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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12751


Mr MORRISON (Cook) (10:47): Here we have another bill, following the farce we have just seen here in this place, rushed into this parliament. The difference here is that I understand the urgency when it comes to the Appropriation (Implementation of the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers) Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013, which the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship brought into this place yesterday regarding the government's blow-outs on our borders and the budget it needs now to meet those blow-outs. It is because, when it comes to the budget that this government needs to pay for its border failures, it has run out of money. It has run out of money to pay for the blow-outs on our borders, and it has brought in a bill for an additional appropriation of $1.7 billion to pay for the blow-outs that have occurred on our borders and the blow-outs in the budget that have occurred as a result. So I understand the reason why this government wants to rush this bill into the place: because it has run out of money.

As a result, the coalition is not going to be standing in the way of this, because, regardless of how aggrieved we feel about the serious policy failure of this government on our borders—which happens every single day, as more than one boat arrives every single day—these bills are going to have to be paid. Once again, Minister Bowen is putting his hand deep into the pockets of the Australian taxpayers to pay for more of his failures. I found it amazing yesterday that he sought to blame this appropriation bill, in its Orwellesque title, on Angus Houston and the Houston panel. This was extraordinary. Of the $1.7 billion in these appropriation bills, $1.3 billion is because more boats are arriving than this government estimated in their budget back in May.

I have read the Houston report carefully, and I do not remember reading anywhere that Angus Houston said that more boats should come to Australia. But what we have in these bills is more money for more boats coming to Australia. The funding specifically for some of the measures out of the Houston report is a national component of the funds that this government is seeking from this parliament and the Australian taxpayers.

The minister for immigration has stood in this place on other occasions and talked about the national stains of policies put forward by the Howard government to address border issues in this country. I notice that the minister has now backflipped on this in the most spectacular act of hypocrisy, on his own words, today, but the national stain that is occurring here is the following: it is 28,000-plus people turning up on over 480 boats in the last four years; it is over 1,000 people dead, and over 8,000 people being denied a protection visa because they applied offshore and they did not come on a boat under this government's soft policies. It is the riots that occurred in our detention centres—the riots where only one person was denied a protection visa out of the hundreds who burned the place to the ground. One person was denied a visa despite the tough talk of the minister for immigration, saying he was going to apply the character test. He gave permanent protection visas to three people convicted of offences relating to their involvement in those riots. What a joke. This is the national stain—it is the national stain of a decision taken by this Labor government to abolish the measures that worked under the Howard government. That is the national stain that touches every single member on that side of the House. They will have to be accountable for that when they go to the people at the next election. They must account for the stain that they have put on this nation through their weakness and the ease by which they have been taken down a path that would see measures that worked removed, and the result of that national stain is one of cost, chaos and a tragedy on this government's watch. That is what has occurred under this government; that is what they must be accountable for.

This legislation in particular involves border protection budget blow-outs. This is the mother of all budget blow-outs. This year, with these new appropriations, it will cost almost $2.7 billion to run the various programs that are a consequence of boats coming to Australia. That is more than a 2,000 per cent increase on what this government budgeted back in 2009-10; more than $2.5 billion extra per year is now being spent by the Australian taxpayer because this government cannot manage our borders. The rolling blow-out between what they said it would cost and what it was expected to cost before MYEFO was $4.97 billion. That figure is now $5.4 billion up to this financial year, and out over the forward estimates it is $6.6 billion. Just think about those numbers: $6.6 billion in blow-outs because this government decided to get rid of a policy that was working.

The current budget estimate of an extra $1.3 billion is directly related to the increased number of people that the government is now expecting to come by boat this year. The government said in its budget that it would have 450 people arriving, on average, per month in 2012-13. That figure has already been blown by over 6,000 people to date, and we now have on average more than 2,000 people turning up every single month. If the government wants to know where its surplus has gone when the surplus disappears, it will find that it sailed away on a boat.

That is where it went. If they want to go looking for this surplus, they will find it in the detention centres around the country. They have sent the surplus to Nauru and they have sent it there on the backs of the hundreds who will go there, because thousands keep turning up in this country because of this government's failed border protection policies. That is where they will find it. The surplus has been processed offshore. The surplus is disappearing before this government's eyes as it sails away.

The 30-month average is what the government uses to estimate the number of arrivals that are expected to turn up in any given year for the purposes of establishing their budget. That has been confirmed on numerous occasions in Senate estimates by department officials and was most recently confirmed back in February of this year. That is where the figure of 450 arrivals per month came from.

