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
Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4073

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (16:36): I spend a lot of my time out and about knocking on doors and going to the shopping centres in Cowan because, like so many other members of this place, I have no interest in sitting behind my desk or playing golf when there are opinions to be listened to and people to be seen in my electorate. It is certainly clear that there are two federal issues that I continually hear about from my constituents—that is, border control and the carbon tax. Therefore, I will take this opportunity today to speak on these issues I continually hear about. However, before I do so, I note that within the budget the share of GST flowing to Western Australia is forecast to decline again to below 70 cents in the dollar, with the mining tax also forecast to redistribute wealth away from Western Australia. This redistribution of wealth away from those who produce it is something like socialism.

Given the time available, I will focus on the two key issues and I will begin with border control. I can say this is a great source of irritation for my constituents. They do not like the money being spent to deal with the government's soft and ineffectual policies regarding the boats and they do not like the toleration of riots, the sabotaging of boats and the endangerment of Australian Navy personnel, and they do not like the free giveaways, the special deals with those who come by boat and the pathetic deal with Malaysia. My constituents see that the lives being lived in facilities paid for by the Australian taxpayers are good. The high-quality food, the free goodies, the gym and the unrestricted internet access all stand in stark contrast to what the people get from their own government. That really irritates those on fixed incomes and they know that, if it were not for the policies of this Labor government, Christmas Island would not be full, the numerous detention centres around Australia would not be being built and operated and buildings would not have been wasted. Therefore, I support the establishment of an inquiry into the crisis in the immigration detention network. Intense scrutiny of the government's policies is now required as we know that there are as many as three critical incidents a day within the network. Apart from these incidents, the inquiry would also look at a cost blowout of some $3 billion, the record number of detainees and the massive blowout in the average time a person is detained. Clearly there is a need for these matters to be ventilated.

With regard to the immigration and border control system, I want to get specific on a number of points regarding the comprehensive failures by the government. I will begin with the Malaysia deal. I would say that the Karen people in Cowan know I support their cause and support their resettlement in Australia. I have said that on many occasions since I was elected in 2007. I supported the shadow immigration minister when he spoke of exchanges of those who come by boat with those who have been stuck behind refugee camp wire or have been approved as refugees. I support such exchanges, particularly where a person who jumps the queue is exchanged with a person who has been waiting in the long queue. Yes, I support that sort of arrangement. We would pay for the person we receive and the other country would pay for the person they receive—one for one. Yet that is not what we got from the government. We got a four-year deal where the Australian taxpayer pays for 4,800 people at a cost of $292 million. We take 4,000 at $55,000 a head and give them 800 at $95,000 a head and we pay the whole bill. This is desperation and desperation will cost the taxpayers another fortune.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the refugee convention, something that the Labor Party used to have a problem with. From the latest reports it has been said that the deal is not finalised yet. The minister says that the one hundred asylum seekers that have arrived since the deal was announced will be processed overseas, but the Malaysian Minister for Home Affairs is reported as saying that only those who arrive after the deal is signed off will be part of the exchange. Here we have got a deal where Malaysia ships out 4,000 refugees and accepts just 800 asylum seekers. This is a bad deal where Australia loses in every respect. It looks bad and it is. The only thing that really surprises me is how the government, the Prime Minister and the minister for immigration can come into this parliament and proclaim that this deal is something they are proud of. It is unbelievable. They should be ashamed and everyone who sold out the national interest should be ashamed as well. This will be a failure that will go down in our history as one of the most colossal examples of government failure, right up there with the Whitlam government.

Like some bad telemarketing advertisement, this portfolio has many such examples of abject failure and defeat, so I will go to the regional processing centre fiasco. In many ways, the regional processing centre idea signalled the government's absolute loss of control on the issue to our regional neighbours. This is like a poker game where you bluff on nine hands in a row and, with sweat running down your face, your opponents know that on the 10th hand you are going to be bluffing again. The Malaysians saw this government coming and they knew how desperate the government was, so they got a great deal. What makes it worse is that the Malaysian High Commissioner let the cat out of the bag when he said that Malaysia would exercise discretion over who it would accept. The Prime Minister on the last Tuesday in question time actually said that Malaysia would not determine who was sent here, but we will be carefully watching this point because everything this government says unravels in these matters.

