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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11245

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (15:35): Continuing on from what I was saying before, it seems I am, yet again, a minority of one in this place insofar as I have a policy of: stay on the boats. If people choose to be self-smugglers then I do not think the government of Australia should assist them in that. I repeat, as I said before: if the government and the opposition persist in their policies, then people, like the people from my own electorate—the Sikhs from the Punjab in India—would be taking to the boats, and I think it would probably be a good idea for them to take to the boats as far, as I can see. It appears to me that 70 per cent of the people that get on a boat—we are receiving all sorts of figures and they are all different, ranging from 64 per cent up to 94 per cent of the people—end up in Australia. So we are not sure which set of figures to believe, but clearly the vast majority of the people who get on the boats end up as Australian citizens. One group of people who have proved themselves to be wonderful Australians is the Sikhs. They are very patriotic instant Australians who fit in immediately and are extremely popular. If you look at any of the demonstrations that I am associated with in North Queensland, you will see that among the people at the front are the people in the turbans, because people like them, and if the Sikhs are going along with the demonstration then it is a good thing to be part of. If we were going to take in people who come in on the boats, then I would think it would be highly preferable that people such as the Sikhs should be taken in. But this country does not have the wherewithal to take an unlimited number of people who walk in off the street any time they like. If you lead these people to believe that Australia can do that, you will do so at the expense of social welfare in this nation.

We had 15 meetings—which were just for our supporters, actually—in the year before the last election in 15 different towns, and in every one of those towns people raised the issue of electricity charges, which they could not afford to pay. It seems to me that, whatever solution we choose in order to deal with the question of people arriving on boats, we are still going to end up with thousands of people coming into the country every year. Other governments stop people from coming to their country, and clearly we should be doing something to stop people from coming to our country. Endeavours to do this have been made on both sides of the House, but they have fallen well short of proper and responsible government. If you want people to come into the country, I would say that you should by all means expand your immigration intake—I have always been very pro-migration—and I would plead with whoever is the government of Australia to look with sympathy upon the claims of people who will blend harmoniously with the greater Australian population. Once again I use the example of the Sikhs, from whom I get numerous and continuous requests, all of which I have enthusiastically supported, to come to Australia.

The issue of people arriving on boats is very difficult and complex, and I think that people on both sides of the House have worked extremely hard to come up with acceptable solutions to it. In fairness to the government's position, I must say that if a person is contemplating coming to Australia, and they know that 70 per cent—I will choose that figure—of people arriving on boats are going to get into Australia, then it is a pretty fair bet that they will get in too. If I were a betting man, I would say, 'That's not a bad bet—you've got a three to one chance of getting into the country.' If you are a husband, a wife and three kids and you are on social welfare, you will get pretty close to $80,000 a year, believe it or not, including rent subsidies and various other benefits. That is a pretty good deal, as far as I can see; you would be a mug not to have a go at it.

But the statistics are very deceitful, because we have been told—and I do not know whether this is correct; I am very suspicious of all the figures I am getting—that some 500 people have died trying to get into this country. It would be good if the government could get that message—'There's also a chance that you may not get here; you're going in very second-rate ships, and some of them are simply shipwrecked or sink, and some of you will die in your endeavours to get here'—out to the people who are intending to come to this country. It would also be good to get the message out that, if these people go to Malaysia, they will not be at the front of the queue but in a very, very big queue and that they will have to stand in line with 100,000 Burmese who are coming to this country.

So there is some definite appeal in what the government is putting forward here. It would seem to me that if you get to Nauru you are also in a queue, but you are at the front of the queue. The government's arguments would seem to me to be very cogent, but I find myself in a situation where neither of the options appeals to me even remotely. So I will stay, it would appear, as a minority of one in this place. Once again I make the point that if— (Time expired)