The question I sought to ask the Prime Minister yesterday in this House was: given you have just increased the budget by over $1 billion because of your blow-outs on boats, what are you now basing this figure on? She is going to stand in this place and say to the Australian people that she is going to deliver a surplus. The Prime Minister refused to answer the question. I will go to the department's own policies. I asked the Prime Minister to come into this place and correct me if I had this wrong, or the minister for immigration, if he wants, can come and correct me. But based on their own department's policies, stated before the Senate, it is the 30-month average. Is the 30-month average the 2,075 people who have been arriving this year per month? No. I assume the $1.3 billion extra they are asking this parliament for in this bill is based on a monthly estimate of 713 people. That is almost two-thirds less than have been turning up in this country every single month this financial year.

If that is indeed the estimate, which based on the testimony of department officials one can reasonably assume, unless the government has changed its policy—and if so they should come into this place and say so—then this surplus is totally gone. At that rate of arrivals, this budget will be blown on boats alone. With over 2,000 arrivals occurring, that is what we can expect for the rest of the year, because the problem is getting worse. It is not getting better. The reason it is getting worse is that this government remain in office. They are the problem on our borders and the only way it can be fixed is the removal of this government from the treasury bench.

I also note that the government has put in these bills the capital appropriation for the establishment of the processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island. The figure for 2,100 beds is $268 million. That is an average of $126,000 per bed. That is a lot of money and it is more than the average cost at, say, Curtin or in other places. It cost just over $100,000 per bed to establish those facilities.

But what I find interesting is that in January of this year the minister who is now at the table, Minister Bowen, told us that to develop a facility on Nauru was going to cost us $422,000 per bed. That was his cost back in January, when he said he was not going to reopen the centre on Nauru because it would cost far too much. It was going to cost $422,000 per bed to develop these facilities. The cost he has put in this bill in this place today is $126,000. What that says to me is that this government will trash and demonise the coalition's measures right up until the day that it implements them.

The minister at the table likes to talk about national stains. Well, this is quite a stain. It is a stain on his record and a stain on his credibility. It is a stain because in January, when he did not want to do it, he said it was going to cost $422,000 a bed; today, when he wants to do it, he says it will cost $126,000 a bed.

So the minister, given he is the biggest spending immigration minister in our history, particularly on border blow-outs, is in no position to lecture anybody on anything to do with these costings matters. This minister's hands are so deep in the pockets of the taxpayers of this country that he can almost tie their shoelaces through their pants. That is how deep he is in the pockets of the people of this country who are paying taxes.

Mr Randall: They must have long pockets!

Mr MORRISON: The member for Canning says they must have long pockets. That is true. They would have to have long pockets to pay for the border blow-outs of this government. The border blow-outs in this government's budget are historic, they are unprecedented and they are a national stain.

I also note that this government in their hypocrisy, as we all know, have implemented offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island. We welcomed that and provided the support in this place to do exactly that. But, as I have noted on many occasions, the policy in isolation was never the answer. For the policy to be effective, the full suite of measures need to be in place, as the coalition has always said. Under this government's policy, you have about a one in 10 chance of being sent to Nauru. Since the minister first announced this policy, you have a one in 6.8 chance of being sent to either Nauru or Manus Island. As every additional boat arrives, and we have had 41 boats this month and over 2,100 people, the odds get even better for the people smugglers. They know that, because they have this government's measure. They have had this government's measure from day 1.

The Houston panel made a range of recommendations, and those recommendations are now government policy. The minister and the Prime Minister can no longer swan around hiding behind Angus Houston to justify their policies—they are the government's policies. They need to own those policies. They need to make the case for their policies on their own terms and in their own words, because they are their policies; they have adopted them.

They are the same policies that they opposed when in opposition and said were xenophobic. I note the other minister at the table today, Minister Crean. He described the bill, that I understand he is now going to support, for the excision of the Australian mainland as a xenophobic bill. If that is the case, he must be a recent convert to xenophobia. He has argued for the bill and he asks for it to be introduced. He has supported it.

Mr Crean interjecting

Mr MORRISON: He interjects at the table. It is the interjection of hypocrisy, because when they were on this side of the House and we were on the government benches, they accused us of being xenophobes for introducing measures that they now advocate. That hypocrisy is breathtaking, and they can explain that to their own electorates. No-one knows where they stand on this issue; they make it up as they go along.

The Houston panel recommendations are now government policy. The government is working through the process of implementing those policies, and they have had not one breath of obstruction from those on this side of the House to the measures they have sought to introduce—not one breath. The government brought in the bills that dealt with the opening of offshore processing in Nauru and Manus Island, and they got speedy passage from this parliament. On every occasion when the opposition has been asked to deal with these matters, we have dealt with them promptly. We are dealing with these matters promptly today, as requested, and we are happy to do so. I know the minister has run out of money and has had to come back to the parliament for some more. We will have to facilitate that to ensure that at least the basics can be implemented.