That brings me to Papua New Guinea and the announcement of the intent of the Labor government to now establish a processing centre on Manus Island. Clearly the East Timor regional processing centre has now been consigned to the thought bubble scrapheap and replaced with the Papua New Guinea regional processing centre, which seemed to come as a surprise to the PNG government. Yet I understand that they are not opposed because they know that the government will pay and they will negotiate fiercely, probably settling on a cash amount five times what the PNG government would have wanted in the first place. In the future, historians will look back on this moment and say that the only regional centre created by this government was a regional embarrassment centre, clearly in the ministerial wing.

Manus Island is an interesting location. A lot of members of this place spoke harshly of the original plan that established Manus Island under the Howard government. Hansard is littered with rebukes and commentary from Labor MPs mentioning Manus Island and railing against the actions of the Howard government. The list is of course extensive and no doubt former members are probably quite happy that they did not have to confront the hypocrisy that is now evident. The former members for Charlton, Fremantle, Corio and others certainly had a go at the Howard government and the island. Of course, there are still members here that spoke so strongly against Manus Island, including the member for Melbourne Ports and the member for Lingiari. The minister for immigration even had a go at Manus Island and offshore processing in 2006. Minister Crean, Minister Garrett, Minister Burke and the defence minister made much of the backlogs in 2004—all strangely quiet now with the re-emergence of Manus Island. The much-maligned so-called Pacific solution, which was so strongly railed against by Labor members of this place in the past, seems to be back again because the government are desperate and will ditch any so-called principles that they claimed to have had to try to cobble together some facade of an answer to this problem they created. While I say the so-called Pacific solution is back, the government's failures will continue and the taxpayers will continue to pay for cost blowouts because the Labor government will not reinstate the key aspects of the Howard government border protection policy, including temporary protection visas. They should embrace the coalition's policies to provide the real deterrents that are required to stop the boats.

The other great problem for this government is the view of the Australian people on the protests, riots and part-time rooftop stunts. We know that the inability of the government to control and manage the ever-increasing stock of detention facilities around the country is a source of great embarrassment for them. In question time on 10 May the minister refused to specifically answer a question without notice about whether rooftop protestors had been allowed to get down off the roof and even charge their mobile phones—a part-time protest—and, Minister, the people know this; they have seen it and they are not happy. And then there was the destruction of the Villawood detention centre buildings in April—the computer room, kitchen and medical centre all destroyed—let alone the home-made bomb the minister read about in the papers recently. And what about the significant destruction of facilities at Christmas Island, which will seek no charges laid or accountability levelled at those who caused the destruction. Even today there were reports of assaults on guards on Christmas Island. Australians will want that dealt with appropriately, including the refusal of visas and the laying of charges. And then there was the explosion of SIEV36. This caused death and injury but there were no charges laid or visas rejected—another justifiable cause of outrage in the Australian community.

There is a big difference between the comprehensive failures of this government and the system that worked. The system that worked was our system; it stopped the boats through temporary protection visas and utilising offshore processing facilities, including Nauru and Manus Island. Of all those who were sent to these facilities just 42 per cent eventually made it to Australia. As I said, the one for five deal with Malaysia will cost $292 million. It is the latest example of a budget blow-out, and it will cost more than the so-called Pacific solution ever cost. So the people of Cowan are right to ask about the waste of money, the terrible deals done, the terrible policy statements that are later rescinded or die a quiet death. Free nose-hair trimmers and cigarettes, destroyed facilities and massive budget blow-outs—those who jump the queue are not only above the law but also get a load of freebies that our pensioners and those on fixed incomes would love to be able to access.

