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Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Page: 13514


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (17:56): I am pleased to speak on the Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012. We would not be here tonight debating this at all if this Rudd-Gillard government had not have changed the policies in 2007. We had policies that worked. People have said this many times, but it has to be said again: when the Rudd government took over in 2007, there were four people who had arrived by boat in detention. The policies worked. No matter how you spin it and no matter how you play with it, at the end of the day the changing of the policies that the member for Berowra put in, which included temporary protection visas, the offshore Pacific solution and the turning back of boats where it was safe to do so, worked. The number of people coming by boat dried up to a trickle.

Let us look at the history of this. I was in the parliament at the time when John Howard brought in these measures—the Tampa solution. I was elected in that year, 2001, so I remember it well. People wanted us to do something about this, and we did. It sent a very strong signal to people smugglers that we were not open for business. Unbelievably, the Rudd Labor government made a great fanfare of dismantling that policy. Western Australian Senator Chris Evans was the immigration minister at the time. I felt pretty cheated by the way he gloated at what he did to a successful policy. I will be reminding my electorate in Western Australia of the role of Senate Evans in this come the next election, because they need to know who was responsible for the dismantling of a successful government policy that saved this country a lot of money and saved a lot of lives.

Senator Evans gloated about dismantling not only the solution but the camps at Manus Island and Nauru. When this new solution was taken on by the Gillard government, they complained that the camp on Nauru had fallen into disrepair and was derelict. They talked in the same manner about Manus Island. The minister at the time, Senator Evans, should be castigated for having bragged about destroying government property or being a barracker for those who destroyed government property.

Eventually the message filtered through to the people smugglers that Australia was open for business again. This government saw a sudden and exponential increase in the numbers of people deciding to take the risky journey to Australia. I speak about this with a little bit of authority, because I have been to Afghanistan and seen the people there who want to come to Australia by any means. I have been to Sri Lanka recently and I met with those detained by the Sri Lankan navy and talked with them about their reasons for coming. And I can tell you, in Sri Lanka, not one person that I spoke to said they were coming here for humanitarian reasons—not one person. They said they were coming here because they knew they could get a good job and there was a lot of money in Australia. When I told them they would not get a visa they said to me, 'It doesn't matter; we'll try, and we'll try again.' Interestingly, the minister, who is at the table, probably does not want to be aware of this, but the money that they get to go home is worth about three years' salary to many Sri Lankans, particularly in the north. It is not much of a deterrent: $16 a week is what the guy serving me in Jaffna told me he earns. So it is not a bad lure to come here and be sent home with your three years' salary.

But let's get back onto this disgraceful backflip, as it has been described by everybody who has been speaking on this bill—even the Greens member, Adam Bandt, from Melbourne. This hypocrisy knows no bounds. At least the member for Melbourne is consistent. I do not agree with the Greens' policies—I think they are pretty whacky and out of touch with the reality of the Australian electorate, who want to see an orderly migration system, not the one that the Greens want where they say, 'We need to better facilitate their entry into Australia.' Unless you vote Greens, you just do not ascribe to that strange logic about getting people here.

I was in the parliament in 2006 when we were vilified, up hill and down dale, by everyone possible in this place, when John Howard wanted to do what this bill wants to do—that is, essentially excise Australia from being a migration zone. We first talked about the islands around Australia. Oh, shock horror! People said it was unconstitutional, it was un-Australian; and now the current government, as we did in 2006, suddenly, because it was recommended by the three members of their advisory panel, have decided to have a go at this. But let us just remember: they vilified us as well about the Pacific solution. They had to contract out their advice, and they got the Houston committee to then tell them, 'Yes, you should try Manus Island and Nauru'—too late; they are coming in their droves. You cannot build a camp big enough to accommodate the thousands of people who are coming per month.

So what has happened? Australia is full. Inverbrackie is full. Curtin is full. Northam is full. Leonora is full. They are opening up the centre at Tasmania. What is the next solution? 'Well, we tried to get people to take them as billets, and we wanted to pay them so much a week'—so all these poor ladies around Australia were happy to try and earn a quid by billeting a few refugees while they waited. That has not worked; it has not really cut through or taken off. So what are we going to do? We are going to let them come here, but, because there are so many of them, they can now get a bridging visa to stay in Australia but they cannot work. As I said, I remember the hypocrisy of what they were saying when we did what we did—and it worked.

It has been said, but I have to remind you: it was not only people like Senator Evans, and, of course, the minister at the table, Minister Bowen, who said that this was a 'dark stain on the character of Australia'—these people are not consistent. As I said, at least the Greens are consistent. We are consistent. The only inconsistent ones in this debate are the Labor Party, because they have had so many incarnations and conversions on the way to the Pacific solution—not on the road to Damascus, I can tell you; it is on the road to Nauru and Manus Island—that no-one believes them anymore. People came up to me when I hosted Tony Abbott in my electorate last week and they were saying to us, 'Are you certain you can stop this situation?' And we said, 'Yes, because we've done it before, and it works.'

I heard the member for Berowra in this place say that, when he brought in these measures, he did not know which would work the best of the suite of three measures, but he said that, when you put them all together, they worked. Unfortunately, this government has only got one real part of that suite, one leg of the three-legged stool—and that is the Pacific solution.

