Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11201


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (12:21): I am pleased to speak on the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011. I have a passion and an interest in migration because it is one of the most important issues in our community today. You cannot go to the shops, you cannot go down to the local sporting club, without people having an opinion on this and having something to say about it. I want to analyse why we are here today. We are here today because this is a government that is in real trouble, diabolical trouble, on a number of fronts. This government's troubles on this migration issue are of its own making.

Let us examine the history of why we are here today. Ten years ago the Howard government had to deal with the Tampasituation—a situation I know well because I was elected in 2001.

Mr Hartsuyker: And what a great member too. A wise choice they made.

Mr RANDALL: Thank you very much. I was the only member from Western Australia elected in the 2001 election and that had a lot to do with migration issues. Ten years later we are still going through the same issues and Nauru is still an issue. We had a problem and we found a solution. The solution was that we would process offshore the people who arrived unlawfully. Thousands of people, until this action was taken, were arriving unlawfully and there had to be a solution. Offshore processing did a number of things. It made sure that the UNHCR assessed people properly in an area not on the Australian mainland. It was important we did this because Australia was seen as a soft touch and an easy destination.

What has changed since then? The Labor Party, after the 'Kevin 07' election, came to government. In February 2008, within three months of coming to office, the Rudd government moved to dismantle the Pacific solution by announcing the closing of the Nauru detention centre. The Pacific solution had worked because, as we know, when the Rudd government came to power in 2007 there were only four people in detention that had come by boat. Disregarding any analysis of success or otherwise, we had gone from thousands of people arriving to just four in detention being processed.

In May 2008 the then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, dismantled temporary protection visas. They were the other very important element of the Pacific solution. Temporary protection visas allowed people to stay on the Australian mainland for two reasons: firstly, while their refugee bona fides were being checked and, secondly, until the country of their origin was deemed safe to go back to. With much fanfare, earlier this year the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Bowen, came into this place and said how they had struck a wonderful deal with Afghanistan to return people not deemed to be refugees. Do you know how many people have gone back to Afghanistan as a result of that agreement with the Afghan government? Not one. Not one person has returned even though a bilateral agreement between both governments was reached.

Recently I went to Afghanistan with a number of my colleagues, including a Labor members. On the basis that the Afghans are being given refugee status in Australia, the whole of Afghanistan could come to Australia. Everyone in Afghanistan could deem themselves as being in an unsafe environment and being either persecuted or targeted and fearing for their own or their children's safety. On that basis, under the easy tick-and-flick method, the whole of the Afghan nation—if they could get to Australian shores—could come here and receive a visa. It is just bizarre.

In July 2009 the Rudd government—before the Prime Minister was politically assassinated—was boasting that the dismantling of the Howard government's asylum seeker policy had been achieved. It is their dismantling of a successful policy which has led us into the dire migration situation we find ourselves in today. There have been many different views. Remember it was Prime Minister Gillard that came to the position of Prime Minister just over 12 months ago because the government had lost its way. It had lost its way in several areas: one was carbon tax, another was the mining tax and one was migration issues. None of those have been fixed.

This Prime Minister, 12 months later, is in a bigger mess. Before the last election she was fishing around trying to find a solution so she said she was going to organise a regional processing centre in East Timor because East Timor would be a good location. The only problem with that was she did not tell anyone in East Timor she was going to do it. In fact, the ones she did tell were the wrong people and they became somewhat offended. The East Timorese knew that a processing centre in that setting would provide for asylum seekers entitlements and amenities far superior to what many of the people themselves in East Timor were receiving in the way of food, health, education, communications and pay. So that was canned. It was a serious issue, and this was done on the advice, we are told, of people from the department.

I am not one to criticise departmental officials but I will point out a level of hypocrisy evident in the parliament yesterday. I happened to be fortunate enough to be in the Main Committee and hear the member for Canberra railing against Bob Brown for slurring departmental officials. As the member for Canberra—and we know there are a lot of bureaucrats and public servants in Canberra—she was protecting her constituency. She was railing against Senator Bob Brown from the Greens, saying how he had terribly slurred the bureaucrats and the people giving advice to the government and how shocking it was. In question time the same member got up in this place and asked the Special Minister of State for Public Service and Integrity about how shocking it was that anyone would slur the bureaucrats. What was the answer from the minister? It was the fault of the coalition that these people were being slurred. The member for Canberra had one position in the morning and she had another one in the afternoon. All advice is given objectively but it is not always correct because the proposal for East Timor obviously was not something that could fly. So then what did the Prime Minister do? She started fishing around for another location. She tried to find another location which was Malaysia. I say to the Labor Party backbench in particular: walk through your shopping centres and ask anyone if they think the five-for-one swap is a good deal. The government then said to Malaysia: 'Have we got a deal for you. We'll take 4,000 of yours at great expense, and at great expense we'll give you 800 of ours and we'll pay for the lot. Guess what? We think that's a good deal.' I would really like the Prime Minister to be my bank manager because I could put a dollar in and get five dollars back every time. What a ludicrous situation. But somehow this seems to be a good result.