I want to touch in the time remaining on some of the other recommendations of the Houston panel which I think the government is struggling to come to terms with and to understand. The one that is particularly troubling and has them in absolute convulsions is the no advantage principle. It is not a hard concept. I think Mr L'Estrange has outlined it well. I understand he was particularly involved in the construction of this measure. The no advantage principle is simply to get a message out to the region that if you come to Australia by boat then you cannot expect to have a greater opportunity to get an assessment or to apply for a protection visa than you would otherwise. It is a pretty straightforward principle, and this government has taken months to try and work out what it means and to try and articulate it in a form which has some meaning.

I was in Jakarta a few weeks ago and I was told by the country manager for the UNHCR, in the presence of embassy officials, that the time you can expect to wait in Indonesia if you get your claim assessed and you are resettled in a third country is around two to three years. That was not surprising; that was consistent with conversations I have had with other people. But he also said that in Malaysia you can expect to wait three times as long. The figures that I have been talking about when it comes to Malaysia of five years waiting time, based on my own discussions in Malaysia, would indicate that the time you would wait in Malaysia normally would be longer than the time you would wait in Indonesia. The government has itself contorted in what should be a fairly straightforward principle. They are saying, 'Well, we want to come up with some calibrated method of putting together your age, your gender, your state of health and a range of other things, and we want to put that all in some voodoo black box and this will pop out some number which will decide how long you wait' et cetera. No-one can understand that for love or money. It is complete bureaubabble. The message which is being sent to the region about the no advantage principle is incomprehensible, totally neutering its effectiveness.

The government is once again not thinking through the consequences of these things. Think about it—if the government is to be held to its word on its statements on the no advantage principle, they are saying that if you arrived as an Iranian in Jakarta with a visa on arrival you should expect to wait around two to three years but if you arrived as an Afghan in Kuala Lumpur it would be five years. What's with that? What are they saying? Are they saying: 'Get yourself to Indonesia—it will be quicker to then get yourself to Australia'?

I am sure the Indonesians are wild about that idea! I can tell you that I do not believe they are. The idea of creating asylum magnets in Indonesia is the policy of this government based on the way they have ham-fistedly tried to explain the no advantage principle, which, frankly, my five-year-old would be able to explain at show-and-tell at preschool. The government would be able to explain it by simply saying, 'If you come to Australia, you can expect to wait around about five years.' That is pretty simple. I am trying to help the minister out in explaining his own policy because he seems so befuddled by the whole thing. He is tying himself in so many knots that he cannot get it out. As a result, the policy just falls flat on the floor like everything this government touches in this area.

The no advantage principle has been butchered by this government with their own bureaubabble, and as a result they continue to frustrate important measures that the coalition has supported. When we support them they still cannot get it right. I wish they would read the instruction manual on border protection. It was written by a great panel that involved John Howard, Alexander Downer and Philip Ruddock, the Father of the House. That was the expert panel, and this government should be reading their instruction manual. That manual talks about restoring the policies—policies that this government abolished—that worked so effectively under the Howard government.

There is also the refugee and humanitarian program, which this government has said they will increase to 20,000 places a year, from this year. That is an additional 25,000 places over the next four years. In addition to that they are creating an extra 16,000 places for family reunions of people who come here on boats. Do not let the government fool you that they are denying family reunion to people coming on boats. Only temporary protection visas will achieve that outcome. This policy is a con. All they are asking them to do is to line up in another queue. So, rather than filling out this form for family reunion, you have to fill out another form for family reunion and you have to pay a fee—a fee which is actually about 80 per cent less, or thereabouts, than what they are paying the people smugglers. The asylum seekers are prepared to pay the people smugglers $10,000 to get here; I am sure they are going to be prepared to pay a fee to bring their families out under this government's policies—and the government have created the additional places to do exactly that.

But the government, in this bill, is not being upfront about the costs of this. When the minister announced it, he said it would cost $1.3 billion to increase the intake to 20,000. But you will not find that figure in MYEFO. Maybe that figure is on Nauru, as well, with the surplus. You will not be able to find it in MYEFO, but that is the cost that the minister put on this package. In MYEFO he has only detailed the costs to Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which are covered in these bills before us for the current year. But the minister is not telling Australians that it is going to cost them more than $50,000 per place to meet that commitment.