Temporary protection visas, which Tony Abbott wants to move a private members' bill on, will test the government to see if they are real in wanting to give a further deterrent. Because, as we know, and you have to explain to people in the electorate—which I do—temporary protection visas allow people to come here and, while their status is being determined as to whether they are genuine refugees or their countries are safe enough to return to, they can have some work rights.

And I tell you what is cutting through to the electorate also—Tony Abbott's enunciation of the fact that we should be allowing these people to be receiving Work for the Dole type payments, because people do not want those arriving here without a legal reason to do so getting on our welfare system. We know that this measure allows them to earn 89 per cent of Newstart. So there you are: you have people in my electorate who are doing it really hard, and I tell you what makes them really angry—and I would be pleased if the minister at the table would listen to some of these. I have people ringing up my electorate office, or emailing me on a daily basis, who are trying to get here legitimately. A gentleman from the Boddington Gold Mine emailed me today. He has a good job, he pays a lot of tax—about $40,000 a year—he has married an overseas lady, who is pregnant, and he is having real problems getting her to Australia before the birth of the child. And then they see the fact that, if you turn up by boat, you can come straight in and live in the burbs and probably get a house out of it as well. That is what makes them really cross. The number of migration issues that come through my office from people legitimately trying to come here and bring their families, or to reunite or to bring their skills here—it is disgraceful. And yet they see thousands of people coming—30,000 since the government have been in office; 8,000 since they introduced their version of the Pacific solution. And they try to get one member of their family in. No wonder they are so cross and upset with the way the government are treating our immigration policies.

But going back to all of those who wanted to vilify us on this issue—the minister at the table has probably had his ears belted all day—there were right-wingers like the member for Watson, Tony Burke, saying, 'Australia is better than this bill,' 'The legislation before us today undermines our sovereignty,' 'It is offensive to our decency,' and, 'It makes a mockery of this parliament,' The member for Hotham said, 'Labor opposes it outright,' 'There is nothing you can do to this excision bill that will fix it,' 'We will not seek to amend it; we will oppose it in its entirety,' and, 'This bill is shameful and xenophobic.' What happened six years later? 'We are remade, morphed, reborn; we have a different view—we turned 180 degrees. We don't believe in anything we believed in before.' It is just woeful. Of course, we are not going to oppose the bill, because it is the bill we brought to this parliament six years ago.

I will be interested to see what some of the members of the Labor Party do if this comes to a vote—though it will probably be a mickey because we are supporting it. The member for Fremantle has been very outspoken on what a disgraceful set of measures these are, yet I imagine that, if it does come to a vote, she will vote for these measures. She tried to say before that she did not vote for them because there was a mickey, but she did not cross the floor and join those on the mickey vote. She told the Fremantle Herald, when I wrote to her newspaper, that she supported these measures, after saying she could not, would not and did not vote for them. The only reason she did not vote was that it was a mickey vote. I will be pointing this out in the Fremantle Herald when this vote comes up.

The electorates of other left-wing members of this parliament should know their duplicity on this issue as well. In 2006, the Leader of the House, when the parliament was debating the legislation last time, said:

Today this parliament is debating a bill that reduces us as a parliament and as a nation.

…   …   …

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

…   …   …

This bill is a disgraceful shirking of responsibility by Australia and it must be rejected. The Australian Labor Party rejects it.

That is what the member for Grayndler said. What do the people in the electorate think? As I said, there have been quite a few backflips. On Monday, 26 November, under the headline 'Charities will struggle to help refugees', the West Australian reported:

WA charity groups have condemned the Federal Government’s policy to dump thousands of refugees in the suburbs, saying they cannot deal with any extra demand on their already overstretched resources.

We know that the shortage of public housing in Western Australia is 20,000, so how will the demand be met? In that report, Anglicare Western Australia executive Ian Carter said the policy 'lacked foresight'. St Vincent de Paul said it was 'inhumane'. I could go on.

But suddenly there is another little crack in the wall. Today, Michael Gordon in the Sydney Morning Herald reported, under the headline 'Work rules for asylum seekers to be relaxed':

NEW rules denying asylum seekers the right to work for up to five years will be relaxed …

It quotes the minister, Chris Bowen, who, the article said:

… wanted over time to work out how people arriving by boat had 'appropriate support and care, and where appropriate they have some mechanism in place to be able to support themselves'.

That is code for, 'How are they going to get a job?' You are either going to give them a temporary protection visa—a decent, honest visa—or you are going to give them this mickey mouse visa that essentially allows them to cheat. I spoke on the Migration Amendment (Reform of Employer Sanctions) Bill yesterday, where the provisions against anyone who allows someone to work illegally are being toughened up. So the poor old employer cops all the hammering and fines and everything if he allows someone to work in this country who is not legally entitled to do so. This is only going to encourage people on the breadline to try to get work in the black economy.

This is a disgraceful exhibition of hypocrisy by the Labor Party. They are not doing it properly. They are not going to solve this problem unless they take a deep breath, realise they made a total mistake in 2007 and adopt the full suite of measures of the Howard government, which worked and stopped this evil trade.