What is worse than that is the fact that the Prime Minister and the Labor Party, particularly during the Howard years, were against offshore processing. We have heard my colleagues one after the other outlining the statements of members and ministers who in the past have said that it was a shocking thing that the coalition did in sending people to offshore processing areas like Manus Island. They said: 'How shocking. Manus Island, what a shocking place to send people.' They said that it was inhumane and it was against all human rights principles in the conventions that we have signed up to. The Prime Minister's original objection to Nauru was that it was not a signatory to the UN conventions that we have signed up to. These conventions have been listed and I may refer to them in a moment.

Then what happened? There seemed to be a conversion not on the road to Damascus but on the road to Kuala Lumpur. This conversion on the way to Kuala Lumpur was that we do not have to send people to a country that is a signatory to the convention because we have such a good deal—the five-for-one deal—that we have to send them there. I say that the government are so bogged down on this that they are now almost obliged to try to keep going with it.

We know about the Labor left on the other side. The member for La Trobe, I understand, seconded the motion in caucus brought by Senator John Faulkner against this. We know a whole lot of people spoke about how terrible it was that people were going to a country that had not signed the convention. Yet we see the dishonesty of those, particularly the Left members on the backbench, because you will hear them speak today supporting this motion even though we know they spoke in caucus against it. This has been reported and they have not denied it. They are going to endorse this crazy deal that the Prime Minister wants to do to continue to try to send asylum seekers to Malaysia.

We have given the government an out. We have an amendment to this bill. We have said, 'Yes, we will amend the bill to allow the minister of the day to send people to a country that is a signatory of the convention.' That is a very simple amendment, a very logical one, and I will give you an example of countries in the region that are signatories where they might want to send asylum seekers. Papua New Guinea is a signatory, the Philippines are a signatory, Samoa is a signatory and the Solomon Islands. I have been to Tuvalu, a nice place—

Mr Hartsuyker: Tuvalu.

Mr RANDALL: It is pronounced Tuvalu and the capital is Funafuti for those who cannot say the name of it. The Labor Party seem to want to say it is our fault because we will not give them the discretion to go to Malaysia because, in their own words, it is a place that did not sign the convention. They still seem to have a problem with Nauru even though this was a facility that was run by Australians and managed by Australians. We knew that the treatment of the asylum seekers there was well and truly monitored by Australians. Dare I say this is just political bloody-mindedness—they have a solution and, because it was something that we did, they are not going to do it.

We have heard the Prime Minister and others say, 'It's too far away and it's too dear.' It was not too far away before. We saw a plane parked up at Christmas Island detention centre for days and days waiting for the decision on the Malaysian solution—so much about expense. They were talking about a billion dollars to reopen Nauru. Many of the huts are still there, much of the infrastructure is still there. In the six years of the Pacific solution, which included Manus Island, the total cost was $289 million. Where do you get a figure of a billion to use Nauru now? It is a figure just plucked out of the air. I hope they do not blame the bureaucrats for that and say it is a figure given to them by the department, because I would like to see the justification for that. In fact I would like to see the figures on how they arrive at a billion. It is a very expensive option. It must come with jacuzzis and spas and everything else if it is going to cost a billion.

We need to maintain the offshore solution. I know the Left and the Greens want an onshore solution. I even heard Michael Raper from the Red Cross this morning, who used to be from ACOSS—this is part of his core business, this is how he gets employed—saying that he wants to see an onshore solution. He said, 'It's just a handful of people; there are many more people that come as overstayers.' Those who are overstayers have a very much reduced success rate of getting a visa. Those who come by boat—and that is why they pay a people smuggler up to $20,000—have closer to an 80 per cent success rate of getting a visa. So why wouldn't you try to come by boat when you have a successful outcome like that?

This is, again, a mess that the Labor Party have found themselves in. It is a mess of their own making. Paul Murray in an article on 21 September said:

This problem is all Ms Gillard's. And the next boat is another policy failure for her, no one else.

This is a self-made problem, a self-inflicted wound and we are not going to bail them out. We have given them a solution. Unless they take it, it is their problem.