral position. This bill has everything to do with political survival, whether it is the survival of the government or maintaining Labor preselections. This bill is about the Labor Party's dedication to power above principle.

I have spoken many times on these specific matters, and in the five years I have been in this position, I have not changed my belief that what the Howard government did worked and should be restored. Later in our speakers list, we will also hear from the members for Pearce and McMillan. I disagree with them in much of this policy area. However, they also have been consistent and have also maintained their beliefs over the years, and despite our alternative views, I respect them completely.

What a contrast between those who have strong views and maintain them, and those who say they have strong views and dispense with them for political gain. Speaking of which, I know that there are some ministers that must be too conveniently busy to come and speak on this bill. I will help them out by reminding the House of their views as expressed on the Hansard in 2006. Firstly, the current minister has had a bit to say on the 2006 bill. Minister Bowen, back in 2006, said:

This is a bad bill with no redeeming features. It is a hypocritical and illogical bill. If it is passed today, it will be a stain on our national character.

…   …   …

If it is passed, it will be repealed by an incoming Labor government.

Minister Crean, of course, has delivered quite a few lectures in this place since the 2007 election. But, in 2006 he said:

The bill is shameful and xenophobic.

   …    …

It is a bill that should be opposed.

The current Leader of the House spoke of the 2006 bill as being a test of the Labor Party. He must consider today a big F. He said:

This bill is wrong in principle and it is wrong motivation.

   …    …

This bill is a disgraceful shirking of responsibility by Australia and must be rejected.

   …    …

I reject the bill as being fundamentally abhorrent to everything I believe in.

   …    …

It has been a test of the Australian Labor Party and we have risen to the occasion, and that is why we are rejecting this legislation.

And again, I say, he must consider today to be a big F for the Labor Party.

On more than one occasion Minister Burke has spoken about having respect for the members of the House who maintain long-held views on particular subjects. He only says that about Independents of course, and now he cannot even say it about himself, because in 2006 he said:

The legislation before us today undermines our sovereignty, is offensive to our decency and makes a mockery of this parliament.

…   …   …

Labor is going to oppose this bill in every way, and will oppose it at every stage.

…   …   …

The bill before us is wrong, just plain wrong and Labor will not have anything to do with it.

Everyone knows that Minister Garrett has a history of crusades, firstly via his music and then with the Nuclear Disarmament Party and, more recently, he had a clear view of 2006 bill. He said:

The crux of this debate is moral integrity and national purpose is weighed against political expediency.

   …    …

In fact this bill is the latest instalment in a long-running saga of a government that drenches us in talks of values but has long given up holding any values of real worth itself.

   …    …

This bill must be opposed.

In reading these words from the minister, I think that he has really nailed it. The trouble was that he was six years early, because these words really apply to this Labor government—a government whose core belief is power and there is no principle that can be held that will not be set aside in order to maintain its interest in power.

One of the key problems with this Labor government is that it does not have any credibility when it comes to this issue. It is that lack of credibility that means when it announces new policy measures, people smugglers do not take them seriously because it has announced things in the past which it has never followed through on. The reality is that the Labor Party has introduced and tried every policy under the sun since it came into office—every policy imaginable—apart from the ones that we all know would in fact really work.

We know this policy would work because the policy has worked in the past under the Howard government. The coalition has a history of implementing policies in this area that have actually done what we needed to do by stamping out people smuggling. What needs to happen is those on that side—the government side—need to acknowledge that they have bungled yet another policy, acknowledge that it is their credibility that is now the problem and implement the full suite of Howard government border protection policies that we know will do the job as they did in the past. When the then government was faced with this issue over a decade ago, it implemented this combination of policies and it had the desired outcome. It worked to stop people-smuggling and it is the only policy that has achieved the results that we needed to achieve.

As I said before, the government speakers list is lean because there are so many who have sold out their beliefs on this issue that they cannot bear to stand and speak on this bill. After the debate has concluded, I would imagine that the House will divide, and I will look forward to seeing those who have taken such a strong position against such matters in 2006 and since stand on the 'Yes' side. I know that the government will be working hard to ensure that there are not more than five on the 'No' side, because, if just six are counted on the 'No' side of this chamber in the division, the hypocrisy of every member of the government who sold out on principle will be enshrined in Hansard for evermore. The Labor Party have been wrong on this issue for over a decade, and this has been proven by the record of over 30,000 people arriving here illegally by boat. I call on them to admit that their policies have been unsuccessful and that their methods in trying to tackle people-smuggling have been wrong. I also call on them to embrace every component of the Howard government measures, the only combination of policies that has actually worked to stop people-smuggling.

