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Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Page: 13521

Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (18:26): As a dear friend of mine often says, prefacing remarks in a political conversation: 'To know where we are today, we have to go back to where we began.' We began with the Australian community's outrage over women and children, and thousands of others, detained behind razor wire, languishing on temporary protection visas in a land where the liberty, freedom and the rule of law are a given, and taken for granted. This bill is yet another step to take us back full circle to a place of national shame. It directly offends the tenet, values and arrangements negotiated by me and others which were passed into law by the Howard government in 2004, then tested and reaffirmed under a set of different circumstances in 2006. That agreement went to the heart of protecting the most vulnerable individuals from life behind a razor-wire fence. It went to the heart of how we treat genuine refugees seeking solace within our shores. The wrongs that were righted removed a disgrace. This proposal is a disgrace and it bring disgrace upon us all.

I stand today more in sorrow than in anger. With injustice and indifference at its core, this proposal to excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone resurrects the legislation proposed in 2006 by the then Howard government. I opposed it then; I oppose it now. If this were not of such a serious nature I would have thought it were a joke. This legislation joins Tasmania with Christmas Island, 5,399 kilometres apart! Though we differ, my party has been entirely consistent in support of this policy position under the leadership of John Howard, Brendon Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. In stark contrast, other members of this House called the 2006 genesis of this bill as being immoral and xenophobic. They were right then. This policy reversal is wrong now. Today, these same representatives sit as members of executive government, parroting their predecessor's policy disgrace. That our leadership—and I am talking about both parties—has come to an enabling consensus on this matter is not a display of unity and bipartisanship; rather, it is a retreat from leading the national debate to a higher place for a greater purpose. I said in 2006 that my decision then to oppose similar legislation was made because it was in the national interest of this Great South Land that it continue to be a passionate protector of the rights of genuine refugees. My position is unchanged today for the sake of our national interests both at home and abroad. I oppose this legislation now as I did its predecessor because it is offends the stand—and it seems today that these words were spoken so long ago—I made in 2006, when I said that Australia should remain:

… a place where dreams come true, where the impossible becomes the possible and the probable becomes the inevitable … where people find a sense of belonging … a place of hope for generations of new immigrants.

I stand tonight in a place of discomfort and controversy in a debate that is complicated, divisive and polarising. In this moment I can choose to be either at peace with my party, unified in opposition to this poor excuse for a Labor government or at peace with my heart for this nation. I choose to be at peace with my heart for this nation. I oppose these Labor Party bills and all who join with them in their intent to enact unjust laws which while they are on our statutes will remain a blight on our national integrity.