The second issue I want to raise in this debate is the carbon tax. Born of a lie, the carbon tax is a set of numbers that the government have kept out of the budget to help fix their figures. I will just go through the realities of what may well end up being the greatest deception in the history of this country. Although the Prime Minister's outright political self-serving lie in the week before the last election was a big deception, the assertion that Labor's carbon tax will do anything for global temperatures is the greatest deception in our national history. It will do nothing more than fleece money from Australians and make our employers less competitive; it will do nothing but give the government money.

Today it was reported that the government's own climate commission, bought and paid for with taxpayers' dollars, had handed down its first report—hand-picked, and consensus therefore guaranteed. What do they say? Firstly, they say that everyone agrees with them that anything that is currently proposed in Australia will only slow carbon growth in the atmosphere—but to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the reduction of carbon dioxide will pretty much have to stop altogether. And that, of course, will cause those who subscribe to the theory of anthropogenic global warming to urge deep cuts here in Australia. That is right: let us say the world. Switch off everything now and we can save the world but of course, unfortunately, there is still the rest of the world. It was not reported in the papers today what effect the rest of the world's current plans will have on the climate, so I will be looking to that in the detail of the report.

Let us look at the claim that a carbon tax will reduce carbon output. We know that carbon dioxide makes up around 395 parts per million in the atmosphere. But 97 per cent of that is naturally occurring, so human produced CO2 accounts for just three per cent of the CO2 in the atmosphere, or just 0.00001185 per cent of the atmosphere. But that is not the bottom line for this country because Australia produced just 1.8 per cent of that figure. That means Australian production of CO2 amounts to 0.0000002133 per cent of the atmosphere. That is the figure against which this failure of a government wants to apply a multibillion-dollar tax, to reduce that figure by five per cent. So this Labor government's multibillion-dollar tax will result in the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere by 0.000000010665 per cent. This is just another example of a failure of a policy that will do nothing for the environment and will only damage this country and reduce the standards of living for Australians—an absolute disgrace.

I have described this carbon tax as the greatest deception in the history of this nation. It is a fraud and it is a disgrace. But we should not be surprised, because it is like so many other Labor government programs that naturally turned out to be inefficient, ineffective and record-breaking in terms of their exorbitant costs. The whole global warming theory has been proven again and again around the world to be an excuse for profiteering, fraud and political advantage.

I take this opportunity to thank my constituent Neil Sullivan for his recent visit to my office. He handed me pages of references to carbon trading frauds in Europe. Indeed, if you do any internet searches for carbon trading fraud you will find hundreds of listings related to this problem. Billions of dollars have gone missing as organised crime has targeted the weaknesses inherent in the system. Of course, that was recognised back in September 2009 when the Guardian newspaper reported an overhaul of the European Union's VAT system to stop fraud, and to do so before the Copenhagen summit. In spite of that action, the fraud on VAT related carbon remains a problem in 2010. It was also reported at the start of this month that European spot markets for carbon credits were prone to fraud, and they were shut down for 15 days after a large online fraud took place.

These are the same problems that confront this government—a government that has resided over numerous failed programs that have cost the taxpayers large amounts of money. I certainly find it difficult to be comfortable with any assurances this government makes about fraud and rorting when there have been so many examples of such failures that the Labor government has initiated.

I said at the outset that the two major issues raised with me by my constituents are border control and the carbon tax. These are big issues and they represent a fundamental breach of faith with the people by this government. On border control, the government is tasked to maintain the control and integrity of the immigration system, and they have achieved neither. They cannot even ensure that those who break the law are held accountable for their actions.

On the carbon tax, not only is it a terrible lie that has been told to the Australian people for political expediency, but the suggestion that it will in some way be effective in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and thereby reduce global temperatures is an even bigger lie. These are two of the many issues on which the government, if it really believed in itself, would seek an election to demonstrate its mandate. The reality is that the only thing this government now believes in is the maintenance of power, and sadly that overrides all other considerations.