This government is going to spend $1.3 billion taking an extra 25,000 refugees. That is more than they have committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That tells you something about this government's priorities. The Australian people understand that, I think. I think they understand that, when you look at what the government is prepared to spend on taking additional refugees as opposed to what they are prepared to spend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, that is a message about this government's priorities. I do not think the Australian people have missed that point. In large part the Australian people have been able to acknowledge that in their own reading of these issues.

But the increase in the intake is also a con, because under this government the number of offshore humanitarian places has fallen by 5,000 per year. The government, when they announced this the other day, went through and told you where all the placements are going to go. The total number of those places they were prepared to identify was 12,150. Why is that figure important? It is less than the 13,750 that is already provided for. So where are the extra visas going? I can tell you—in large part they are going to people who are coming on boats. The increase in the intake is to ensure that there are enough permanent visas in the system to keep giving permanent visas to people coming on boats.

Do not be conned about the government's feigned compassion on this. They know that they do not have the places in the program to keep giving permanent visas to people coming on boats. They have two options: they can embrace temporary protection visas today or they can increase the refugee and humanitarian intake at a cost of over $50,000 per person for the Australian taxpayer and keep handing out the permanent visas, which keeps the sugar on the table.

There is also the issue of the Malaysian people-swap, which I notice the minister has benched this morning. He has given up. He now has the absurd proposition that he is not prepared to go and do what the Houston panel said. That was not a message to the opposition; that was a message to the government. It was their committee. They commissioned it and they received its recommendations. The minister said, this morning, on AM on ABC radio:

We can't implement the Malaysia agreement without the agreement of the parliament, which means we need a change in position from the Greens party or the Liberal Party.

He said:

I would want to see some sort of evidence from the opposition that they would do what I've done and the Labor Party has done and said, 'Well, we'll do what it takes to save lives …

We have been doing what it takes to save lives for a decade. If the minister wants to say that he is not going to progress his own policy because he wants a blank cheque, up front, on an agreement he has not made with contents that are not known, he is dreaming. That is the biggest cop out I have seen from this minister so far, and it is a pretty big list of cop outs.

He knows—because he has told me—that the Malaysian government will not agree to legally-binding protections for people sent to Malaysia. That can happen in two ways. They can sign the convention, which I do not believe they are going to do, or they can put legally-binding protections in their own law, which the minister has told me they will not do. I have told him that the coalition has major concerns and rejects the policy on the basis also of the 800 cap. As we know, 800 people can turn up in a week under this government, and the cap remains a significant problem. The universality of the application of this policy means that it breeds exceptions, which creates products for people smugglers to sell.

These are the weaknesses of the policy. I have been saying this ever since they announced it and the minister has not sought to change one element of the policy to bring it back here. If the minister has given up on Malaysia, that is his decision. The bar has been set by Houston, and the bar has been set by the opposition. This minister is not even going to have a crack; he will not even try and bring in an improved policy and let it face the test of this parliament, because he knows it is a dog of a policy.

There is also the chronic issue happening at Christmas Island and other places around the country as we speak, which is one of the reasons the government is seeking more money from this parliament. That chronic issue is what is effectively the asylum freeze mark II. We have had 5,700-plus people turn up since the 14 August announcement that people may be subject to transfer to Nauru. As I said, there is only a one in 10 chance of that.

This is more people than we had in the detention network that was subject to the last asylum freeze, which led to riots and burning the place down.

This government just does not learn from its mistakes. It is repeating a policy failure of freezing these applications, leading to tension, cost and the build-up of difficult issues in detention centre. Last time this ended in chaos. The government needs to come clean on what it is going to do with the escalating number of people who are turning up in Australia every single day.

The other issue is that of turn-backs. We stand by every letter and every word of the policy that turns back where it is safe to do so—and the Australian people know it. It is a key ingredient. The Houston panel acknowledged that it can be done and acknowledged its effect on deterrence. This government will not even look at it because it does not have the heart to pursue that type of resolve when it comes to saving lives on these desperate issues. We stand by it.

The government demonstrated this the other day. It turned back 14 Sri Lankans who turned up—these were the alleged pirates. The minister said we could turn them back immediately 'because they had no credible claims'. I asked the minister about the other 2,900 Sri Lankans who have turned up since the beginning of May. Did they all have credible claims? Really? Did they seriously? Of the 2,900-odd who have turned up since the beginning of May, only 14 did not have credible claims. It is a con. The government knows it can send people back. The government knows it can turn around boats where it is safe to do so. Its heart is not in it. That is what the people smugglers know. That is what the Australian people know. That is why the government has come scurrying into this place again to ask for more money—to pay for more failure.