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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3380


Mr JENKINS (Scullin) (11:20): I have pleasure in rising to support this bill as it is to be amended by the government at later stages in discussion of the bill. This is an opportunity for this parliament to actually put its stamp on a solution to a problem and to have a solution to the problem that is apt for the second decade of the 21st century. To hear those opposite yearn for domestic policies of a decade ago without putting them in a regional or global context is sickening.

The member for Cook acknowledges that the Bali process was something put in place by a coalition government. The purpose, of course, of the Bali process was to handle the large influx of asylum seekers and to combat human trafficking in our region. Over 40 countries are members of the Bali process. International organisations such as the IOM and UNHCR are active participants. We are proud that this is a piece of policy, in an international sense, of Australia. Australia and Indonesia chair the Bali process; the steering committee has these two countries being joined by New Zealand and Thailand. What it does is in fact look at many of the issues that have been raised in this debate but, disappointingly, without great imagination by those opposite in the coalition.

One of the purposes of the Bali process is to assist countries to adopt best practices in asylum management in accordance with the principles of the refugee convention. Those opposite tell us that it is too hard to get involved, to sit down with the countries of the region and come up with a process that achieves that. Simply putting a signature on a piece of paper does not mean that that is going to happen. Look at Malaysia. Go to Malaysia. Understand how detention centres there actually operate. Understand how asylum seeker legislation actually operates, because there ain't much asylum seeker legislation.

The UNHCR, by de facto, are in charge of the processing of claims made by people who find themselves in Malaysia. They have gone out of their way to ensure that the dignity of these people is preserved, that they are given opportunities for economic development. Look at the actions of IOM in Sri Lanka, where they are involved in economic processes and projects to ensure that those that would leave a source country like Sri Lanka do not have reasons to leave that source country. We then look at what is happening in Malaysia and Indonesia, which are countries in transit. It galls me that a little over two years ago it was the President of the Republic of Indonesia that had to place on record statements that they have a greater understanding of the problems that confront Australia than the coalition can. He indicated the imperative of the Bali process, which recognises that people smuggling is a regional problem that requires a regional solution involving the origin, transit and destination countries working together. Two years after President Yudhoyono placed that on the record in his speech to the Australian parliament, we had to have the foreign minister of the Republic of Indonesia in a press conference in this place last week yet again remind the coalition of the importance of this cooperative attitude to the way in which we look at the problem of people smuggling throughout the region, and to look at it as a continuum.

In part, this is what this piece of legislation attempts to do. It attempts to recognise that the solution to this is putting in place regional processing centres. Under the agreement between Australia and Malaysia, that was what was to be achieved in Malaysia. This now enacts the legal niceties which would enable that to happen. It would enable that to happen in other places if, in fact, future governments decided that that should happen. That is what perplexes the Australian public. We have a piece of legislation that is being offered to the Australian parliament which would give this government the opportunity to put in place its agreement with Malaysia, and it would give any future government the opportunity to put in place any solution that they thought best fitted. I do not understand why we cannot continue to have this agreement. This piece of legislation enables the Australian parliament to deal with this in a positive manner. (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.