This week, the government will have the opportunity to, at long last, restore temporary protection visas, which will take the appeal of permanent residencies used by people-smugglers off the table. For years, the Prime Minister and Labor have been handing a guaranteed permanent residency on a platter to those arriving on illegal boats. They have been offering a one-way visa path to permanent residency. I look forward to the coalition seeking to introduce a bill to restore TPVs and to deny people-smugglers the ability to sell permanent residency. As everyone on this side is well aware, since Labor abolished TPVs in 2008, people-smugglers have made millions of dollars using the guarantee of permanent residency under Labor's policies to sell their product to over 30,000 people who have arrived in Australia in more than 500 illegal boats. This move has contributed to a massive $6.6 billion budget blow-out in costs to Australian taxpayers, not to mention pushing immigration detention centres to full capacity.

On this side, we believe that 'temporary protection visa' should mean just that. People arriving on illegal boats will only be eligible to receive a temporary visa at best. The coalition TPVs will be for a period of up to three years, which will be determined at the time the visa is granted. Furthermore, all applicants will be subject to character and health requirements. Another aspect of our bill, an aspect that I have discussed numerous times in this place, is that, unlike Labor's policy, TPV holders will have no family reunion rights under any part of the immigration program and, if they decide to leave Australia at any time, they will have no right to re-enter the country. As was the case under the Howard government, TPV holders will be able to work. A coalition government will require that if they require benefits then such benefits—income support in particular—will be subject to mutual obligation requirements as a condition of the visa. A breach of their visa would be grounds for visa holders to be taken back into detention.

Over 30,000 people have arrived on illegal boats under the current government and more than 25 per cent of these have arrived since Labor announced offshore processing on Nauru. When it comes to restoring strong borders and immigration laws, Labor simply cannot be trusted to get the job done, which is why they have resorted to introducing the coalition's long-held policies. The government cannot stop the boats and they never will. While hypocrisy will be one of the unedifying epitaphs on the gravestone of the government, that does not actually help the Australian people. Every day in Cowan I am approached or contacted by constituents speaking of this issue. The themes that consistently arise are the waste of money that the Labor government have presided over, the billions of dollars in blow-outs to support those who arrive by boat and the billions spent on facilities that were not required when the boat arrivals dropped to as few as one a year. This is in contrast to yet another month in which over 2,000 have arrived illegally, and all this under the control of the Labor government.

Why do they come by boat? Why do so many pass through other countries in order to get a final destination of Australia? It is because the Labor government took away the temporary protection visa policy and dismantled the raft of measures that worked, thereby guaranteeing that, if the people-smugglers could get a boat to the Australian Navy, to Customs or to any point of land, it was mission accomplished—a guaranteed contract fulfilment; success. The terms of the agreement between those with money and the people-smugglers would be complete. Is it any wonder that the people-smugglers have a viable proposal to sell and that they have cashed in on the policy positions of this Labor government? As I have said before, none of this government's mismanagement is of any comfort or cause for gratitude to the people of this country or to us. The people want it fixed. And we know that every dollar wasted on this Labor government's continued failures is a dollar to be repaid after the next change of government.

Of course, after stuffing things up so badly, and spending and borrowing and taxing so much, the Labor Party will still have the option of whinging about the measures to be put in place to clean up the mess that they alone have created. That is the silver lining Labor always have after creating the dark clouds over so many policy areas in this country and throughout history.

As we know, this bill will pass because it is consistent with our long-term position and it is fundamentally the same legislation that was introduced and passed in the House of Representatives by the Howard-led government in 2006. However, more needs to be done, as we have always said. This is not enough: Nauru was not enough and offshore processing was not enough. We always said that, despite what the government might say. The Prime Minister has said in this place—in her usual mendacious manner—that we said Nauru was always going to be the solution. We never said Nauru alone was going to be the solution. What must be done now is to return to the policies that worked. I urge the government to back the coalition's bill, which is being introduced to put temporary protection visas back on the books where they belong—and then we will start to be almost back at the point where the government will have the most important tools needed to stop the boats.

So it is not a matter of having just one or two measures, like Nauru or the reintroduction of offshore processing that the federal government several years ago; it is a matter of bringing back the tried and true, the successful policies, and only one side has the will to do that—and, after the next election, I hope we will have the opportunity to complete the task that must be done.